Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said no one knows how long the war in his country will last, but Ukrainian forces are defying expectations by preventing Russian forces from overrunning eastern Ukraine, where fighting has been the fiercest in weeks.
In his nightly video address, Zelensky said he was proud that the Ukrainian defenders were able to repel the Russian advance in Donbass regionwhich lies on the border with Russia and where Moscow-backed separatists controlled much of the territory for eight years.
“Do you remember how in Russia they hoped, at the beginning of May, to capture all the Donbass islands?” The president said late on Saturday. It’s already the 108th day of the war, June already. Donbass sticks.
After failing to capture Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, early in the war, Moscow focused on capturing the parts of the largely Russian-speaking Donbass still in Ukrainian hands, as well as the country’s southern coast. But instead of securing quick and decisive control, the Russian forces were drawn into a long, uphill battle, thanks in part to the Ukrainian army’s use of Western-supplied weaponry.
Meanwhile, officials installed by the Kremlin in occupied southern Ukraine celebrated Russia’s Day on Sunday and began issuing Russian passports to residents of one of the cities who requested it, as Moscow seeks to consolidate its control over captured parts of the country.
In one of Kherson’s central squares, Russian bands played a concert to celebrate Russia’s Day, the holiday marking Russia’s emergence as a sovereign country after the collapse of the Soviet Union, reports RIA Novosti news agency. In the neighboring district of Zaporizhzhia, officials installed by Moscow raised the Russian flag in the center of Melitopol.
Ukrainian media reported that few, if any, residents attended Russia Day celebrations in the two cities.
Russia Day was also celebrated in other parts of occupied Ukraine, including the devastated southern port of Mariupol, where a new city banner painted in the colors of the Russian flag was unveiled on the outskirts of the city and Russian flags were raised on a highway leading into the city. .
The Russia-allied administration in Melitopol has also begun handing out Russian passports to those who have applied for Russian citizenship. RIA Novosti published a video clip of a Moscow-backed official congratulating the new Russian citizens and telling them: “Russia is not going anywhere. We are here for good.”
Ukrainian and Russian authorities said the eastern city of Severodonetsk, which had a pre-war population of 100,000, was still in dispute. The neighboring city of Lysechansk is the last major area of the Luhansk Province in the Donbass that is not under the control of pro-Russian rebels.
Leonid Bashnik, president of the separatist Luhansk People’s Republic, said Ukrainian fighters were still in an industrial area of the city, including a chemical plant where civilians were sheltering after days of Russian bombing.
“Severodonetsk has not been completely liberated,” Basknik said on Saturday, claiming that the Ukrainians were bombing the city from the Azot chemical plant. “So it is impossible to consider the situation calm in Severodonetsk, it is absolutely our situation.”
Luhansk Governor Serhiy Hayday said on Saturday that a major fire broke out in the factory within hours of the Russian bombing.
Zelensky said that while the end of the war was not in sight, Ukraine should do everything in its power so that the Russians regret everything they did and that they respond to every killing and every blow to our beautiful country.
The Ukrainian leader emphasized that Russia incurred about three times the military losses incurred by the Ukrainian side, adding: “For what? What did Russia bring to you?” There are no reliable independent estimates of the death toll in the war so far.
Speaking at a defense conference in Singapore on Sunday, Chinese Defense Minister General Wei Fengyi said Beijing continues to support peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, and hopes the United States and its NATO allies will hold talks with Russia to “create the conditions for an early cessation of the -fire.”
“China will continue to play a constructive role and contribute our share to easing tensions and achieving a political solution to the crisis,” Wei said.
He pointed out that the countries that supply Ukraine with weapons were obstructing peace by “pumping oil on the fire” and stressed that China did not provide any material support to Russia 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 Washington-based think tank, said in its latest assessment that Ukrainian intelligence indicated that the Russian military was planning to “fight a longer war.”
The institute quoted the deputy head of Ukraine’s National Security Agency as saying that Moscow had extended the war schedule until October, with adjustments being made based on any successes in Donbass.
The think tank said the intelligence “likely indicates that the Kremlin, at least, has admitted that it cannot quickly achieve its goals in Ukraine, and is adjusting its military objectives in an effort to correct the initial shortcomings of invading Ukraine.”
Rodion Miroshnik, ambassador of the Luhansk People’s Republic to Russia, said Saturday that 300 to 400 Ukrainian soldiers are still trapped inside the chemical plant in Severodonetsk along with several hundred civilians.
Miroshnik said the Russians had established contacts with Ukrainian forces to arrange the evacuation of civilians, but that the troops would only be allowed to leave if they laid down their arms and surrendered.
Similar conditions existed for weeks at a steel plant in Mariupol before the evacuation of civilians was arranged and Ukrainian military leaders ordered the defending forces to stand down. The fighters who left the Mariupol plant were captured by the Russians.
Bashnik, the separatist leader of the unrecognized Luhansk republic, said Ukrainians who take a stand in Severodonetsk should save themselves from trouble.
“If I were them, I would have already made a decision [to surrender],” he said. “We will achieve our goal in any case. We’ll liberate the industrial zone anyway. We will liberate Severodonetsk in any case. Lysychansk will be ours in any case. ”
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