|[Published: Tuesday June 21 2022]
NATO says Ukraine fighting could last years as Russians pound Eastern cities
BRUSSELS, 21 June. - (ANA) - NATO's secretary-general has warned that the war in Ukraine could go on for years and urged the supply of state-of-the-art weapons to Kyiv even if "costs are high," as Ukraine's allies sought to preempt any international "fatigue" nearly four months into Russia's unprovoked invasion.
The cautions came as Russia stepped up its offensives against Syevyerodonetsk and other eastern Ukrainian cities, and with the European Union readying for a recommendation next week to make Ukraine a candidate to join the bloc.
"We must prepare for the fact that it could take years. We must not let up in supporting Ukraine," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper in comments published on June 19.
"Even if the costs are high, not only for military support, also because of rising energy and food prices."
Following his visit to Kyiv on June 18 to show support for Ukraine, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote in London's Sunday Times that "time is the vital factor" and "everything will depend on whether Ukraine can strengthen its ability to defend its soil faster than Russia can renew its capacity to attack."
Johnson spoke of the need to avoid "Ukraine fatigue" from a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of Ukrainians and displaced more than 10 million others since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops across the border on February 24.
Syevyerodonetsk, the focus of Russia's offensive to capture full control of the eastern Ukrainian region of Luhansk, remained under heavy artillery fire on June 19, as did the sister city of Lysychansk, just across the Severskiy Donets River.
The Ukrainian General Staff of the Armed Forces said early on June 19 that Russian troops are concentrating their main efforts in the direction of Syevyerodonetsk and Bakhmut.
The Russian Defense Ministry said it had taken control of a town southeast of Syevyerodonetsk. TASS reported that Ukrainian fighters had surrendered there.
Ukraine's military said Russia had "partial success" in the area, but Serhiy Hayday, the military governor of Luhansk, told Ukrainian television that the Russians' claims that they control Syevyerodonetsk are false.
"They control the main part of the town but not the whole town," he said, adding that the fighting made evacuations from the city impossible.
Despite heavy shelling of Syevyerodonestk's twin city, Lysychansk, it was possible to evacuate 19 people from there, Hayday said.
"Today, 19 residents of Lysychansk have already exhaled with relief and are in a place where shells do not fly overhead," Hayday said on Telegram.
The British Defense Ministry said in an intelligence update on June 19 that there was "little change in the front line" in recent days in the so-called Syevyerodonetsk pocket where Russian forces are hoping to encircle Ukraine's defenders.
But the ministry also warned that Ukrainian and Russian combat units "committed to intense combat in the Donbas" are probably suffering "variable morale," citing information from U.K. intelligence services.
Ukrainian and Western intelligence have pointed for months to signs of poor morale and even fragging among invading Russian soldiers since the February 24 invasion began.
But the British statement is among the strongest indications so far of morale problems among Ukrainians, who mobilized military and civilian defenders to resist the Russians.
"Ukrainian forces have likely suffered desertions in recent weeks," the Defense Ministry said in its latest intelligence update on Ukraine. "Russian morale highly likely remains especially troubled. Cases of whole Russian units refusing orders and armed stand-offs between officers and their troops continue to occur."
Reliable casualty estimates from either side have been difficult to come by.
The Ukrainian side suggests more than 30,000 Russian soldiers have been killed, although Western intelligence has suggested the number is considerably lower.
The Ukrainian side has not said how many of its troops or other defenders have died, although Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy recently suggested as many as 100 Ukrainian soldiers are being killed every day. - (ANA) -
AAB/ANA/21 June 2022 — - -