Russia and separatist proxies were already in control of the southern part of Donetsk province when they effectively completed the seizure of the neighboring Luhansk region on Sunday with the capture of the city of Lysychansk, much of which now lies in ruins.
After Russian forces on Sunday took control of Lysychansk, the last bastion of Ukrainian resistance in Luhansk, Ukrainian officials said they now expect Moscow to focus its efforts especially on the cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk in Donetsk.
Russia said it had decided to withdraw from the outcrop off Ukraine's southwestern coast as a "gesture of goodwill" to show Moscow was not obstructing U.N. attempts to open a humanitarian corridor allowing grains to be shipped from Ukraine.
The attack in the central city of Kremenchuk and the reported strike in the Dnipropetrovsk region were far from any frontlines. The mall attack drew a wave of global condemnation, with France's Emmanuel Macron calling it a "war crime."
The Russian advances appeared to bring the Kremlin closer to taking full control of Luhansk province, one of Moscow's stated war objectives, and set the stage for Lysychansk to become the main frontline city on that front.
Although the approval of the Kyiv government's application by EU leaders meeting in Brussels is just the start of what will be a years-long process, it marks a huge geopolitical shift and will anger Russia as it struggles to impose its will on Ukraine.
The Russian strikes on Kharkiv, throughout Tuesday and continuing on Wednesday morning, were the worst for weeks in the area where normal life had been returning since Ukraine pushed Russian forces back in a major counter-offensive last month.
The latest diplomatic crisis is over the Kaliningrad enclave, a port and surrounding countryside on the Baltic Sea that is home to nearly a million Russians, connected to the rest of Russia by a rail link through EU- and NATO-member Lithuania.
Moscow's separatist proxies claimed to have captured Toshkivka, a town on the mostly Ukrainian-held western bank of the Siverskyi Donets river, south of Sievierodonetsk, which has become the main battlefield city in recent weeks.