KYIV - Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said Thursday that Russia controls about one-fifth of his country, including ground gained over Moscow’s invasion, the annexed Crimean peninsula and territory held by Moscow-backed separatists.

“Today, about 20 percent of our territory is under the control of the occupiers,” the Ukrainian leader said during an address to lawmakers in Luxembourg. Russian forces are solidifying their hold on the eastern Donbas region and pushing steadily towards Ukraine’s de facto administrative centre in that region, Kramatorsk.

However, they pulled back from regions around the capital and in the northeast to focus on their offensive for the eastern industrial region. Zelensky said that in 2014, Kremlin-backed separatists and the Russian military controlled 43,000 square kilometres (16,600 square miles), an area he compared to the size of the Netherlands.

But that figure -- more than three months into Russia’s invasion -- had increased to nearly 125,000 square kilometres, territory he said was “much greater” than the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg combined. He also told lawmakers that an area more than twice that size -- “nearly 300,000 square kilometres” -- had been “polluted” with mines and unexploded ordnance. “Twelve million Ukrainians are displaced and more than five million have gone abroad,” he added.

In the meanwhile, Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian seaports “could lead to a global food crisis and, in some regions, a famine,” Ukraine’s foreign ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko said on Thursday. “About 22 million tons of grain are stuck in ports and cannot reach consumers, especially in Africa and Asia,” Nikolenko said, adding that land routes alone won’t solve the problem. Russia is also “stealing Ukrainian grain in the occupied territories in order to sell it illegally to third countries,” Nikolenko said. “The Russian army has mined areas of the sea and is constantly trying to break through the defense of Odesa and other coastal cities on the Black Sea,” Nikolenko claimed.

The foreign ministry called on Russia to “withdraw its forces from the territorial waters of Ukraine” and provide security guarantees against attacks on ports and ships.

“We call on countries whose food security may suffer most from Russia’s aggression against Ukraine to use their contacts with Moscow to force it to lift the blockade of Ukrainian seaports and end the war,” Nikolenko said.

Ukraine is also discussing with partners “ways to establish an international mission” under the United Nations to “take over the functioning of maritime routes,” Nikolenko said.

| Says Russian forces are solidifying their hold on eastern Donbas region