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Local residents pass by a destroyed church which served as a military base for Russian soldiers on April 10, 2022, in Lukashivka village, Ukraine.Anastasia Vlasova/Getty Images

Ukraine’s armed forces braced on Monday for a new Russian offensive as powerful explosions rocked cities in the south and east, while Austria’s leader planned to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin and call for an end to the conflict.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky kept up his tireless campaign to generate international support and rally his countrymen, warning the coming week would be important and tense.

“Russia will be even more afraid. It will be afraid to lose. It will fear that the truth will have to be acknowledged,” Zelensky said in a late night video address.

“Russian troops will move to even larger operations in the east of our state. They may use even more missiles against us, even more air bombs. But we are preparing for their actions. We will answer.”

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said he would meet Putin on Monday in Moscow for the Russian leader’s first face-to-face meeting with a European Union counterpart since Russia’s invasion began on Feb. 24.

“We are militarily neutral, but (have) a clear position on the Russian war of aggression against #Ukraine,” Nehammer wrote of Austria on Twitter. “It must stop! It needs humanitarian corridors, ceasefire & full investigation of war crimes.”

Russia’s invasion has forced about a quarter of Ukraine’s 44 million people from their homes, turned cities into rubble and killed or injured thousands.

It has failed to take any major cities, but Ukraine says Moscow has been gathering its forces in the east for a major offensive and has urged people to flee.

A series of powerful explosions were heard in Ukraine’s northeastern city of Kharkiv and in Mykolaiv, near the Black Sea in the southern part of the country, Ukrainian media reported on Sunday.

Russia’s defence ministry said high-precision missiles had destroyed the headquarters of Ukraine’s Dnipro battalion in the town of Zvonetsky.

Reuters could not immediately confirm the reports.

Since Russia invaded, Zelensky has appealed to Western powers to provide more defence help, and to punish Moscow with tougher sanctions, including embargoes on Russian energy exports.

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan told ABC News:

“We’re going to get Ukraine the weapons it needs to beat back the Russians to stop them from taking more cities and towns.”

In excerpts from an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” Zelensky said he had confidence in his own armed forces but “unfortunately I don’t have the confidence that we will be receiving everything we need” from the United States.

Zelensky said earlier on Twitter he had spoken on the phone with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz about additional sanctions, as well as more defence and financial support for his country. Zelensky also discussed with Ukrainian officials Kyiv’s proposals for a new package of EU sanctions, his office said.

In a video address late on Saturday, Zelensky renewed his appeal for a total ban on Russian energy products and more weapons for Ukraine.

The EU on Friday banned Russian coal imports among other products, but has yet to touch oil and gas imports from Russia.

Natalia Titova, 62, shows her house, which was destroyed by Russian shelling, in Chernihiv, Ukraine, April 9, 2022.ZOHRA BENSEMRA/Reuters

Mounting civilian casualties have triggered widespread international condemnation and new sanctions.

A grave with at least two civilian bodies has been found in Buzova village near Kyiv, said Taras Didych, head of the Dmytrivka community that includes Buzova, the latest such reported discovery since Russian forces withdrew from areas north of the capital to focus on the east of the country.

Sullivan said on Sunday he expected Russia’s newly appointed general overseeing Ukraine, Aleksandr Dvornikov, to authorize more brutality against the Ukrainian civilian population. He did not cite any evidence.

Moscow has rejected accusations of war crimes by Ukraine and Western countries.

Moscow has repeatedly denied targeting civilians in what it calls a “special operation” to demilitarize and “de-nazify” its southern neighbour. Ukraine and Western nations have dismissed this as a baseless pretext for war.

Russia’s invasion has forced about a quarter of Ukraine’s 44 million people from their homes, turned cities into rubble and killed or injured thousands.

The World Bank on Sunday forecast that the war would cause Ukraine’s economic output to collapse by a staggering 45% this year, with half of its businesses shuttered, grain exports mostly cut off by Russia’s naval blockade and destruction rendering economic activity impossible in many areas.

The bank forecast that Russia’s GDP also would contract by 11.2% this year due to punishing Western sanctions.

Some cities in the east were under heavy shelling, with tens of thousands of people unable to evacuate.

Calls by Ukrainian officials for civilians to flee gained more urgency after a missile strike hit a train station on Friday in the city of Kramatorsk, in the Donetsk region, that was full of people trying to leave.

Ukrainian officials said on Sunday that the death toll from the strike rose to 57, while 109 were wounded. Russia has denied responsibility, saying the missiles used in the attack were only used by Ukraine’s military.

Reuters was unable to verify the details of the attack.

Residents of the region of Luhansk would have nine trains on Sunday to get out on, the region’s governor, Serhiy Gaidai, wrote on the Telegram message service.

Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, Iryna Vereshchuk, said 2,824 people were evacuated on Sunday through humanitarian corridors, including 213 from Mariupol, which has been under siege for weeks.

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