Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said no one knows how long the war will last in his country, but Ukrainian forces are defying expectations by preventing Russian troops from flooding eastern Ukraine, where fighting has been fierce for weeks.
In his overnight video address, Zelensky said he was proud of the Ukrainian defenders who managed to counter the Russian advance in the Donbas region, which borders Russia and where Moscow-backed separatists have controlled much of the territory for eight years. to keep.
“Remember how they hoped to conquer all of Donbas in Russia at the beginning of May?” the president said late Saturday. ‘It is already the 108th day of the war, already June. Donbas persists.’
After failing to take Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, early in the war, Moscow concentrated on capturing the parts of largely Russian-speaking Donbas still in Ukrainian hands, as well as the southern coast of Ukraine. the country.
But instead of securing a quick, decisive takeover, Russian forces were drawn into a long, arduous battle, thanks in part to the Ukrainian military’s use of weapons supplied by the West.
Battle for Severodonetsk continues
Both Ukrainian and Russian officials said the battle for control of the eastern city of Severodonetsk continues. The city and neighboring Lysychansk are the last major areas of the Donbas province of Luhansk not under the control of the pro-Russian rebels.
Leonid Pasechnik, the head of the Luhansk People’s Republic, proclaimed by the separatists, said Ukrainian fighters were in an industrial area of the city, including a chemical plant where civilians had sought shelter from days of Russian shelling.
“Severodonetsk has not been completely liberated 100 percent,” Pasechnik said on Saturday, claiming the Ukrainians shelled the city from the Azot factory. “So it is impossible to call the situation calm in Severodonetsk, that it is all ours.”
Luhansk Governor Serhii Haidai reported on Saturday that a major fire broke out at the factory during hours of Russian shelling.
Elsewhere in Ukraine, a counter-offensive pushed Russians out of parts of the southern Kherson region, which Zelensky said had been taken by Russian forces early in the war. Moscow has installed local authorities in Kherson and other occupied coastal areas, offering residents Russian passports, broadcasting Russian newscasts and taking steps to introduce a Russian school curriculum.
Zelensky said that while the end of the war is not yet in sight, Ukraine should do everything it can to make the Russians “regret everything they’ve done and answer for every murder and attack on our beautiful state. “
‘A longer war’
Chinese Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe said on Sunday at a defense conference in Singapore that Beijing continues to support peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, and hopes the US and its NATO allies will hold talks with Russia “to create the conditions for a soon ceasefire.”
“China will continue to play a constructive role and do our part in easing tensions and achieving a political solution to the crisis,” Wei said.
He suggested that countries supplying arms to Ukraine are hindering peace by “throwing oil on the fire” and stressed that China had not supplied Russia with military material and equipment during the war.
“The growth of China-Russia relations is a partnership, not an alliance,” Wei said.
The Institute for the Study of War, a think tank based in Washington, DC, said in its latest assessment that Ukrainian intelligence suggested the Russian military was planning “to wage a longer war.”
The institute quoted the deputy head of Ukraine’s national security service as saying Moscow had extended its war timeline to October, with adjustments to be made depending on any successes in the Donbas.
The intelligence service “probably indicates that the Kremlin has at least acknowledged that it cannot achieve its objectives in Ukraine quickly and is further adjusting its military objectives in an effort to correct the initial shortcomings in the invasion of Ukraine,” the think tank said.
Parallels with Mariupol
The ambassador of the Luhansk People’s Republic to Russia, Rodion Miroshnik, said on Saturday that 300 to 400 Ukrainian troops along with several hundred civilians remained blocked at the Severodonetsk chemical plant.
The Russians have contacted Ukrainian forces to arrange the evacuation of the civilians, but the troops will only be allowed to leave if they lay down their weapons and surrender, Miroshnik said.
Similar conditions existed for weeks at a steel mill in the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol before a civilian evacuation was arranged and the defending forces were ordered to resign by Ukrainian military commanders. The fighters who came out of the Mariupol factory were captured by the Russians.