Ukraine said on Thursday it had been forced to cede territory in its east due to a Russian attack, and the head of NATO’s military alliance said Moscow must not be allowed to win the war.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy this week described the pressure his forces were under in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region as “hell”.
He spoke of heavy fighting around the town of Avdiivka and the fortified village of Pisky, where Kyiv has acknowledged “partial” success by its Russian foes in recent days.
The Ukrainian military said Thursday that Russian forces had launched at least two attacks on Pisky, but that its troops had managed to repel them.
Ukraine has spent the past eight years strengthening defensive positions in Pisky, viewing it as a buffer zone against Russian-backed forces that control the city of Donetsk about 10 km to the southeast.
General Oleksiy Hromov told a news conference that Ukrainian forces had retaken two villages around the eastern city of Sloviansk, but had been pushed back to the town of Avdiivka after being forced to abandon a coal mine that was considered a key defensive position.
The Russian Ministry of Defense confirmed the attack.
Reuters could not immediately verify either party’s claims.
Video footage released by the Russian Defense Ministry showed Russian rocket launchers in action and tanks advancing and firing at speed across open terrain.
It was not clear where they were taken.
Footage on social media showed bodies, some dismembered, lying on a street in central Donetsk. Blood stained the pavement.
Russia, which denies deliberately targeting civilians, has said it plans to take full control of Donetsk region, one of two that make up the industrialized Donbas region, as part of what it calls a “special military operation” to protect its security from what it calls the illegitimate expansion of NATO.
Human rights group Amnesty International accused Ukraine on Thursday of putting civilians at risk by having soldiers in residential areas in a report.
Zelenskyy hit back at Amnesty, saying the organization was trying to “shift responsibility from the aggressor to the victim”.
The White House said Thursday it expects Russian officials to try to frame Ukrainian forces for an attack on the frontline town of Olenivka last week that killed prisoners held by Moscow-backed separatists.
“We expect that Russian officials will try to position the Ukrainian military in anticipation of journalists and potential investigators visiting the site of the attack,” said John Kirby, a national security spokesman.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday he will launch a mission of inquiry into last week’s attack after Russia and Ukraine requested an investigation.
The Russian mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Kirby’s comments.
Ukraine and the West, which unjustly describe Russia’s actions as an imperialist war of aggression, say Russian forces must withdraw to their positions by February 24, when President Vladimir Putin sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine.
Moscow, which regularly talks about the need for its forces to push deeper into Ukraine, seems unlikely to agree to do so voluntarily.
There appeared to be further progress in the movement of grain ships to ease the growing global food crisis. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said there were plans for three ships to depart from Ukrainian ports on Friday.
The first ship carrying Ukrainian grain left the port of Odesa on Monday and arrived in the Bosphorus about 36 hours later under an agreement between Russia and Ukraine, between Turkey and the United Nations.
Ukraine said the Russian offensive in the east looked like an attempt to force it to divert troops from the south, where Kyiv’s forces are trying to regain territory and destroy Russian supply lines as a prelude to a wider counteroffensive.
“The idea is to put military pressure on us in Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk in the coming weeks … What is happening in the east is not what will determine the outcome of the war,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said in a YouTube interview.
Gen. Hromov said Russia may launch its own offensive in southern Ukraine’s Kherson region to try to regain momentum in the war after building up its forces there.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday that the war is the most dangerous moment for Europe since World War II and that Russia must not be allowed to win it.
To prevent Moscow from succeeding, NATO and its member states may need to support Ukraine with weapons and other aid for a long time, he said.
“It is in our interest that this type of aggressive policy does not succeed,” Stoltenberg said in a speech in his native Norway.
Amid fears among Western politicians that Russia’s ambitions may extend beyond Ukraine, Stoltenberg warned Putin that the Western military alliance’s response to such a move would be overwhelming.
“If President Putin even thinks of doing something similar to a NATO state that he has done with Georgia, Moldova or Ukraine, then all of NATO will be involved immediately,” Stoltenberg said.
The war has led to previously non-aligned Finland and Sweden applying to join NATO, whose request has so far been confirmed by 23 of the 30 member states, including the United States.
Russia, which shares a long border with Finland, has repeatedly warned Finland and Sweden against joining NATO.
Ukraine under pressure in east as NATO chief says Russia must not win – SABC News
Source link Ukraine under pressure in east as NATO chief says Russia must not win – SABC News