Russian “high-precision” missiles targeted two Ukrainian command points and four artillery ammunition depots near Zaporizhia, Paraskovievka, Konstantinovka and Novomikhailovka in the Donetsk People’s Republic overnight, according to the Russian Defense Ministry on Sunday .

The Russian air force destroyed two missile launchers of the S-300 systems and a radar system in the region of Sumy. Russian air defense systems destroyed 15 Ukrainian drones in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, he added.

For their part, British military intelligence said on Sunday that Russia had suffered huge losses.

Predicting that it would be bogged down in its attempt to conquer the east of the country in the face of strong Ukrainian resistance, British intelligence estimated that the Russian offensive in the Donbass region of 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 has now probably suffered losses of a third of the ground combat force it committed in February,” they added. “Under current conditions, Russia is unlikely to significantly accelerate its pace of progress over the next 30 days.”

– Blinken/Kouleba meeting-

This assessment comes as Finland announced on Sunday that it would apply for NATO membership, a consequence of the invasion of Ukraine.

“It’s a historic day. A new era is dawning,” said Finnish President Sauli Niinistö.

On Saturday, the Finnish president called his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to inform him of his country’s imminent application for membership. The Russian president told him that joining NATO “would be a mistake”, judging that “there is no threat to the security of Finland”, according to the Kremlin.

Previously, the Kremlin threatened “military-technical” reprisals without specifying which ones.

On the night of Friday to Saturday, the export of electricity to Finland – around 10% of the Nordic country’s consumption – was suspended.

In Berlin for the meeting of NATO foreign ministers, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kouleba and discussed the latest US security assistance, the department said. of state.

Blinken “underscored the enduring commitment of the United States to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s unprovoked war,” State Department spokesman Ned Price.

Mr. Blinken, who will lead a meeting of the UN Security Council on Thursday on food shortages caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, also spoke with Mr. Kouleba about “the search for a solution for export Ukrainian grain to international markets,” Price added.

Ukraine’s Eurovision Song Contest victory on Saturday night in Italy, thanks to massive support from European viewers, was hailed by NATO and many European leaders and brought a moment of joy to the people of Kyiv.

This victory “is a small ray of happiness”, told AFP Iryna Vorobey, a 35-year-old entrepreneur. The support of the European public has been “incredible”, “it is very important for us in the current context”.

First to hail this victory, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he was “sure that our victorious choir in the battle against the enemy is not far away”, promising to organize “one day” Eurovision in a “free” Mariupol , peaceful and rebuilt”, in reference to the martyred city where the last Ukrainian fighters are entrenched in the Azovstal steelworks.

President Zelensky stressed, however, that the “situation in Donbass remains very difficult. Russian troops are trying to achieve at least one victory there.

Russian forces are trying to advance in this strategic region in the east, partly controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014, and which Moscow has made its main objective since the withdrawal of its troops from around kyiv at the end of March.

“We are preparing for major offensives in Severodonetsk, and around the Lysytchansk-Bakhmut axis,” said Serguiï Gaïdaï, Ukrainian governor of the Lugansk region, describing an increasingly critical humanitarian situation.

“The Lugansk region is constantly under chaotic fire…there is absolutely no gas, water or electricity,” he said on Saturday evening.

The Russians have been trying in particular for three weeks, without success, to cross the Severskyi Donets river, at the level of the village of Bilogorivka.

In this almost deserted village, an AFP team saw the roads strewn with abandoned military equipment. Only three soot-covered corners remained of a school that was bombed a week ago, a strike that kyiv touts as one of the gravest crimes committed by Russian forces since they began their invasion of Ukraine, along with 60 civilians killed.

In another liberated village near Kharkiv, the scars of the brutal fighting that saw the Ukrainians pushing the Russians back towards their border and retaking villages occupied since the start of the Moscow-ordered invasion are everywhere.

According to locals, the recapturing battle of Vilkhivka took place at the end of March, but the Ukrainian army prohibited access to the area until a few days ago.

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.

Dozens of houses in this village of around 2,000 inhabitants were gutted by shells, explosions or fires. We discover clothes, children’s toys, household appliances… The streets are strewn with debris, bullet casings and other remnants of ammunition.

According to a US defense official on condition of anonymity, the Russians are failing to make a “significant hold” in the east.

The situation seems to have changed around Kharkiv, the country’s second city. Russian forces had to withdraw from several localities northeast of the city, according to the Ukrainian General Staff.

However, according to the American Institute for the Study of War (ISW), “Ukraine and its Western partners probably have only a small window of opportunity to support a counter-offensive in the territories occupied” by the Russia. Vladimir Putin “probably intends to annex southern and eastern Ukraine to the Russian Federation in the coming months”.

kyiv says its troops have killed nearly 20,000 Russian servicemen. On March 25, Moscow said its forces had killed at least 14,000 Ukrainian servicemen. But both figures are widely suspected to be inflated and have not been verified by AFP or independent observers.