Ukrainians contain Russian attacks in the east and NATO says it fears ‘years’ war | Ukraine and Russia

The Ukrainian army announced on Sunday (19) that it had managed to stop Russian attacks near the eastern city of Severodonetsk, the scene of intense fighting for weeks in this war that, according to NATO, could last “years”.

“Our units managed to stop the assault in the Toshkyvka region,” the Ukrainian army said in a Facebook post. “The enemy withdrew,” the corporation added. Serguii Gaidai, governor of Lugansk, region where Severodonetsk is located, called the statements, according to which Russia controls the entire locality, as “lies”. “It’s true that they control most of the city, but not completely,” he said.

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In Severodonetsk there are more than 500 civilians, including 38 children, entrenched in a chemical factory to protect themselves from bombing, Gaidai reported, adding that the plant had been hit again by air strikes in recent hours. For several days, attempts have been made to establish a humanitarian corridor, but without success. Russians and Ukrainians blame each other for the failure of the civilian evacuation operation.

From Moscow, the Russian Ministry of Defense stated that “the offensive against Severodonetsk is being carried out successfully”. “People’s militia units of the Lugansk People’s Republic, supported by the Russian Armed Forces, liberated the city of Metolkin,” southeast of Severodonetsk, the ministry reported to the press.

After failing in its attempt to take Kiev at the start of the offensive on 24 February, Russia’s objective now appears to be to take full control of Donbass, which comprises the Lugansk and Donetsk regions. Since 2014, this region has been partially controlled by pro-Russian separatists backed by Moscow.

“There is no safe place,” admitted the governor in an interview with AFP from Lysychansk, in the Lugansk region. The Russians “bomb our positions 24 hours a day,” he described. “There’s a saying: you have to prepare for the worst, and the best will come,” says Gaidai. “Of course we have to prepare,” reiterates the official, who fears that the Russians will surround the city and block the roads that guarantee supplies.

With a pre-war population of around 100,000, only 10% remain in Lysychansk. And in the city, everyone and everything seems to be preparing for street fighting: soldiers are digging holes and laying barbed wire; the police put cars on fire to stop traffic; and many residents who were still there finally decided to leave.

“We dropped everything and left. No one can survive such an attack,” laments history teacher Alla Bor.

Ukraine's president visits cities that have been frequent targets of Russian attacks

Ukraine’s president visits cities that have been frequent targets of Russian attacks

“We won’t give the south to anyone”

On Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed his determination to continue resisting in the south, after a visit to the cities of Mykolaiv and Odessa on Saturday.

“We will not give the south to anyone. We will recover everything. The sea will be Ukrainian and it will be safe”, he promised, in a video published on Telegram, after returning to the country’s capital, Kiev. “They are confident and, looking into their eyes, it is obvious that they do not doubt their victory,” added Zelensky, referring to his troops.

“The losses are significant, many houses have been destroyed, civilian logistics have been affected, and there are many social problems,” admitted Zelensky. “I have asked that people who have lost their loved ones receive greater assistance. We will rebuild everything that has been destroyed. Russian missiles are smaller than our people’s will to live,” he declared.

Mykolaiv had half a million inhabitants before the war and is still under Ukrainian control, but it is close to Kherson, a region practically occupied by the Russians.

In addition, it is located on the road to Odessa, Ukraine’s largest port. The latter is also under Ukrainian control and at the center of negotiations, as there are millions of tons of Ukrainian grain blocked there. Russia, which controls this part of the Black Sea, argues that the waters are mined.

Zelensky’s optimism diverges, however, from the bleak picture presented by the secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Jens Stoltenberg. In an interview published on Sunday by the German newspaper Bild, he assesses that the war could last “years” and, therefore, Western countries must prepare for lasting support for Ukraine. “We have to be prepared for this to last for years,” Stoltenberg said.

“We must not waver in our support for Ukraine, even if the costs are high, not only in terms of military support, but also in rising energy and food prices,” he added.

This week, Russia reduced the flow of gas to Western Europe, citing technical problems. In reaction, Germany announced emergency measures on Sunday to secure its energy supply. That will mean turning to coal more.

This is a 180-degree turn for the German coalition government, which includes environmentalists and which has promised to abandon the use of coal in the country by 2030. “It is bitter, but it is essential to reduce gas consumption,” said the minister of Economy, environmentalist Robert Habeck, in a statement.

Qatar announced that the Italian group ENI will join the French company TotalEnergies in the North Field East project, whose objective is to increase the production of liquefied natural gas in the Gulf country by 60% by 2027.

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