NATO warns of long war in Ukraine as Russian attacks follow EU push for Kyiv

  • NATO’s Stoltenberg says the war could last for years
  • Allies must show they will support Ukraine in the long run – Johnson
  • Ukraine concedes a backlash in a village near Sievierodonetsk
  • “Everything that belongs to us, we take back” – Zelenskiy
  • Two Azovstal defense commanders moved to Russia for investigation – TASS

Kyiv, June 19 (Reuters) – The war in Ukraine could last for years, the NATO chief said on Sunday, as Russia stepped up its attacks after the European Union recommended that Kyiv should become a candidate to join the bloc .

Jens Stoltenberg said supplying state-of-the-art weapons to Ukrainian troops would increase the chance of liberating the eastern Donbass region from Russian control, German newspaper Bild am Sonntag said. Continue reading

“We have to be prepared for the fact that it can take years. We must not let up in our support for Ukraine,” the secretary general of the military alliance, Stoltenberg, was quoted as saying.

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“Even if the costs are high, not only for military support, but also because of rising energy and food prices.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who visited Kyiv on Friday, also spoke of the need to prepare for a long war.

This meant ensuring that “Ukraine gets arms, equipment, ammunition and training faster than the invader,” Johnson wrote in an opinion piece in London’s Sunday Times.

“Time is of the essence,” he wrote. “Everything will depend on whether Ukraine can strengthen its ability to defend its soil faster than Russia can renew its attacking capability.”

Ukraine received a significant boost on Friday when the European Commission recommended it candidate status, a decision EU nations are expected to endorse at a summit this week. Continue reading

That would put Ukraine on track to achieve a goal that seemed unattainable before Russia’s February 24 invasion, even if membership might take years.

POWERED ATTACKS

Russian attacks on the battlefields of Ukraine intensified.

The industrial city of Sievierodonetsk, a key target of Moscow’s offensive to seize full control of Luhansk – one of the two provinces of Donbass – again came under heavy artillery and rocket fire, the Ukrainian military said.

“The situation in Sievierodonetsk is very difficult,” said Serhiy Gaidai, the Ukraine-appointed governor of Luhansk, adding that Russian forces, which use drones for aerial reconnaissance, quickly adjust their attacks in response to defense changes.

“Areas near the bridges were again heavily shelled,” Gaidai said in an online post on Sunday, adding that the Azot chemical plant, where hundreds of people had taken shelter, was hit twice.

“The struggle for full control of the city continues,” the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said in a daily update on Sunday.

Analysts at the Washington Institute for the Study of War think tank wrote that “Russian forces will likely be able to capture Sievierodonetsk in the coming weeks, but at the cost of concentrating most of their available forces in this small area”.

In Sievierodonetsk’s sister city of Lysychansk, across the river, the bodies of two civilians were found, Gaidai said, adding: “The destruction of apartments in the city is increasing like an avalanche.”

The Ukrainian military admitted that “the enemy in the village of Metolkine”, south-east of Sievierodonetsk, was partially successful.

Russia’s state news agency TASS said many Ukrainian militants surrendered in Metolkine, citing a source working for Russian-backed separatists.

Russian rockets hit a gas works in the northwest’s Izyum district, and Russian rockets raining on a suburb of Kharkiv, the second-biggest city, hit a municipal building, causing a fire but no casualties, Ukrainian authorities said.

They reported shelling further west in Poltava and Dnipropetrovsk and said on Saturday that three Russian missiles destroyed a fuel depot in the city of Novomoskovsk, injuring 11 people. Continue reading

Pavlo Kyrylenko, governor of Donetsk, the other province in Donbass, said one civilian was killed and 11 injured in shelling on Saturday.

The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces 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 reports.

Two senior commanders of fighters defending the Azovstal Steel Plant in the southeastern port of Mariupol have been transferred to Russia for investigation, TASS said. Continue reading

SELENSKIY DESPITE

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, whose resistance has inspired his people and won respect around the world, said he visited soldiers on the southern front in the Mykolayiv region, some 550 km (340 miles) south of Kyiv.

“I spoke to our defenders – the military, the police, the National Guard,” he said in a video on news app Telegram on Sunday that appeared to have been taken on a moving train.

“Your mood is secure: none of you doubts our victory,” Zelenskyj said. “We will not give the South to anyone, and everything that is ours we will take back.”

Another video showed Zelenskiy in his signature khaki T-shirt, presenting medals and posing for selfies with soldiers. Continue reading

Zelenskyy has been mostly in Kyiv since the Russian invasion, although he has made unannounced visits to Kharkiv and two eastern cities near battles in recent weeks. Continue reading

One of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s stated goals when he ordered troops into Ukraine was to halt the eastward expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance and keep Moscow’s southern neighbors out of the West’s sphere of influence.

But the war, which has killed thousands, reduced cities to rubble and forced millions to flee, had the opposite effect – it convinced Finland and Sweden to seek NATO membership – and helped pave the way for the EU – to pave the way for Ukraine’s bid for membership.

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Reporting by Reuters bureaus; writing by David Brunnstrom and Clarence Fernandez; Edited by Grant McCool and William Mallard

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