With Russian troops withdrawing from Ukraine’s second-largest city after weeks of heavy bombardment, Ukraine’s military said on Saturday that Kyiv and Moscow’s forces were engaged in a fierce battle in the east of the country.
Ukraine’s General Staffra said the Russians were retreating from the northeastern city of Kharkiv and were focusing on guarding supply routes as they launched mortar, artillery and air strikes in the eastern Donetsk region “to destroy Ukrainian forces and destroy the fortress”.
Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said Ukraine was “entering a new – long-term – phase of the war.”
Since the country’s top prosecutor has tried a Russian soldier for war crimes, the first of dozens to face charges, President Vladimir Zelensky said Ukrainians were doing their “best” to repel the invaders and that the outcome of the war would depend on Europe and other allies. Support from
“No one today can predict how long this war will last,” Zelensky said in a video message late Friday night.
Russia’s offensive in Donbass, the industrial hub of eastern Ukraine, has been seen turning into village-by-village, front-to-back slogans without any major progress on either side. After failing to capture the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the Russian military decided to concentrate on Donbass, but its troops fought to gain ground.
Zelensky said Ukrainian forces had made progress, recapturing six Ukrainian towns or villages in the past day. Western officials say Ukraine has pushed Russian forces back around Kharkiv, a key target for Moscow’s troops.
“The Russians have not done much in the way of recent strategic gains,” a Western official said, describing the front line as “swaying”.
“The Ukrainians are continuing to counter-attack, especially in the vicinity of Kherson and Kharkiv. We hope this will lead to a long war of attrition,” the official said on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence.
Ukraine’s military chief for the Luhansk region of Donbass said on Friday that the army had almost complete control over the war-torn city of Rubijn, with a population of about 55,000.
Oleh Zhadanov, an independent military analyst in Ukraine, said fighting on the Sivarsky Donets River near the town of Severodonetsk was deadly, with Ukraine launching a counter-attack but failing to stop Russia’s advance.
“The fate of a large part of the Ukrainian army is being determined – there are about 40,000 Ukrainian troops there,” he said.
However, Russian forces suffered heavy losses in the Ukrainian attack as they destroyed a pontoon bridge trying to cross the Belohorivka River, Ukrainian and British officials said, another sign of Moscow’s struggle to save the war in Moscow.
Ukraine’s airborne command has released photos and videos of a damaged Russian pontoon bridge over the Sivarsky Donets River and nearby Russian military vehicles destroyed or damaged.
Britain’s defense ministry said Russia had lost “significant armored tactical material” to at least one battalion strategic group in the attack. A Russian battalion strategic team consisting of about 1,000 troops. It said the risky river crossing was “a sign of the pressure that Russian commanders are under to advance their operations in eastern Ukraine.”
In other developments, a move by Finland and, possibly, Sweden to join NATO was questioned when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country was “not in a favorable view” of the idea. He has accused Sweden and other Scandinavian countries of supporting Kurdish militants, while others see Turkey as a terrorist state.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has waged a war to stop NATO’s eastward advance. Other countries bordering Russia are also worried that they could be the next one as a result of Ukraine’s aggression.
In his nightly video address to the nation, Zelensky said that the Ukrainians were trying their best to drive out the Russians, but “no one can predict today how long this war will last.”
“It will depend, unfortunately, not only on our people, who are already giving their best,” he said. “It will depend on our partners, on the European countries, on the whole free world.”
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