Front lines shift in Donbas as Ukraine mounts counteroffensive

  • Russian forces make some gains in Donbas: Ukraine Army
  • Ukraine says it is on the offensive near Izium
  • Russian Donbas Campaign Has Lost Momentum: British Army
  • Nordic countries prepare NATO candidatures – Germany

kyiv, Ukraine, May 15 (Reuters) – The front lines in Ukraine’s war had shifted on Sunday as Russia made some gains in the fiercely contested eastern Donbas region and the Ukrainian army launched a counteroffensive near the strategic Russian city of Izium.

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 scored a string of successes since Russia invaded on February 24, forcing Russian commanders to abandon an advance on kyiv and then making rapid advances in the northeast to drive them out of the second-largest city, Kharkiv.

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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 issued on Sunday said Russia had lost about a third of the ground combat force deployed in February. Its Donbas offensive had been “significantly” delayed and was unlikely to make any rapid advances over the next 30 days, according to the assessment.

Ukraine received a morale boost on Saturday night with victory in the Eurovision Song Contest, a win seen as a sign of the strength of popular support for Ukraine across Europe. read more

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy welcomed 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 wracked by conflict since 2014.

“They are not stopping their efforts,” 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.

‘HOTEST SPOT’

Keeping pressure on Izium and Russian supply lines will make it more difficult for Moscow to encircle battle-hardened Ukrainian troops on the eastern front in the Donbas.

Izium straddles the Donets River, about 120 km (75 mi) from Kharkiv on the main road in a southeasterly direction.

“The hottest point is still the Izium address,” regional governor Oleh Sinegubov said in comments posted on social media.

“Our armed forces have gone on a counteroffensive there. The enemy is withdrawing on some fronts and this is a result of the character of our armed forces.”

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

Both sides claimed success in the military strikes in Donbass.

The Ukrainian military said there was no let up on Sunday in Russian shelling of the steel mill in the southern port of Mariupol, where a few hundred Ukrainian fighters held out weeks after the city fell to Russian hands.

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

A large convoy of cars and vans carrying refugees from the ruins of Mariupol arrived in the Ukrainian-controlled 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 had initially stayed behind 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,” he said.

NATO APPLICANTS

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-kilometre (800-mile) border with Russia, wanted to join NATO to bolster its own security.

Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats were also set to come out on Sunday in favor of the country joining NATO, paving the way for an application and abandoning decades of military non-alignment following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. read more

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

Germany said on Sunday it had made preparations for a quick ratification process, should Finland and Sweden apply. read more

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

In addition to losing a large number of men and much military equipment, Russia has been affected 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 weapons to Ukraine. read more

In another show of international solidarity, Republican US senators paid an unannounced visit to kyiv. The delegation discussed further strengthening of sanctions against Russia, Zelenskiy said. read more

Winners of the Eurovision Song Contest traditionally get to host 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 message after the Kalush Orchestra won with their entry “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 bureaus; Written by Aidan Lewis and Simon Cameron-Moore; Edited by William Mallard and David Clarke

Our standards: the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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