Russia continues to harass Severodonetsk in Ukraine as concerns over morale and desertion grow

Four months of war in Ukraine appear to be straining the morale of troops on both sides, leading to desertions and rebellion against the orders of officers, British defense officials said on Sunday.

“Combat units on both sides are engaged in heavy fighting in the Donbas and are likely to experience variable morale,” the British Defense Ministry said in its daily assessment of the war.

“Ukrainian forces are likely to have suffered desertions in recent weeks,” the assessment said, but added that “Russia’s morale is very likely to remain particularly worrying.”

He said that “there are still cases of entire Russian units rejecting orders and armed clashes between officers and their troops.”

Separately, the Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine published what it said were intercepted phone calls in which Russian soldiers complained about front-line conditions, poor equipment and general lack of personnel. according to a report by the Institute for the Study of War.

TARGET | What happened in the 17th week of Russia’s attack on Ukraine:

What happened in the 17th week of Russia’s attack on Ukraine

Russian forces tightened control of the eastern Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk, and almost claimed the entire Luhansk region, while Ukraine established grain export routes through Poland and Romania to try. avoid a global food crisis. Here is a summary of the war in Ukraine from June 11 to 17.

Meanwhile, the head of NATO warned that the fighting could last for “years”.

In an interview published Sunday in the German weekly Bild am Sonntag, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said “no one knows” how long the war could last. “We have to be prepared for it to last for years,” he said.

He also urged allies not to “weaken support for Ukraine, even if the costs are high, not only in terms of military aid, but also because of rising energy and food prices.”

In recent days, Gazprom, the Russian gas company, has reduced its supply to two major European customers: Germany and Italy. In the case of Italy, energy officials are expected to meet this week on the situation. The head of Italian energy giant ENI said on Saturday that with additional gas purchased from other sources, Italy should overcome next winter, but warned Italians that “restrictions” may be needed to affect gas use.

Germany will limit the use of gas for electricity production amid concerns over a possible shortage caused by a reduction in Russia’s supplies, the country’s economy minister said on Sunday. Germany has tried to fill its gas storage facilities to capacity before the cold winter months.

TARGET | Ukraine closes Russia’s key pipeline in Europe:

Ukraine closes Russia’s key gas pipeline in Europe

The Ukrainian gas pipeline operator has stopped Russian shipments through a key center in a Moscow-backed separatist-backed eastern part of the country.

Economy Minister Robert Habeck said Germany would try to offset the measure by increasing the combustion of coal, a more polluting fossil fuel. “This is bitter, but it is simply necessary in this situation to reduce gas consumption,” he said.

Stoltenberg stressed, however, that “the costs of food and fuel are nothing compared to those paid daily by frontline Ukrainians.”

Stoltenberg added: In addition, if Russian President Vladimir Putin achieves his goals in Ukraine, as when he annexed Crimea in 2014, “we should pay an even higher price.”

Fighting in the Donbas

The eastern Donbas region of Ukraine, home to Moscow-backed separatists, has been the main focus of Russia’s attacks for more than two months after an initial attempt to take Kyiv failed.

The British Defense Ministry said that both Russia and Ukraine have continued to carry out heavy artillery bombardment on axes north, east and south of the pocket of Severodonetsk in the Donbas, but with few changes to the front line.

Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai told the Telegram on Sunday: “It is a very difficult situation in Severodonetsk, where the enemy in the city center is conducting 24-hour aerial reconnaissance with drones, adjusting the fire. adapting quickly to our changes. “

Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Sunday that Russian and separatist forces had taken control of Metolkine, a settlement east of Severodonetsk.

Bakhmut, a Donbas city, is located 55 kilometers southwest of the twin cities of Lysyhansk and Serverodonetsk, where fierce military clashes have broken out. Every day, Russian artillery strikes Bakhmut.

“We will not give away the south”

On Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made a trip south from Kyiv to visit troops and hospital workers in the Mykolaiv and Odessa regions along the Black Sea. He handed out prizes to dozens of people at each stop, shaking their hands and thanking them again and again for their service.

Zelensky, in an address recorded aboard a train back to Kyiv, promised to defend the south of the country.

“We will not give the south to anyone, we will return everything that is ours and the sea will be Ukrainian and safe.”

He added: “Russia does not have as many missiles as our people have the desire to live.”

Zelensky also condemned the Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports amid weeks of inconclusive negotiations over safe corridors so that millions of tons of grain could be sent silage before the arrival of the new harvest season.

Firefighters are fighting a fire on Sunday after Russian bombings in Mykolaiv, southern Ukraine. (George Ivanchenko / The Associated Press)

In other attacks in the south, the military operational command of southern Ukraine said on Sunday that two people had been killed in bombings in the Galitsyn community in the Mykolaiv region and that bombing in the Bashtansky district continues.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said the sea missiles destroyed a plant in the city of Mykolaiv where Western-supplied shells and armored vehicles were stored.

Western-supplied heavy weapons are coming to the forefront, but Ukrainian leaders have insisted for weeks that they need more weapons and that they need them sooner.

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