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

Several Western officials, including British military intelligence, have pointed out in recent days that the Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine has “lost momentum” and is failing to achieve substantial territorial gains.

The Russians are transferring in particular to the Lugansk region, which with that of Donetsk makes up the Donbass, troops from the Kharkiv region, further north, according to the adviser to the Ukrainian presidency Oleksiï Arestovych. After three weeks of unsuccessful attempts, they are trying to complete the encirclement of Severodonetsk, which has become the regional capital of Ukraine since separatist forces backed by Moscow took control of part of Donbass in 2014.

Despite repeated calls from Ukrainian authorities to evacuate the town of Lysytchansk, separated from Severodonetsk only by the Siversky Donets River and regularly bombarded, more than 20,000 civilians – out of a pre-war population of 100,000 – are still there, according to volunteers who distribute help in the area.

“I think people don’t fully grasp the situation,” lamented Viktor Levtchenko, a policeman trying to convince them to evacuate. “We have to dodge the shelling and go through very dangerous areas to get to them, feed them and try to evacuate them.”

The transfer of Russian forces to Donbass seems to have contributed to the Ukrainian recapture of the region north of Kharkiv, the country’s second city. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense welcomed on Monday that its forces were able to “continue to expel the Russians” from this border region, posting on its Facebook account a video of Ukrainian soldiers in front of a border post painted in the colors of Ukraine. , yellow and blue.

The Russian Ministry of Defense nevertheless affirmed that its forces had, during the night of Saturday to Sunday, fired “high precision missiles” at Ukrainian “command points” in this region, in particular at Tsapivka. As well as on arms depots in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

– “Serious error” of Helsinki and Stockholm –

Moscow is also trying to regain the initiative on another front, that of the probable enlargement of NATO to Finland and Sweden, two countries that the Russian invasion of Ukraine launched on February 24 has pushed to renounce years of military non-alignment.

The candidatures of Sweden and Finland to NATO constitute a “serious error”, whose “consequences will have a considerable range”, affirmed Monday the Russian vice-minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Ryabkov. “For us, it is clear that the security of Sweden and Finland will not be strengthened by this decision”, he insisted, noting that “the level of military tension (was going to) increase”.

Moscow had justified its attack on Ukraine in particular by its rapprochement with NATO and the political, diplomatic and military support of the latter in kyiv. Russia believes that the Alliance posed an “existential” threat to its security.

Sweden’s ruling Social Democratic Party gave the green light to a NATO candidacy on Sunday, shortly after the Finnish executive announced its desire to join NATO. On Monday, the Finnish and Swedish parliaments were due to debate the candidacy of their respective countries to join the Alliance. Large majorities were assured in both chambers, a prelude to an official candidacy submission in the middle of the week.

These candidacies are proof “that aggression does not pay”, judged the Secretary General of the Atlantic Alliance Jens Stoltenberg, assuring that NATO was 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 last week.

At the end of a meeting of the heads of diplomacy of the NATO countries on Sunday 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.

After a visit to Germany, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kouleba welcomed, in a video on Sunday, the evolution of Berlin’s position, now ready to deliver heavy weapons to kyiv.

“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.

– Renault Russia nationalized –

While Mr. Kouleba met his counterparts from the European Union in Brussels on Monday, in particular to discuss new sanctions against Russia, the effects of these unprecedented measures are being felt more and more.

The European Commission announced on Monday that it had lowered its economic growth forecast for the euro zone in 2022 by 1.3 points, to 2.7%, and increased its inflation forecast by 3.5 points, to 6.1%. because of the conflict.

The sanctions notably pushed the French automobile group Renault, leader in Russia with 45,000 employees, and the Lada brand, which he had begun to recover after eight years as majority shareholder, to sell its assets to the Russian State, the first nationalization of extent since the Russian offensive in Ukraine.

The diamond brand said in a press release that it had sold its majority stake (67.69%) in the Avtovaz group to NAMI, the Russian institute for research and development of automobiles and engines. The Russian Minister of Commerce and Industry had indicated at the end of April that the transaction would be for “a symbolic rouble”, which Renault did not want to confirm.

The management of the group had already announced that it would pass in the first half a provision of approximately 2.2 billion euros because of this sale.

The Russian market collapsed with the Ukraine conflict, and the group’s factories were idling, if at all, due to the shortage of imported components caused by the sanctions.