Ukrainian forces reported heavy Russian shelling and attempts to advance on several towns in the eastern region of Donetsk that have become a key focus of the near six-month war, but said they had repelled many of the attacks.
The General Staff of Ukraine's armed forces also reported Russian shelling of more than a dozen towns on the southern front - particularly the Kherson region, mainly controlled by Russian forces, but where Ukrainian troops are steadily capturing territory.
Much attention has been focused on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine amid fears of a catastrophe over renewed shelling in recent days that Russia and Ukraine blame on each other.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for the establishment of a demilitarized zone and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has warned Russian soldiers who shoot at Europe's largest nuclear power station or use it as a base to shoot from that they will become a "special target" of Ukrainian forces.
The Zaporizhzhia plant dominates the south bank of a vast reservoir on the Dnipro River. Ukrainian forces controlling the towns and cities on the opposite bank have come under intense bombardment from the Russian-held side.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, which seeks to inspect the plant, has warned of a nuclear disaster unless the fighting stops. Nuclear experts fear fighting might damage the plant's spent fuel pools or reactors.
Zelenskiy said Ukraine had many times proposed different formats to the Russian leadership for peace talks, without progress.
"So we have to defend ourselves, we have to answer every form of terror, every instance of shelling - the fierce shelling which does not let up for a single day," he said in video remarks late on Sunday.
Fighting in east, south
Kyiv has said for weeks it is planning a counteroffensive to recapture Zaporizhzhia and neighbouring Kherson province, the largest part of the territory Russia seized after its Feb 24 invasion and still holds.
Ukraine's military command said early on Sunday that Russian soldiers had continued unsuccessfully to attack Ukrainian positions near Avdiivka, which, since 2014, has become one of the outposts of Ukrainian forces near Donetsk.
Ukrainian Military Expert Oleg Zhdanov said the situation was particularly difficult in Avdiivka and nearby towns, such as Pisky.
"We have insufficient artillery power in place and our forces are asking for more support to defend Pisky. But the town is basically under Ukrainian control," he said in a video posted online.
Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield accounts.
Russia calls its invasion of Ukraine a "special military operation" to demilitarize and "denazify" its smaller neighbour. The war has pushed Moscow-Washington relations to a low point, with Russia warning it may sever ties.
While Russia has been largely isolated on the global diplomatic stage, North Korean state media on Monday said Russian President Vladimir Putin told leader Kim Jong Un the two countries would expand "comprehensive and constructive" ties.
In July, North Korea recognized as independent states the Russian-backed breakaway "people's republics" of Donetsk and Luhansk, and officials raised the prospect of its workers being sent there to help in construction and other labour.
Ukraine immediately severed ties with Pyongyang over the move.
Amid the fighting, more ships carrying Ukrainian grain left or prepared to do so as part of a late July deal to ease a global food crisis.
An Ethiopia-bound cargo, the first since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, was getting ready to leave in the next few days, while sources said the first grain ship to leave Ukraine under a UN deal was nearing Syria.
"The world needs the food of Ukraine," Marianne Ward, the deputy country director of the World Food Program, told reporters. "This is the beginning of what we hope are normal operations for the hungry people of the world," she added.
The relief agency bought more than 800,000 tons of grain in Ukraine last year.
A tractor pulling a trolley packed with pilgrims returning from a shrine in India overturned Saturday and plunged into a pond, killing as many as 27 people, Indian media reported.
The accident in the city of Kanpur in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh left another 22 people injured, reported The Times of India.
Other news media gave slightly lower death tolls.
The tractor-trolley was bringing Hindu pilgrims back from the Chandrika Devi temple, reports said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his condolences in a tweet.
"Distressed by the tractor-trolley mishap took place in Kanpur. My thoughts are with all those who have lost their near and dear ones and prayers with the injured," Modi said.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said this kind of vehicle -- a tractor pulling a large cart -- should be used only to transport farm goods and freight, not people, The Hindu said.
"The road accident in Kanpur district is very heart-wrenching," he said.
Germany will deliver the first of four advanced IRIS-T air defence systems to Ukraine in the coming days to help ward off drone attacks, its defence minister Christine Lambrecht said during an unannounced visit to Odessa on Saturday.
As air raid sirens sounded in the port city above, Lambrecht held talks with her Ukrainian counterpart Oleksii Reznikov in an underground bunker. Lambrecht had extended a visit to nearby Moldova for the meeting.
"In a few days, we will deliver the very modern IRIS-T air defence system," she told ARD television. "It is very important for drone defence in particular."
