The front moves in the ‘Battle of Donbas’, Ukraine mounts a counteroffensive

KYIV, Ukraine: A Ukrainian counter-offensive was taking place near the Russian-held town of Izium, but its military reported on Sunday (May 15) that Russian forces were advancing elsewhere in the Donbas region, which has become the main theater of war. during the last month.

Having fiercely resisted since Russia launched its invasion on February 24, Ukraine’s armed forces have achieved a series of successes, first by forcing Russian commanders to abandon an advance on the capital, kyiv, and then by making rapid advances in the northeast in recent weeks to drive off the enemy. from the second largest city of Kharkiv.

Since mid-April, Russian forces have focused much of their firepower in the east for what is known as the “Battle for Donbas.”

Delivering an update on Sunday morning, Ukraine’s military said: “Despite losses, Russian forces continue to advance in Lyman, Sievierodonetsk, Avdiivka and Kurakhiv areas in the wider Donbas region.”

Ukraine’s military reported destroying eight Russian tanks, five artillery systems, along with other armored vehicles and drones in the fighting in Donbas over the previous day.

A regional governor said Ukrainian forces had mounted a counterattack near Izium, a strategic town that straddles the Donets River some 120km southeast on the Kharkiv highway.

“The hottest point is still the direction of Izium,” Governor Oleh Sinegubov said in comments posted on social media. “Our armed forces have gone on a counteroffensive there. The enemy is withdrawing on some fronts and this is a result of the character of our armed forces.”

Reuters was unable to independently verify the Ukrainian reports.

But British military intelligence delivered a damning assessment Sunday of Russia’s Donbas campaign. He estimated that Russia had lost about a third of the ground combat force deployed in February, and its Donbas offensive had been “significantly” delayed and unlikely to make any rapid progress over the next 30 days.

Keeping pressure on Izium and Russian supply lines will make it more difficult for Moscow to encircle battle-hardened Ukrainian troops on the eastern front in the Donbas.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said its forces had killed at least 100 Ukrainian “nationalists” in a series of attacks on military sites, including in Donbas. Reuters was unable to independently verify that report.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the situation in Donbas remained very difficult, adding that Russian forces were still trying to salvage some kind of victory there.

“They are not stopping their efforts,” he said.

Separately, the Ukrainian military said there was no let up on Sunday in Russian shelling of the steelworks in the southern port of Mariupol, where a few hundred Ukrainian fighters held out weeks after the city fell to Russian hands.

Zelenskyy said talks were under way to find a way to evacuate wounded soldiers from Mariupol in exchange for the release of Russian prisoners of war.

A large convoy of cars and vans carrying refugees from the ruins of Mariupol arrived in the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia after dark on Saturday after waiting days for Russian troops to allow them to leave.

Russia, rejecting Ukraine’s claim to have attacked and burned a modern navy logistics ship in the Black Sea, showed photos of what it said was the Vsevolod Bobrov with no signs of damage.

EUROVISION MORALE BOOSTER

On Saturday night, Ukraine celebrated a morale-boosting win at the Eurovision Song Contest that was seen as a sign of the strength of popular support for Ukraine across Europe.

“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe! Next year Ukraine will host the Eurovision Song Contest,” Zelenskyy said in an online message after the Kalush Orchestra won with their entry “Stefania.”

Traditionally, the winners of Eurovision host the event the following year.

In another show of international solidarity, Republican US senators paid an unannounced visit to kyiv. The delegation discussed further strengthening of sanctions against Russia, Zelenskyy said.

In addition to losing a large number of men and much military equipment, Russia has been affected by economic sanctions. The industrial powers of the Group of Seven pledged on Saturday to “further increase economic and political pressure on Russia” and supply more weapons to Ukraine.

NATO APPLICANTS

The invasion of Moscow, which it calls a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists, has shaken European security. kyiv and its Western allies say the assertion of fascism is a baseless pretext for an unprovoked war of aggression.

One of the goals of Russia’s action in Ukraine was to prevent the former Soviet republic from joining NATO.

But in a phone call, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto told Russian President Vladimir Putin that his country, which shares a 1,300-kilometre border with Russia, wanted to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to strengthen its own security.

Putin told Niinisto that it would be a mistake for Helsinki to abandon its neutrality, the Kremlin said, adding that the move could damage bilateral relations.

Turkey has not closed the door on Sweden and Finland joining NATO, but wants to negotiate with them and clamp down on what it sees as terrorist activities, President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman said, referring to the activities of Kurdish living in the Nordic countries.

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