Russia pounded positions in eastern Ukraine on Sunday, its defense ministry said, as it sought to encircle Ukrainian forces in the Battle of Donbass and repel a counteroffensive around the city strategic Izium, under Russian control.
At a meeting in Germany, the secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) says Ukraine could win the war, calling for increased military support and accelerated approval of expected offers of Finland and Sweden to join the alliance.
Ukraine has won a series of successes since invading Russia on February 24, forcing Russian commanders to abandon an advance on the capital kyiv before making quick gains to drive them out of Kharkiv, the second largest city in ‘Ukraine.
The invasion of Moscow, which it calls a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists, has shaken European security. kyiv and its Western allies say the assertion of fascism is a baseless pretext for an unprovoked war of aggression.
Finland’s president, who shares a 1,300 km border with Russia, confirmed on Sunday that his country would apply to join NATO, a major policy change prompted by the Russian invasion. Sweden’s ruling party followed suit.
Since mid-April, Russian forces have focused much of their firepower on capturing two eastern provinces known as Donbass after failing to take kyiv.
An assessment by British military intelligence indicated that Russia had lost around a third of the ground combat force deployed in February. Its offensive in the Donbass had taken “significant delay” and was not expected to make rapid progress over the next 30 days, according to the assessment.
“Russia’s war in Ukraine is not going as Moscow had planned,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailed the victory but said the situation in Donbas remained very difficult and Russian forces were still trying to salvage some kind of victory in a region torn by conflict since 2014.
“They don’t stop trying,” he said.
“Nowhere to bury anyone”
Russia said on Sunday it had struck Ukrainian positions in the east with missiles, targeting command centers and arsenals as its forces sought to surround Ukrainian units between Izium and Donetsk. Reuters was unable to independently confirm the information.
Izium straddles the Donets River, about 120 km from Kharkiv on the main road heading southeast.
If Ukraine can keep pressure on Izium and Russian supply lines, it will be more difficult for Moscow to surround the hardened Ukrainian troops on the eastern Donbass front.
“The hottest point remains the leadership of Izium,” Ukrainian regional governor Oleh Sinegubov said in comments posted on social media.
“Our armed forces have gone into a counter-offensive there. The enemy is retreating on some fronts.”
In Ruska Lozova, a village in wide open fields between Kharkiv and the Ukraine-Russia border, Ukrainian commanders said they believe Moscow is redeploying troops to defend Izium while keeping opponents pinned down by fire of artillery.
“The Russian attack on Kharkiv was destroyed and they understand that,” said Ihor Obolensky, who commands the National Guard and the volunteer force that captured Ruska Lozova eight days ago.
“They need to try for another win and want to hold Izium.”
But the Ukrainian military also acknowledged the setbacks in a Sunday morning update: “Despite the losses, Russian forces continue to advance in the Lyman, Sievierodonetsk, Avdiivka and Kurakhiv regions in the wider Donbass region.”
In western Ukraine, near Poland, missiles destroyed military infrastructure overnight Saturday and were fired at the Lviv region from the Black Sea, Ukrainian officials said.
Nine civilians were injured last night in the Russian shelling of the Sievierodonetsk hospital, Serhiy Gaidai, governor of the eastern Luhansk region, said on the Telegram messaging app.
Ten other civilians were injured in the southern region of Mykolaiv in the past 24 hours, the regional council said, without providing details. The reports could not be independently verified.
There was also no respite on Sunday in Russia’s bombardment of steelworks in the southern port of Mariupol, where a few hundred Ukrainian fighters are resisting weeks after the town fell to Russian hands, the report said. Ukrainian army.
Brightly burning ordnance was shown cascading down steel mills in a video posted by a pro-Russian separatist commander.
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Iryna Petrenko, a 63-year-old woman in the convoy, said she initially stayed to care for her 92-year-old mother, who later died.
“We buried her next to her house because there was nowhere to bury anyone,” she said.
Both Finland and Sweden have said they see NATO membership as a way to boost their security, although Russia has warned that it would be a mistake for Helsinki to give up its neutrality.
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NATO’s Stoltenberg and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken both expressed confidence that Turkey’s concerns over Baltic states’ candidacies could be overcome, with Stoltenberg indicating that an accelerated membership process and interim security arrangements would be possible.
A man inspects the ruins of a building destroyed due to hostilities in the city of Mariupol which is under the control of the Donetsk People’s Republic, May 13, 2022. Source: AAP / TASS/Sipa United States
In addition to losing a large number of men and a lot of military equipment, Russia was hit by economic sanctions, while Western states provided military aid to Ukraine.
Ukraine has deployed many of its new US M-777 howitzers to the front lines and Washington has delivered all but one of the 90 artillery pieces they were supposed to send, the US Embassy in Kyiv said. .