Ukraine has been seeing more attacks from Iranian-made kamikaze drones in recent weeks, costing lives and causing serious damage to infrastructure.
It first emerged in May that Berlin was considering sending the IRIS-T surface-to-air defence system, which costs 150 million euros ($147 million) apiece.
The German armed forces themselves do not currently own the system, reckoned among the world's most advanced.
Earlier, meeting her Moldovan counterpart Anatolie Nosatii in Chisinau, she urged Western countries not to be deterred from arming Ukraine by threats that Russia could use nuclear weapons.
"We have to be very careful," she said. "But we mustn't let ourselves be paralysed."
Germany is facing calls to step up its support for Ukraine, including by sending offensive weapons such as the modern tanks Kyiv says it needs to take the fight to Russian forces.
Berlin has so far resisted such calls, arguing that such moves would escalate the situation and pointing out that no other country has so far sent tanks more modern than old Soviet stock sent by former Warsaw Pact countries.
Turkey's Foreign Ministry said on Saturday it rejects Russia's annexation of four regions in Ukraine, adding the decision is a "grave violation" of international law.
Turkey, a NATO member, has conducted a diplomatic balancing act since Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February. Ankara opposes Western sanctions on Russia and has close ties with both Moscow and Kyiv, its Black Sea neighbours. It has also criticised Russia's invasion and sent armed drones to Ukraine.
The Turkish ministry said on Saturday it had not recognised Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014, adding that it rejects Russia's decision to annex the four regions, Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.
"This decision, which constitutes a grave violation of the established principles of international law, cannot be accepted," the ministry said.
"We reiterate our support to the resolution of this war, the severity of which keeps growing, based on a just peace that will be reached through negotiations," it added.
Russian President Vladimir Putin proclaimed the annexation of the regions on Friday, promising Moscow would triumph in its "special military operation" even as he faced a potentially serious new military reversal.
His proclamation came after Russia held what it called referendums in occupied areas of Ukraine. Western governments and Kyiv said the votes breached international law and were coercive and non-representative.
The United States, Britain and Canada announced new sanctions in response.
Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskiy said on Friday his country had submitted a fast-track application to join the NATO military alliance and that he would not hold peace talks with Russia while Putin was still president.
The ruptures on the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline system under the Baltic Sea have led to what is likely the biggest single release of climate-damaging methane ever recorded, the United Nations Environment Programme said on Friday.
A huge plume of highly concentrated methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent but shorter-lived than carbon dioxide, was detected in an analysis this week of satellite imagery by researchers associated with UNEP's International Methane Emissions Observatory, or IMEO, the organization said.
"This is really bad, most likely the largest emission event ever detected," Manfredi Caltagirone, head of the IMEO for UNEP, told Reuters. "This is not helpful in a moment when we absolutely need to reduce emissions."
Researchers at GHGSat, which uses satellites to monitor methane emissions, estimated the leak rate from one of four rupture points was 22,920 kilograms per hour. That is equivalent to burning about 630,000 pounds of coal every hour, GHGSat said in a statement.
"This rate is very high, especially considering it's four days following the initial breach," the company said.
The total amount of methane leaking from the Gazprom-led (GAZP.MM) pipeline system may be higher than from a major leak that occurred in December from offshore oil and gas fields in Mexican waters of the Gulf of Mexico, which spilled around 100 metric tons of methane per hour, Caltagirone said.
The Gulf of Mexico leak, also viewable from space, ultimately released around 40,000 metric tons of methane over 17 days, according to a study conducted by the Polytechnic University of Valencia and published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters.
That is the equivalent of burning 1.1 billion pounds of coal, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency's Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator.
Improved satellite technology has rapidly enhanced the ability of scientists to find and analyze greenhouse gas emissions in recent years, something some governments hope will help companies detect and prevent methane emissions.
The major leaks that suddenly erupted in the Nord Stream gas pipelines that run from Russia to Europe have generated plenty of theories but few clear answers about who or what caused the damage. Both Russia and the European Union have suggested the ruptures were caused by saboteurs.
Europe and the United States have heaped sanctions on Moscow in retaliation for its invasion of Ukraine, raising worries the Kremlin will seek to deprive Europe of crucial energy supplies leading into the winter.
Caltagirone said, whatever the cause, the damage to the pipeline posed a problem beyond energy security. "This is the most wasteful way to generate emissions," he said.
The United States on Friday imposed wide-ranging sanctions on Russia over its declared annexation of parts of Ukraine, targeting hundreds of people and companies, including those in Russia's military-industrial complex and lawmakers.
