Europe 1 with AFP 06:48, May 16, 2022

Ukraine is preparing for an intensification of Russian attacks in the Donbass, in the east of the country, a priority objective for Moscow but where its forces are losing momentum, while the Ukrainian army continues its counter-offensive in the region from Kharkov.

On the diplomatic ground, Moscow sees NATO on the point of strengthening its borders.

THE ESSENTIAL

On the 82nd day of the war in Ukraine, the country is preparing for an intensification of Russian attacks in the Donbass, in the east of the country, a priority objective for Moscow but where its forces are losing momentum.

"We are preparing for new attempts by Russia to attack Donbass, to somehow intensify its movement towards southern Ukraine," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video released Sunday evening.

And yet according to him, "the occupiers still do not want to admit that they are at an impasse".

Information to remember:

  • Ukraine prepares for intensified Russian attacks in Donbass

  • Finland and Sweden will probably ask to join NATO soon

The Russians are transferring troops from the Kharkiv region (north) to that of Lugansk, in the Donbass, with the aim of taking Severodonetsk, assured for his part the Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich on Sunday evening.

The Ukrainian army also announced on Monday morning that it had blown up a railway bridge controlled by the Russians, linking Rubizhne and Severodonetsk, two objectives of Moscow.

"We are preparing for major offensives in Severodonetsk, and around the Lyssytchansk-Bakhmout axis", already said Saturday Serguiï Gaïdaï, Ukrainian governor of the Lugansk region, which forms with that of Donetsk the Donbass mining basin.

It also described an increasingly critical humanitarian situation.

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Nearly three months of war have, for example, transformed Lyssytchansk, a mining town of some 100,000 mainly Russian-speaking inhabitants, into an abandoned area, devoid of water, electricity or telephone network, noted an AFP journalist.

"The Russians say they are winning and the Ukrainians too," said Natalia Georgievna.

"When we still had the internet, we could watch the news, but now ... we have no idea who is behind these voices or where they come from," she laments.

But for British military intelligence, the Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine has "lost momentum".

Moscow's troops failed to make substantial territorial gains, putting their battle plan "significantly behind schedule", the sources said.

Russia lost a third of its committed ground combat force in February

"Russia has now probably suffered losses of a third of the ground combat force it committed in February," they added.

"Under current conditions", they consider it "unlikely" that Russia will "significantly accelerate its pace of progress" over the next month.

For their part, the Russians recount their successes by announcing that they have targeted with "high precision" missiles two Ukrainian command points and four artillery ammunition depots near Zaporijjia, Paraskovievka, Konstantinovka and Novomikhaïlovka in the Donetsk region (east ).

Russian aircraft destroyed two missile launchers and a radar system in the northeastern Sumy region, and Russian air defense systems destroyed 15 Ukrainian drones, according to Moscow.

In Kharkiv, Russian and Ukrainian forces clash

Russian forces are also now facing a counter-offensive from Ukrainian forces in the region of Kharkiv, the country's second largest city, where they are approaching the border with Russia.

In Vilkhivka, a village east of Kharkiv taken over by the Ukrainians, the scars of the violent fighting remain on the houses ripped open by the shells, streets strewn with debris, bullet casings and other remnants of ammunition or even the tanks out of order abandoned on the road.

Symbolically, the inscription "Azov was there", with the symbol of the Ukrainian regiment resembling the Nazi swastika, was affixed to one of the tanks next to the "Z" which had been painted there by Russian troops, found a AFP journalist.

The body of a Russian soldier was still lying in a garden on Saturday while in a gymnasium, apparently used as a dormitory by the Russians, are piled up boxes of empty anti-tank ammunition, sleeping bags, instant pasta in a mess with also a basketball and school books.

Sweden and Finland soon to be NATO candidates

On the diplomatic ground, Moscow sees NATO on the point of strengthening its borders.

The Social Democratic Party in power in Sweden approved a candidacy for the Atlantic Alliance on Sunday evening, which constitutes a historic reversal for this formation.

Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson then considered that a joint candidacy with Finland was "best for Sweden" and its security.

Helsinki had indeed announced a few hours earlier that it was going to officially ask to join NATO, despite threats of reprisals from Russia, which shares a border of 1,300 kilometers with Finland.

These candidacies are proof "that aggression does not pay", judged the Secretary General of the Atlantic Alliance Jens Stoltenberg, assuring that NATO is ready to strengthen the "security guarantees" for these two countries.

He also said he was "confident" in the possibility for the countries of the Alliance to find a compromise with Turkey, which had expressed its hostility to the accession of Sweden and Finland.

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At the end of a meeting of the heads of diplomacy of the NATO countries in Berlin, the German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Annalena Baerbock, affirmed that the countries of the Alliance, individually, would not relax their efforts " particularly in terms of military assistance" to Ukraine.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kouleba also welcomed, in a video published on Sunday, the deliveries of heavy weapons to kyiv by Germany.

"On the day I arrived in Berlin, there was training for Ukrainian soldiers in the use of German 155mm self-propelled artillery," Kouleba said.

"Soon these self-propelled Howitzers will hit the enemy. A precedent has been set. The psychological barrier (to supplying heavy weapons to Ukraine) has been overcome," he said.

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