Small Winnings Float Ukraine; West Says Russians Are Losing Momentum

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KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Almost three months after Russia shocked the world by invading Ukraine, its military faces a war in a stalemate, the prospect of a greater NATO, and an opponent buoyed by Sunday’s victories on and off the battlefield.

Senior diplomats from NATO met with the head of the alliance in Berlin and announced this. war “It’s not going as Moscow planned.”

“Ukraine can win this war,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, adding that the alliance should continue to provide military support to Kiev. He spoke to the meeting via video link while recovering from the COVID-19 infection.

On the diplomatic front, both Finland and Sweden took steps that brought them closer to NATO membership, despite Russia’s objections. Finland announced on Sunday who want to join NATO, said to be occupied It changed Europe’s security landscape. A few hours later, Sweden’s ruling party approved the country’s own bid for membership, which could lead to an application within days.

It would be an insult if two non-aligned Scandinavian countries became part of the alliance. Russian President Vladimir PutinDescribing NATO’s post-Cold War expansion in Eastern Europe as a threat to Russia. NATO says it’s a purely defensive alliance.

Moscow lost ground on the diplomatic front, while Russian forces failed to gain ground in eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine said it was delaying Russian offensives in the east, and Western military officials said the operation launched by Moscow after its forces failed to capture the capital, Kiev, slowed to a snail’s pace.

Meanwhile, Ukraine celebrated a morale-boosting victory in Russia. Eurovision Song Contest. The folk rap ensemble Kalush Orchestra won the flamboyant pan-European competition with their song “Stefania”, which became an anthem among the Ukrainians during the war.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy promised that his nation would claim the traditional winner’s honor to host the next annual competition.

“Step by step we are forcing the invaders to leave the territory of Ukraine,” said Zelenskyy.

The Ukrainian Kalush Orchestra, which won the Eurovision Song Contest on May 15, 2022, is performing the song “Stefania” again.

Jens Büttner/image alliance via Getty Images

The band’s lead singer, Oleh Psiuk, said at a press conference on Sunday that the musicians were “ready to fight” when they got home. The Ukrainian government prohibits men between the ages of 18 and 60 from leaving the country, but six members of the all-male group have received special permission to travel to Italy to represent Ukraine in the competition.

They will return to a country still fighting for survival.

Russian and Ukrainian fighters engage in a fierce battle for Donbas, Ukraine’s eastern industrial region. Ukraine’s most experienced and equipped soldiers have been fighting Moscow-backed separatists there for eight years.

Despite its setbacks, Russia continues to wreak havoc across Ukraine. Over the weekend, his forces hit a chemical plant and 11 high-rise buildings in Siverodonetsk, in the Donbass, the district governor said. Governor Serhii Haidaii said two people were killed in the bombardment and warned residents still living in the city to stay in underground bunkers.

The governor of the Lviv region said that Russian missiles destroyed “military infrastructure facilities” in western Ukraine’s Yavoriv district, close to the Polish border. Lviv is an important gateway for Western-sourced weapons that Ukraine acquired during the war.

The Ukrainian military said it was delaying a renewed Russian offensive in the Donetsk region of the Donbass. Oleh Sinegubov, the governor of Ukraine’s Kharkov region, reported that Russian troops also tried to advance near the eastern city of Izyum, but Ukrainian forces stopped them.

Ukraine’s Special Operations Command said on Sunday it blew up two railway bridges captured by Russian forces in Ukraine’s eastern region of Luhansk. He posted a video of the exploding bridges on Facebook. The commander also said that Russia destroyed Russian communication lines in the area to prevent it from bringing in more troops to attack the towns of Lisichansk and Severodonetsk.

Ukraine’s claims could not be independently verified, but Western officials painted a bleak picture for Russia as well.

The British Ministry of Defense said in its daily intelligence update that the Russian army had lost up to a third of the combat power it had committed to Ukraine in late February and was unable to gain significant territory.

“Under the current circumstances, it seems unlikely that Russia will significantly accelerate its pace of progress over the next 30 days,” the ministry said on Twitter.

Ukrainian soldiers rest in a recently reclaimed village north of Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, May 15, 2022.
Ukrainian soldiers rest in a recently reclaimed village north of Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, May 15, 2022.

AP Photo/Mstyslav Chernov

Evaluations of Russia’s combat performance came as Russian troops retreated from the vicinity of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, which was a major military target early in the war and was bombed for weeks. The regional governor said there had been no shelling in the city for several days, despite Russia continuing to strike the wider Kharkiv region.

A Ukrainian battalion fighting in the area reached the Russian border on Sunday, where it posted a victorious video addressed to Zelenskyy.

In the video posted on Facebook by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, a dozen fighters stood around a blue-yellow pole, the colors of Ukraine.

One explained that the unit “was at the dividing line with the occupying country, the Russian Federation.” Mr President, we have reached him. We are here.”

Other warriors made victory signs and raised their fists.

Despite the continued threat of missile strikes, many people have returned to Kharkiv and other cities around Ukraine, Anna Malyar, deputy head of the Ministry of Defense, said on Sunday. Refugees were not returning simply because of optimism that the war would be over.

“Just like living in a place like this, not working, paying for housing, eating … they have to return for economic reasons,” the RBK-Ukraine news agency said in a statement.

In the southern Donbas, the port of Mariupol on the Sea of ​​Azov is currently largely under Russian control, with the exception of a few hundred Ukrainian soldiers who refused to surrender and were stranded at the Azovstal steelworks.

Many of their wives urged the global community to ensure the release of “the entire garrison” during an online press conference. The women said that the troops suffered from serious shortages of food, water and medicine; untreated injuries sometimes led to sepsis.

Ukraine’s prosecutor’s office said it has launched a criminal investigation into the alleged use of limited incendiary bombs at Moscow’s steel mills by district prosecutors. International law permits the use of certain incendiary munitions, but prohibits their use to directly target enemy personnel or civilians.

Turkey’s presidential spokesman, İbrahim Kalın, said the country had offered to evacuate injured Ukrainian soldiers and civilians from Azovstal by ship, according to official state broadcaster TRT.

The invasion of Ukraine has other countries on Russia’s flank worried they might be next, including Finland, which shares both Russia’s 1,340-kilometer (830-mile) land border and the Gulf of Finland with Russia. In a phone call on Saturday, Putin told Finnish President Sauli Niinisto that joining NATO would be a “mistake”.

In Sweden, after the ruling Social Democratic Party backed plans to join NATO on Sunday, the plan was due to be discussed in Parliament on Monday, followed by an announcement by the Cabinet.

However, NATO is acting by consensus and the potential targets of the Nordic countries have been questioned due to concerns from Turkey. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that at the NATO meeting, Turkey’s concerns were addressed, particularly Sweden and Finland’s alleged support for Kurdish rebel groups, and restrictions on arms sales to Turkey.

But during his visit to Sweden on Sunday, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said Finland and Sweden would be “significant additions” to NATO and that the United States must quickly ratify their membership. McConnell leads a delegation of GOP senators to the region. They made a surprise visit to Kiev on Saturday as a show of support.

McQuillan reported from Lviv. Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Mstyslav Chernov and Andrea Rosa in Kharkiv, Elena Becatoros in Odessa and other AP staff around the world contributed to this report.

Follow the AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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