Washington acted after Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday proclaimed the biggest annexation in Europe since World War Two, declaring Russian rule over 15% of Ukraine territory occupied by Russian forces.
"We will rally the international community to both denounce these moves and to hold Russia accountable. We will continue to provide Ukraine with the equipment it needs to defend itself, undeterred by Russia's brazen effort to redraw the borders of its neighbour," US President Joe Biden said in a statement.
The latest sanctions come on top of sweeping measures already imposed by the United States and allies this year that have already crippled Russia's international trading and local economy. But they stop short of Russia's energy industry, the country's largest source of hard currency.
Russia's embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment. In a speech on Friday, Putin criticized the West as neo-colonial and Satanist; Ukraine said it would fast-track its application to join NATO, the US-led Western military alliance.
Guidance from the US Treasury and Commerce departments warned that anyone outside Russia, including companies, that provide political, economic or material support to Moscow faced a heightened risk of sanctions.
The Treasury sanctions generally freeze any US assets of those designated and bar Americans from dealing with them.
Commerce added 57 entities in Russia and Crimea to bar exports.
Treasury said it imposed sanctions on 14 people in Russia's military-industrial complex, two leaders of the central bank, family members of top officials and 278 members of the legislature "for enabling Russia's sham referenda and attempt to annex sovereign Ukrainian territory."
Russia moved to annex the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions in eastern and southern Ukraine after holding what it called referendums – votes that were denounced by Kyiv and Western governments as illegal and coercive.
Among those designated for US sanctions were Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak; 109 State Duma members; the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of Russia and 169 of its members; and the governor of the Central Bank of Russia, Elvira Nabiullina.
Among the targets related to Russia's defense procurement was a Chinese supplier the Treasury accused of supporting Radioavtomatika, a US-designated Russian defense procurement firm.
Washington said Sinno Electronics Co Ltd, previously placed on the Commerce Department's entity list, maintained a relationship with the Russian firm even after the invasion of Ukraine in late February.
Sinno did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Taco LLC in Armenia, Russia's Novastream Limited, a Belarusian state-owned supplier, and Russian technology and defense firms were among other companies designated over Russia's defense procurement.
Treasury also designated family members of Russia's National Security Council, such as Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin's wife and two adult children, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu's wife and adult children and National Guard head Viktor Zolotov's wife and adult children.
In addition, the immediate family members of the deputy chairman of Russia's Federation Security Council Dmitry Medvedev, Speaker of the Federation Council Valentina Matviyenko, and Saint Petersburg Governor Alexander Beglov were hit with sanctions.
The U.S. State Department in a separate statement said it imposed visa restrictions on more than 900 people, including members of the Russian and Belarusian military and "Russia's proxies for violating Ukraine's sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence," barring them from traveling to the United States.
The United States singled out a Russian national, Ochur-Suge Mongush, for his involvement in what US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called "a gross violation of human rights perpetrated against a Ukrainian prisoner of war," and said Mongush and his immediate family members cannot enter the United States.
Canada also announced measures on Friday against dozens of oligarchs, financial elites and their family members, plus 35 Russian-backed senior officials in the regions where the referendums took place. Britain also put sanctions on the central bank governor and imposed new services and goods export bans.
The United States hopes Friday's sanctions will reduce Russia's military's ability to menace Ukraine, and "undermine Russia's major sectors" in technology, industry and defense, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said "so that it's capacity to project power, threaten and coerce its neighbors and wage wars of aggression is reduced over time."
Washington's targets are largely proportionate to Russia's annexation, said Brian O'Toole, a former Treasury official now with the Atlantic Council think tank.
The action against Sinno Electronics serves as a warning to other Chinese companies and those that might do business with Russia, he said.
"I'm impressed at how robust this is given that this was a relatively short turnaround," O'Toole said.
Sullivan spoke with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Friday about their "shared concern" over the Russian annexations and the need to protect critical infrastructure after the apparent sabotage of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea, the United States said.
A tractor pulling a trolley packed with pilgrims returning from a shrine in India overturned Saturday and plunged into a pond, killing as many as 27 people, Indian media reported. The accident in the city of Kanpur in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh left another 22 people injured, reported The Times of India.
Turkey's Foreign Ministry said on Saturday it rejects Russia's annexation of four regions in Ukraine, adding the decision is a "grave violation" of international law. Turkey, a NATO member, has conducted a diplomatic balancing act since Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February. Ankara opposes Western sanctions on Russia and has close ties with both Moscow and Kyiv, its Black Sea neighbours. It has also criticised Russia's invasion and sent armed drones to Ukraine.