Struggling in eastern Ukraine, Russian forces strike in Kyiv

KYIV, Ukraine – Russian forces pressed on Sunday to take the city of Sievierodonetsk, one of the last obstacles to taking the Luhansk re...

KYIV, Ukraine – Russian forces pressed on Sunday to take the city of Sievierodonetsk, one of the last obstacles to taking the Luhansk region. But as often in this bitter war of attrition, the Russian army struggled to advance, with Ukrainian forces making counterattacks and retaking part of the city.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the fighting was taking place street by street and the situation was “extremely difficult”. The city is largely in ruins, and thousands of civilians still find refuge there in basements.

Capturing Sievierodonetsk would hand over the Luhansk region to Russian forces and their local separatist allies, who also control much of neighboring Donetsk. But their inability to gain ground quickly and their continued vulnerability to determined Ukrainian fighters again show that Russia’s war plan has not played out as Moscow expected.

Even as it struggles in the east, Moscow recalled on Sunday that it retains the power to go after much of Ukraine, hitting the capital Kyiv for the first time in more than a month. Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, angered by the impending arrival in Ukraine of long-range missiles from the West, has warned that Moscow could hit hitherto unharmed targets.

Even in predominantly Russian-speaking areas of eastern Ukraine, the brutality of the Russian campaign – employing what Mr Zelensky called “constant airstrikes, artillery and missile fire” – produced a fierce resistance, enduring anti-Russian sentiments and a new Ukrainian nationalism. .

Serhiy Hadai, the governor of the Luhansk region, said on Sunday that Ukrainian forces had recaptured about half of Sievierodonetsk, a claim that is difficult to verify. He said he was considering sourcing more longer-range Western artillery and missile systems that would be better able to hit the masses of Russian artillery pounding Ukrainian positions from afar.

“As soon as we have enough long-range Western weapons, we will push their artillery away from our positions,” Hadai said. “And then, believe me, the Russian infantry, they’ll just run.”

But even if they don’t run, Russia is making only slow and bloody progress even in its most limited eastern objectives, having failed to take Kyiv, Kharkiv or the key southern port of Odessa. .

The prospect of these more modern and more accurate long-range weapons clearly caught Mr. Putin’s attention. In parts of an interview published on Sunday, he threatened “to hit targets we haven’t hit yet” if Western countries supply Ukraine with longer-range missiles, but he gave no details.

Speaking to state broadcaster Rossiya, Mr Putin was asked about the US announcement that it would supply Ukraine with a more sophisticated rocket system that could hit targets around 40 miles away. Even as he warned of new Russian targets, he sought to downplay rocket deliveries, suggesting that Western nations were simply replenishing stockpiles of similar weapons that Ukraine had depleted.

Russia was angered by the US decision to supply Ukraine HIMARS Truck Mounted Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, with missiles that have a range of up to 40 miles, more than anything Ukraine currently has. Since the invasion, the Pentagon has provided Ukraine with 108 M777 howitzers. But the range of HIMARS missiles is more than twice that of 155mm shells fired from howitzers.

“All this hype about additional arms deliveries, in my opinion, has only one goal: to prolong the armed conflict as long as possible,” Putin said.

As the war drags on with no evidence that an end could be near, Kyiv was hit by Russian missiles early on Sunday for the first time in five weeks, shaking its sense of relative security. At least five missiles hit near Darnytsia station and Poznyaky, a residential area, injuring one person.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the missiles hit a railway repair shop and destroyed an unknown number of Soviet-era T-72 tanks delivered by Eastern European countries. Poland and the Czech Republic sent hundreds of such tanks to Ukraine. Ukrainian officials have denied that any tanks were destroyed.

“I officially declare that there is no military equipment on the territory of the Darnytsia Automobile Repair Plant,” wrote the head of the board of directors of the Ukrainian railway company, Oleksandr Kamyshin, on Telegram. . “This plant repaired gondola cars and grain trucks, which we use for export.”

