RUSKA LOZOVA, Ukraine (Reuters) – Russia attacked positions in eastern Ukraine as it tried to encircle Ukrainian forces in the Donbass and repel a counteroffensive around the town of Izium .
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the Russian offensive in Donbass had stalled and Ukraine could win the war, an outcome few military analysts had predicted at the start of the conflict.
“Russia’s war in Ukraine is not going the way Moscow planned,” Stoltenberg told reporters on Sunday.
In a strategic blow to Russia, which has long opposed NATO enlargement, Finland confirmed on Sunday that it would apply to join the Atlantic military alliance.
Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats also backed NATO membership on Sunday, paving the way for a bid and abandoning decades of military non-alignment.
NATO and the United States have said they are confident that the two countries will be accepted into the alliance and that the reservations of Turkey, which wants the Nordic countries to stop supporting Kurdish militant groups present on their territory. , could be waived.
Ukraine has won a string of successes since invading Russia on February 24, reversing an advance on the capital kyiv and driving Russian forces from Kharkiv to the east.
Since mid-April, Russian forces have focused much of their firepower on capturing two eastern provinces known as Donbass.
Moscow recognized the independence of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic in the Donbass days before launching its invasion of Ukraine.
Britain’s military intelligence said Russia had lost around a third of the ground combat force deployed in February and its offensive in Donbass was “significantly behind schedule”.
In addition to losing a large number of men and a lot of military equipment, Russia was hit by economic sanctions, while Western states provided military aid to Ukraine.
Ukraine has deployed many of its new US M-777 howitzers to the front lines, and Washington has delivered all but one of the 90 artillery pieces they were supposed to send, the US Embassy said in kyiv.
US lawmakers are expected to continue efforts to send more aid this week.
Moscow calls its invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation” to rid the country of fascists, a claim by kyiv and its Western opinion that is a baseless pretext for unprovoked war.
FIGHTS AROUND IZIUM
Ukrainian troops received a morale boost following the country’s victory in the Eurovision Song Contest over the weekend, with some saying it was a sign of battlefield victories to come.
“We have shown that we can not only fight, but we can also sing very well,” said Vitaliy, a soldier housed north of Kyiv.
The heaviest fighting appears to have taken place around the eastern Russian-held city of Izium, where Russia said it hit Ukrainian positions with missiles.
Ukraine’s joint forces task force said its troops repelled 17 attacks on Sunday and destroyed 11 pieces of Russian equipment. The Ukrainian Air Force command said Ukrainian forces shot down two helicopters, two cruise missiles and seven drones. .
Russia continued to target civilian areas along the entire frontline in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, firing on 23 villages and towns, the task force added.
Reuters was unable to independently confirm the information. Russia denies targeting civilians.
If Ukraine can keep pressure on Izium and Russian supply lines, it will be more difficult for Moscow to surround Ukrainian troops in Donbass.
The Ukrainian military has also acknowledged setbacks, saying Russian forces “continue to advance” in several areas of the Donbass region.
In western Ukraine, near Poland, missiles destroyed military infrastructure overnight Saturday and were fired at the Lviv region from the Black Sea, Ukrainian officials said.
Ten other civilians were injured in the southern region of Mykolaiv, the regional council said, without providing details.
There was also no respite on Sunday in Russia’s bombardment of steelworks in the southern port of Mariupol, where a few hundred Ukrainian fighters are resisting weeks after the town fell to Russian hands, the report said. Ukrainian army.
Brightly burning ordnance was shown cascading down steel mills in a video posted by a pro-Russian separatist commander.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said “very difficult and delicate negotiations” were underway to save Ukrainians in Mariupol and Azovstal.
In the port city, some residents ate and talked outside their burnt building, which was bombed and caught fire in early April.
“I was in the kitchen when the smoke appeared,” said a resident named Natalya. “I started carrying my stuff, saving what I could.”
She said three neighbors died in the fighting.
“We couldn’t bury them because of the shelling. Every day we put a person in a grave, but we couldn’t cover it with earth because of the shelling.
Reports from Reuters offices; Written by Susan Heavey and Stephen Coates; Edition by Lincoln Feast.