Russia Presses Offensive in East, European Leaders Rally Behind Kyiv
As the war enters its 115th day, the invading Russian forces appear to be consolidating their gains in eastern Ukraine. The Russian military has made further inroads in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, the British Ministry of Defense said Sunday.
In past two days of fighting, the Russian forces have renewed “efforts to advance south of Izium, with the goal of advancing deeper into the Donetsk Oblast, and to envelop the Sieverodonetsk Pocket from the north,” the British military intelligence disclosed.
The Russian military has not completed the encirclement of Sieverodonetsk, but earlier this week they broke into the center of the city, news reports claim. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy declared that the Ukrainian defenders were fighting for “every meter” of Sieverodonetsk, a key city in country’s industrial heartland.
Germany’s state broadcaster DW News reported the latest assessment of the UK Defense Intelligence (DI):
In the past 48 hours, Russia appears to have “renewed its efforts to advance” south of the town of Izium and deeper into Donetsk, UK military officials said. They believe Russian forces aim to envelop the pocket of territory still held by the Ukrainians from the north.
Russian officials also say they are trying to establish a humanitarian corridor for civilians trapped in Sieverodonetsk. The UK Defence Ministry said that the proposed evacuation route would take the evacuees deeper into occupied territory, and that the civilians are “likely to be suspicious” of using it.
However, if they refuse to use it, Russia will “likely claim justification in making less of a distinction between them and any Ukrainian military targets in the area,” the British officials said.
The latest Russians assault is aimed at encircling large number of Ukrainian troops, including country’s elite fighting units, in Sievierodonetsk. The Russians employed similar tactics in the battled for the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, where 1700 defenders were forced to surrender after weeks of defiant resistance.
Thousands of civilians were reportedly killed and the city was turned into rubble after two months of heavy Russians shelling.
The EU, Europeans Leaders Rally Behind Ukraine
As the Russian invasion rages into its seventeenth week, the Europeans are stepping up their support for Ukraine.
On Saturday, the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, backed Ukraine’s candidacy to 27-member bloc. The move brings Ukraine one step closer to joining the EU, fulfilling Kyiv’s long-standing demand.
Days after Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz and France’s President Emmanuel Macron visited the beleaguered country, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday made a second surprise trip to Kyiv.
The UK will continue to provide heavy weaponry and training to Ukrainian armed forces, Johnson pledged. “We’re here once again to underline that we are with you to give you the strategic endurance that you will need,” he said.
The Associated Press reported the European support for Ukraine:
The European Union’s executive arm recommended putting Ukraine on a path to membership Friday, a symbolic boost for a country fending off a Russian onslaught that is killing civilians, flattening cities and threatening its very survival.
In another show of Western support, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv to offer continued aid and military training.
The European allies’ latest embrace of Ukraine marked another setback for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who launched his war nearly four months ago, hoping to pull his ex-Soviet neighbor away from the West and back into Russia’s sphere of influence. (…)
Johnson’s trip to Kyiv followed one Thursday by the leaders of Germany, France, Italy and Romania, who pledged to support Ukraine without asking it to make any territorial concessions to Russia.
While Ukraine’s entry into NATO is currently not one the table, its it worth noting that the EU-membership also has a NATO-like mutual defense clause which obliges all signatory nations to come to the aid of a member who faces attack from outside.
Russia Recruits Fresh Troops For Ukraine War
Hoping to avoid a general mobilization, Kremlin has undertaken a “Nationwide Recruitment Effort” to bring fresh troops to the Ukrainian front, media reports say.
After 114 days of bloody fighting, both sides have suffered heavy loses in terms of military manpower. While Ukrainian sources put total Russian losses up to 33,350 as of June 18, those claims cannot be independently verified.
The prominent German weekly Der Spiegel commented Thursday, that Moscow is pulling “out all the stops to find fresh troops.” Across Russia, “from Kaliningrad in the west to the eastern region of Amur, men of fighting age are being summoned,” the weekly added.
Russia is moving more fresh to eastern Ukraine, the DC-based think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) claimed.
The UK’s Sky News reported the think tank’s analysis:
The Kremlin are deploying more troops along Ukraine’s eastern flank in an effort to bolster their operations in the Severodonetsk and Lysychansk area, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reports.
Citing Ukraine’s defence ministry spokesperson Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, the US-based think tank said Russian forces were transferring tanks, armoured personnel carriers, engineering equipment, and vehicles closer to the eastern city of Severodonetsk.
“The Russian military has concentrated the vast majority of its available combat power to capture Severodonetsk and Lysychansk at the expense of other axes of advance and is suffering heavy casualties to do so,” the ISW reported.
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