It was impossible to verify either claim, but for Ukraine, whose ports are blocked in the east, grain trucks may be the only way to get in its much-needed food stocks to the world. On Sunday, The New York Times reported that the United States was warning foreign governments that Russia was trying to sell looted Ukrainian grain to food-starved countries.

There was also several powerful explosions early Sunday in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, windows rattling for miles. Kramatorsk, which serves as the provincial capital for Ukrainian-controlled areas in the Donetsk region, has been repeatedly hit by missiles but escaped mass destruction in other towns. No injuries were reported in Sunday’s attack, which hit industrial areas.

How Mr. Putin and Mr. Zelensky decide when to resume negotiations, and on what basis, continues to be a hot topic of debate. French President Emmanuel Macron came under heavy criticism from Ukrainian officials and some other European leaders when he repeated on Saturday his view that Mr Putin should not be humiliated, so that a negotiated solution to the conflict could be more easily found.

“We must not humiliate Russia so that the day the fighting stops, we can build a diplomatic way out,” Macron said. France’s role, he said, must be that of a “mediating power”, adding that he had devoted “time and energy” to ensuring that the conflict did not escalate into a broader war, including negotiating with Mr. Putin for over 100 hours.

The fallout from this interview with regional newspapers continued on Sunday, with Ukrainian and Central and Eastern European politicians essentially saying that Mr Putin had already humbled himself and must be seen as having failed in Ukraine to ensure that Russia does not return to war. later, or even decide to extend it to other countries.

Others suggested that Mr. Macron’s hours of talks with Mr. Putin had produced little value, that the war was not yet ripe for negotiations and that France had disqualified itself from a mediator role.

There are clear divisions between countries like Poland and the Baltics, which experienced Soviet occupation and see greater dangers in a Russia that is not soundly defeated, and Western European countries like France. , Germany and Italy, which support Ukraine but are suffering from rising inflation and economic sanctions against Russia, and want the war to end more quickly through negotiations.

Gérard Araud, a recently retired senior French diplomat, said in a Twitter post talking about humiliation was not the point. The real question, he says, is: “How do you defeat Russia while giving it a way out? To avoid an eternal war, the temptation of escalation and the total devastation of Ukraine.

The tone counts, wrote Mr. Araud in English.

“The word ‘humiliate’ gives the debate an emotional and moral tone that is a dead end,” he said. “In foreign policy, at the end of a war there is a winner and a loser or, much more likely in this case, there is a stalemate. A stalemate means endless war or compromise.

Helene von Bismarck, a German historian, said what was most annoying about Mr Macron’s speech about humiliation “is not only that it seems insensitive, after Bucha, but that it is yet another example of discussing the long-term relationship with Russia as if not influenced by the short-term development of the war.

But the tension of the long war was evident even in Estonia, whose Prime Minister Kaja Kallas has been one of the most outspoken voices calling for a Russian defeat and the isolation of Mr Putin.

Ms Kallas dissolved her coalition government on Saturday, sacking seven Center party ministers from the 15-member cabinet, including Foreign Minister Eva-Maria Liimets. The dismissal of Center ministers follows weeks of political deadlock, including a vote on an education bill in which the Center voted against the government and with a far-right opposition party.

Ms. Kallas, who is seeking to create a new coalition to avoid a snap election, cited the need for unity during this war to explain her actions. She said she hoped the war “would have opened the eyes of all parliamentary parties to the importance of a common understanding of the threats to us as a country neighboring Russia”.

Valerie Hopkins reported from Kyiv, and Steven Erlanger from Brussels. The reports were provided by Andrew E. Kramer from Kramatorsk, Ukraine; Neil MacFarquhar from Istanbul; and Ivan Nechepurenko from Tbilisi, Georgia.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Struggling in eastern Ukraine, Russian forces strike in Kyiv
Struggling in eastern Ukraine, Russian forces strike in Kyiv
Newsrust - US Top News
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