“There is heavy fighting on the border with the Donetsk region, near Popasna”, commented Friday evening on Facebook Serguiï Gaïdaï, Ukrainian governor of the Lugansk region, reporting numerous losses in equipment and personnel on the side. Russian.
“It’s a horror but they are still trying to get their way. But from the intercepts (of phone calls) we understand that an entire battalion refused to attack because they see what is happening. pass,” he noted.
A US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the most significant Russian activity currently was taking place in the Donbass. “And basically we continue to see that the Russians are not making a significant hold” in this region, he said.
“Ukrainian artillery thwarts Russian efforts to gain ground, including their efforts to cross the Donest River…which affects their ability to send significant reinforcements to northern Donbass,” the source continued.
The British Ministry of Defense (MoD) said on Friday that Ukrainian forces had “successfully” repelled a Russian attempt to cross this river near Severodonetsk, causing Moscow troops heavy losses.
This operation illustrates “the pressure under which the Russian commanders find themselves to progress in eastern Ukraine”, estimated the MoD, stressing that the Russian army had “not managed to make significant advances although it concentrated its forces there after “having given up trying to impose itself in kyiv.
At the end of March, a few weeks after its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Russia had withdrawn from the capital region, changing its “priority target” in an attempt to take control of eastern Ukraine.
A spokesman for the Ukrainian general staff noted on Saturday morning that the Russians had “not interrupted their offensive in the eastern operational zone. The enemy continues its missile strikes on industrial infrastructures and its firing on civilian targets throughout Ukraine”.
The General Staff itself, in its daily morning statement, reported that in the Donetsk and Tavriya region, the Russian army used “mortars, artillery, grenade launchers and air assets to inflict maximum damage to the Ukrainian army”, targeting personnel, fortifications and buildings”.
Ten Russian attacks were repelled in 24 hours around Donetsk and Lugansk, he said.
– Next annexation? –
According to the American Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Vladimir Putin “probably intends to annex southern and eastern Ukraine to the Russian Federation in the coming months”.
“Ukraine and its Western partners probably have only a reduced window of opportunity to support a counter-offensive in the territories occupied before” their annexation, according to this organization.
The situation seems to have already reversed in Kharkiv, yet one of the priority targets for the Russians.
“The main activity of the enemy in the Kharkiv region was the withdrawal of its units from the city of Kharkiv,” said the spokesman for the Ukrainian General Staff.
“The gradual liberation of the Kharkiv region proves that we will leave no one to the enemy,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday evening in his daily message, announcing that the recovery of territories that fell into Russian hands was continuing.
“As of today, 1,015 localities have been liberated, six more in the last 24 hours,” he said.
Water, electricity, communications, transport and public services have been restored there, he said, confident to keep in mind the cities and territories still under Russian occupation.
With a special thought for the 1,000 Ukrainian fighters entrenched in a maze of Soviet-era tunnels under the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, for whom “very difficult negotiations are underway on the next phase of evacuation, the seriously injured and the medical personnel”.
Women, children and the elderly who had taken refuge in these underground passages were all evacuated at the end of April thanks to an operation coordinated by the United Nations and the Red Cross after arduous negotiations.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk made the same observation, referring to “negotiations with the enemy (which) are very difficult”. “We are currently negotiating (the exfiltration) of 38 seriously injured fighters. We are advancing step by step. (…) There are no discussions at the moment for the release of 500 to 600 people”.
The Ukrainian General Staff said in its daily morning statement on Saturday that the Russian army had continued “the blockade of our units near the Azovstal factory. It carried out large-scale artillery and air strikes”.
– Resist as much as possible –
Sviatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of the Azov regiment, one of the Ukrainian formations fighting in Azovstal, appealed for help from the United States “to evacuate our wounded and (that they) mobilize all efforts to help extract of our regiment” of this encirclement
“There are nearly 600 wounded on Azovstal, the Russians continue to bombard the military hospital”, he testified from the factory. “We will resist as long as we can (…), if we had not done so, this horde would go further”.
But “we must not exaggerate the power of world leaders” in the face of Moscow’s determination, reacted Ms. Verechchuk.
International efforts have been unsuccessful so far to save these Ukrainian soldiers defending this city 90% destroyed by Russian bombing.
In this context, the European Union pledged on Friday to provide additional aid of half a billion euros to support Ukraine’s fight, bringing it “to 2 billion euros in total”.
The recipe is “clear”, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told a G7 meeting in Wangels, in the far north of Germany: we need “more of the same thing”, namely more economic sanctions against Russia, more support for kyiv, and also “continue to work to isolate Russia”.
However, the 27 members of the European Union have still not managed to agree to gradually stop their purchases of Russian oil, Hungary having considered the waiver obtained insufficient.
– Widespread enlargements –
The G7 Foreign Ministers (Germany, France, Italy, Canada, United States, Japan and United Kingdom), joined by their Ukrainian counterparts Dmytro Kouleba and Moldovan Nicu Popescu, are meeting until Saturday.
Saturday is also scheduled in Berlin for an informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers on Ukraine.
An official Swedish report paved the way for the country’s membership of the Atlantic Alliance on Friday, multiplying the favorable conclusions before the decision of this Nordic country and its Finnish neighbor in the coming days, i.e. two EU members who remained decades out of military alliances. Much to the chagrin of Moscow.
Another consequence, favorable to the Kremlin this time: a pro-Russian separatist region has taken a step towards joining Russia.
The authorities of this self-proclaimed separatist “republic”, de facto independent of pro-Western Georgia and occupied by Moscow forces since a Russian military intervention in 2008, announced on Friday that they would organize a referendum on July 17 on its integration into Russia.
burx-elm / ybl