Front lines shift in Donbass as Ukraine mounts counteroffensive

  • Russian forces advance in Donbass – Ukrainian Army
  • Ukraine says it is on the offensive near Izium
  • Russia’s Donbas campaign has lost momentum – British Army
  • Preparations made for NATO candidacies by the Nordic states – Germany

KYIV, Ukraine, May 15 (Reuters) – The front lines of the war in Ukraine shifted on Sunday as Russia advanced in the hotly contested eastern region of Donbass and the Ukrainian military waged a counteroffensive near the strategic city of Izium, held by Russia.

In western Ukraine, near the Polish border, missiles destroyed military infrastructure overnight and were fired at the Lviv region from the Black Sea, Ukrainian officials said. Read more

Ukrainian forces have won a string of successes since invading Russia on February 24, forcing Russian commanders to abandon an advance on kyiv and then make quick gains in the northeast to drive them out of the second largest city ​​of Kharkov.

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Since mid-April, Russian forces have focused much of their firepower on Donbass after failing to take the capital.

A British military intelligence assessment released on Sunday said Russia had lost around a third of the ground combat force deployed in February. Its offensive in the Donbass had taken “significant delay” and was not expected to make rapid progress over the next 30 days, according to the assessment.

On Saturday night, Ukraine received a morale boost with their victory in the Eurovision Song Contest, a triumph seen as a sign of the strength of popular support for Ukraine across Europe. Read more

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy hailed the victory but said the situation in Donbas remained very difficult and Russian forces were still trying to salvage some kind of victory in a region ravaged by conflict since 2014.

“They don’t stop trying,” he said. Read more

The invasion of Moscow, which it calls a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists, has shaken European security. kyiv and its Western allies say the assertion of fascism is a baseless pretext for an unprovoked war of aggression.

‘HOTTEST PLACE’

Maintaining pressure on Izium and Russian supply lines will make it harder for Moscow to encircle hardened Ukrainian troops on the eastern Donbass front.

Izium straddles the Donets River, about 120 km (75 miles) from Kharkiv on the main road heading southeast.

“The hottest point remains the leadership of Izium,” regional governor Oleh Sinegubov said in comments posted on social media.

“Our armed forces have gone into a counter-offensive there. The enemy is retreating on some fronts and that’s the result of the character of our armed forces.”

But the Ukrainian military acknowledged the setbacks in an update on Sunday morning: “Despite the losses, Russian forces continue to advance in the areas of Lyman, Sievierodonetsk, Avdiivka and Kurakhiv in the wider Donbass region.”

Both sides claimed success in the military strikes in the Donbass.

Ukraine’s military said on Sunday there had been no respite from the Russian bombardment of steelworks in the southern port of Mariupol, where a few hundred Ukrainian fighters are resisting weeks after the town fell to the Russians.

Zelenskiy said talks were underway to find a way to evacuate wounded soldiers from Mariupol in exchange for the release of Russian POWs.

A large convoy of cars and vans carrying refugees from the ruins of Mariupol arrived in the Ukrainian-held city of Zaporizhzhia after dark on Saturday after waiting days for Russian troops to allow them to leave. Read more

Iryna Petrenko, a 63-year-old woman in the convoy, said she initially stayed to care for her 92-year-old mother, who later died.

“We buried her next to her house because there was nowhere to bury anyone,” she said.

NATO CANDIDATES

One of the goals of Russia’s action in Ukraine was to prevent the former Soviet republic from joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

But Finnish President Sauli Niinisto told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Saturday that his country, which shares a 1,300 km border with Russia, wanted to join NATO to boost its own security.

Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats were also set to vote on Sunday in favor of the country’s NATO membership, paving the way for a bid and abandoning decades of military non-alignment following the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Read more

Putin told Niinisto it would be a mistake for Helsinki to abandon its neutrality, the Kremlin said, adding that the move could harm bilateral relations.

Germany said on Sunday it had prepared for a speedy ratification process, should Finland and Sweden apply. Read more

“We have to make sure that we will give them security guarantees, there must not be a transition period, a gray zone, where their status is unclear,” Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said.

In addition to losing a large number of men and a lot of military equipment, Russia was hit by economic sanctions. The industrial powers of the Group of Seven pledged on Saturday to “further increase economic and political pressure on Russia” and supply more arms to Ukraine. Read more

In another sign of international solidarity, US Republican senators paid an unannounced visit to Kyiv. The delegation discussed tightening sanctions against Russia, Zelenskiy said. Read more

The winners of the Eurovision Song Contest traditionally hold the event the following year.

“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe! Next year Ukraine will host the Eurovision Song Contest,” Zelenskiy said in an online post after the Kalush Orchestra won with his project “Stefania “.

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Additional reporting by Jonathan Landay, Natalia Zinets, Gleb Garanich, Leonardo Benassatto, Tara Oakes, Tom Balmforth, Idrees Ali, David Ljunggren, Lidia Kelly and other Reuters offices; Written by Aidan Lewis and Simon Cameron-Moore; Editing by William Mallard and David Clarke

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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