The NATO chief said on Sunday that the war in Ukraine could last for years and that Ukrainian forces have faced intensified Russian assaults after the EU executive recommended that Kyiv be granted candidate status. block membership.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was quoted by German newspaper Bild am Sonntag as saying that supplying advanced weapons to Ukrainian troops would increase the chances of freeing the eastern Donbass region from Russian control.
“We have to be prepared for the fact that it could take years. We must not relax our support for Ukraine,” he said. “Although the costs are high, not just for military support, but also because of rising energy and food prices.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who visited Kyiv on Friday, made similar comments about the need to prepare for a long war in an op-ed in London’s Sunday Times newspaper.
Speaking to reporters on Saturday, he stressed the need to avoid ‘Ukrainian fatigue’ and with Russian forces ‘moving bit by bit’, for the allies to show the Ukrainians they were there to support them. for a long time.
In the op-ed, he said that meant making sure “Ukraine gets weapons, equipment, ammunition and training faster than the invader.”
“Time is the vital factor,” Johnson said. “Everything will depend on Ukraine’s ability to build up its ability to defend its soil faster than Russia can renew its ability to attack.” Ukraine received a significant boost on Friday when the European Commission recommended that it be granted EU candidate status – something European Union countries are expected to endorse at a summit this week.
This would put Ukraine on the right path to realizing an aspiration considered out of reach before the February 24 Russian invasion, even if actual membership could take years.
On the Ukrainian battlefields, Russian attacks have intensified.
Sievierodonetsk, a main target of Moscow’s offensive to take full control of the eastern Luhansk region, again came under heavy artillery and rocket fire as Russian forces attacked areas outside of the industrial city, the Ukrainian military said.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff has admitted that its forces suffered a military setback in the settlement of Metolkin, just southeast of Sievierodonetsk.
“As a result of artillery fire and an assault, the enemy has partial success in the village of Metolkine, trying to gain a foothold,” he said in a Facebook post on Saturday evening.
Serhiy Gaidai, the Ukrainian-appointed governor of Luhansk, spoke in a separate online post about the “difficult battles” in Metolkin.
Russian news agency Tass, citing a source working for Russian-backed separatists, said many Ukrainian fighters had surrendered to Metolkin.
In the northwest, several Russian missiles hit a gas plant in Izium district, and Russian rockets rained down on a suburb of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, hitting a municipal building and starting a fire in an apartment building, but no casualties, Ukrainian authorities said.
Ukrainian authorities also reported shelling of locations further west in Poltava and Dnipropetrovsk, and on Saturday said three Russian missiles destroyed a fuel storage depot in the city of Novomoskovsk, injuring 11 people, including one seriously.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff said Russian troops on a reconnaissance mission near the town of Krasnopillya were repelled with heavy casualties on Saturday.
Reuters could not independently confirm the battlefield accounts.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, whose challenge inspired Ukrainians and won him global respect, said in a Telegram post on Saturday that he visited soldiers on the southern frontline in the Mykolaiv region, about 550 km (340 miles) south of Kyiv.
“Our brave men and women. Each one of them is working hard,” he said. “We will definitely hold on! We will definitely win! »
A video showed Zelenskiy in his trademark khaki t-shirt handing out medals and posing for selfies with servicemen.
Zelenskiy’s office said he also visited National Guard posts in the southern Odessa region, west of Mykolaiv. Neither he nor his office said when the trips took place, but he did not give his usual Saturday night address.
Zelenskiy has remained mainly in Kyiv since Russia invaded Ukraine, although in recent weeks he has made unannounced visits to Kharkiv and two eastern towns close to the sites of the battles.
One of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s stated goals when he ordered his troops into Ukraine was to halt the eastward expansion of the NATO military alliance and keep the neighbor of south of Moscow outside the Western sphere of influence.
But the war, which has killed thousands, turned cities to rubble and forced millions to flee, has had the opposite effect – convincing Finland and Sweden to seek NATO membership – and helping to open up the way for Ukraine’s application for EU membership.
(Reporting by Reuters bureaus; Writing by Tomasz Janowski and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Grant McCool)
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)