By Oleksandr Stashevskyi and Ciaran McQuillan
Almost three months after Russia shocked the world by invading Ukraineits armed forces face a stalemated war, the possibility of a NATO bigger and a motivated opponent on Sunday for victories on and off the battlefield.
Senior diplomats from the Atlantic alliance met with its secretary general in Berlin and declared that the conflict “does not proceed according to Moscow’s plans”.
“Ukraine can win this war”declared the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, adding that the alliance must continue to offer military support to kyiv. He participated in the meeting via video call as he is recovering from COVID-19.
On the diplomatic front, Finland Y Sweden they took steps that put them closer to joining NATO despite the Kremlin’s objections. Helsinki announced on Sunday that it is seeking to join the alliance, noting that the invasion has changed the security landscape in Europe. Hours later, Sweden’s ruling party endorsed the nation’s intentions to join the alliance, and could submit a formal application in coming days.
Should the two Nordic countries join the alliance, it would be an affront to the Russian president. Vladimir Putinwho has said that NATO’s expansion to the east after the end of the Cold War is a threat to Russia. NATO claims that its purposes are only defensive.
With this, Moscow lost ground on the diplomatic front, and Russian forces have not gained ground in eastern Ukraine either.
Ukraine has indicated it has contained Russian offensives in the east and, according to Western military officials, the Kremlin’s campaign there after failing to capture the capital kyiv is moving slowly.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainians celebrated a soulful victory in the Eurovision Song Contest. Kalush Orchestraa folk and rap group, won the European competition with the song “Stefania”which has become a popular anthem in Ukraine during the conflict.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy He promised that his nation will apply to host next year’s contest, as is the tradition that bestows that honor on the winner.
“Little by little we are forcing the occupiers to leave the Ukrainian territory”Zelenskyy said.
The group’s lead singer, Oleh Psiuk, told a news conference on Sunday that the musicians were “ready to fight” upon his return home. The Ukrainian government has banned men between the ages of 18 and 60 from leaving the country, but the six members of the group received special permission to travel to Italy to represent Ukraine at the pageant.
They will return to a country that is still struggling to survive.
Russian and Ukrainian fighters are locked in an exhausting battle for control of the donbas, the industrial heart of Ukraine, located in the east. Ukraine’s most experienced and well-equipped soldiers have been fighting pro-Russian separatists in the region for the past eight years.
Despite the missteps, Russia continues to cause death and destruction throughout Ukraine. Over the weekend his forces attacked a chemical plant and 11 high-rise buildings in Severodonetskin Donbas, informed the regional governor Serhii Haidai. Two people were killed in the crackdown, Haidaii said, warning residents still in the city to stay in underground shelters.
Russian missiles destroyed “military infrastructure facilities” in the district of Yavoriv, in western Ukraine and near the border with Poland, said the governor of the Lviv region. This is a major influx of weapons that Ukraine has acquired from the West during the war.
The Ukrainian armed forces said they resisted a renewed Russian offensive in the area of Donetsk, in Donbas. Russian troops on the spot also attempted to advance near the city of Iziumbut the Ukrainian soldiers stopped them, said the governor of the Kharkiv region, Oleh Sinegubov.
It was not possible to independently verify Ukraine’s claims so far, but Western officials also painted a bleak picture for Russia.
The Ministry of Defense of Great Britain noted in its daily intelligence briefing that the Russian military has lost up to a third of the combat force it had committed to Ukraine at the end of February, and is not making significant progress.
“Under current conditions, Russia is unlikely to drastically accelerate its rate of advances in the next 30 days.”indicated the dependency on Twitter.
The assessments of Russia’s performance in the war were issued at a time when Moscow’s troops were withdrawing from the outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, which was a major military target in the early days of the war and it was bombed for weeks. The regional governor said there have been no artillery attacks there for several days, although Moscow is maintaining its offensive in the region.
A Ukrainian battalion that had been fighting in the area reached the Russian border on Sunday and from there recorded a celebratory video directed at Zelenskyy. In the video posted on Facebook by Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, a dozen soldiers were seen standing next to a marker in the country’s blue and yellow colors.
One of them explained that the unit arrived “to the dividing line with the Russian Federation, the invading country. President, we got it. We are here”.