NATO warns of long war in Ukraine as Russian assaults follow EU boost for Kyiv

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  • NATO’s Stoltenberg says war could last for years
  • Allies must show they will support Ukraine for the long term – Johnson
  • Ukraine admits setback in village near Sievierodonetsk
  • “Whatever is ours, we will take back” -Zelenskiy
  • Two Azovstal defense commanders traveled to Russia for investigation -TASS

KYIV, June 19 (Reuters) – The war in Ukraine could drag on for years, the NATO chief said on Sunday, as Russia stepped up its assault after the European Union recommended Kyiv become a candidate for membership. block membership.

Jens Stoltenberg said supplying advanced weapons to Ukrainian troops would increase the chances of freeing his eastern region of Donbass from Russian control, German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported. Read more

“We have to be prepared for the fact that it could take years. We must not relax our support for Ukraine,” said Stoltenberg, the secretary general of the military alliance.

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“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, also spoke of the need to prepare for a long war.

This meant ensuring that “Ukraine receives weapons, equipment, ammunition and training faster than the invader,” Johnson wrote in an op-ed in The Sunday Times of London.

“Time is the vital factor,” he writes. “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 it for candidate status, a move EU countries are expected to endorse at a summit this week. Read more

This would put Ukraine on track to achieve an aspiration considered out of reach before Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion, though membership could take years.

INTENSIFIED ATTACKS

Russian attacks intensified on Ukrainian battlefields.

The industrial city of Sievierodonetsk, a prime target of the Muscovite offensive aimed at taking full control of Luhansk – one of the two provinces of Donbass – has again faced heavy artillery and rocket fire, announced the Ukrainian army.

“The situation in Sievierodonetsk is very difficult,” said Serhiy Gaidai, Ukraine’s governor of Luhansk, adding that Russian forces, using drones for aerial reconnaissance, were quickly adjusting their strikes in response to changing defenses.

“The 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 refuge, had been hit twice. .

“Fighting continues for full control of the city,” the Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff 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 twin city of Lysychansk, across the river, the bodies of two civilians were found, Gaidai said, adding: “The destruction of housing in the city is rising like an avalanche.

The Ukrainian army acknowledged that “the enemy has a partial success in the village of Metolkine”, just southeast of Sievierodonetsk.

Russian state news agency TASS said many Ukrainian fighters had surrendered to Metolkin, citing a source working for Russian-backed separatists.

Russian missiles hit a gas plant in the northwest district of Izyum, and Russian rockets raining down on a suburb of Kharkiv, the second-largest city, hit a municipal building, sparking a fire, but no casualties , Ukrainian authorities said.

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

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

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.

Two senior fighter commanders who defended the Azovstal steel plant in the southeastern port of Mariupol have been transferred to Russia for investigation, TASS said. Read more

ZELENSKY’S CHALLENGE

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, whose challenge inspired his people and won global respect, said he visited soldiers on the southern front line in the Mykolaiv region, some 550 km (340 miles) away. south of Kyiv.

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

“Their mood is assured: they don’t all doubt our victory,” said Zelenskiy. “We will not give the south to anyone, and everything that is ours we will take back.”

Another video showed Zelenskiy in his trademark khaki t-shirt handing out medals and posing for selfies with servicemen. Read more

Zelenskiy has stayed mainly in Kyiv since the invasion of Russia, although in recent weeks he has made unannounced visits to Kharkiv and two eastern towns close to the battles. Read more

One of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s stated goals in sending troops to Ukraine was to halt the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance’s eastward expansion and keep Moscow’s southern neighbor out. of the West’s sphere of influence.

But the war, which has killed thousands, reduced 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.

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Reports from Reuters offices; Written by David Brunnstrom and Clarence Fernandez; Editing by Grant McCool and William Mallard

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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