War in Ukraine, Day 116 | As attacks in the east have been repelled, NATO expects the conflict to last “years”.

(Kyiv) Ukraine’s army said on Sunday it repelled Russian attacks near Sievierodonetsk in the east of the country, the scene of bloody fighting in a war NATO says could last “years”.

Posted at 7:30am

Benoît FINCK in Kyiv and Anna MALPAS in Lysytchansk
Media Agency France

“Our units repelled the attack in the Toshkivka area,” the Ukrainian military said on Facebook. “The enemy has retreated and is regrouping. »

Local governor Sergei Gaidai called the idea that the Russians controlled the strategic location of Sieverodonetsk a “lie”. “Indeed they control most of the city, but they don’t control it completely,” he said on Telegram.

For its part, the Russian Defense Ministry confirmed on Sunday that “the offensive against Sieverodonetsk is proceeding successfully.” “Units of the People’s Militia of the Luhansk People’s Republic, supported by Russian forces, liberated the village of Metolkine”, south-east of Sievierodonetsk.

As Ukraine shows its determination to fight to the end, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has warned that Western countries must be prepared to provide long-term support to Kyiv during a bitter war.

The war could last “for years,” he warned in an interview with the German daily “Bild” published on Sunday, and called on western countries to register their support for Kyiv in the long term.


Photo YVES HERMAN, REUTERS

“We must not let up in supporting Ukraine, even if the costs are high, not only in terms of military support but also due to rising energy and food prices,” NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said.

“We must not let up in supporting Ukraine, even if the costs are high, not only in terms of military support but also due to rising energy and food prices,” the NATO chief said.

“Take It All Back”

Since their failed attempt to take the capital, Kyiv, after a flash invasion on February 24, Russian forces have focused their firepower on eastern and southern Ukraine in recent weeks.

“The losses are significant. Many houses were destroyed, civilian logistics were disrupted, there are many social problems,” admitted Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who was visiting the Southern Front. He assured on Sunday that his troops had maintained morale and “that no one doubts victory”.

During that rare visit outside of Kyiv, where he barricaded himself early in the conflict when the capital was threatened by the Russian army, Mr Zelensky traveled to the city of Mykolaiv near the Black Sea and visited troops stationed nearby and in the adjacent region were stationed by Odessa.

“We will not give the south to anyone, we will take everything back, and the sea will be Ukrainian, it will be safe,” he said in a video posted on Telegram, returning to Kyiv.

” Want to live ”

“We will definitely rebuild everything that was destroyed. Russia does not have as many missiles as our people would like to live,” he added.

Mr Zelenskyy thanked the soldiers who are holding back the onslaught of Russian troops backed by annexed Crimea to the east for their “heroic service”.

“It is important that you live. As long as you live, there is a strong Ukrainian wall protecting our country,” he told them.


Photo provided by the Russian Presidential News Agency, via Agence France-Presse

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on a visit to the south of the country, in Mykolaiv.

A video released by the Presidency showed him in Mykolayiv with local governor Vitaliy Kim in front of the gaping facade of the regional administration’s headquarters, which was hit by a Russian strike in March that killed 37 people.

This port and industrial city of nearly half a million pre-war residents is still under Ukrainian control, but is close to the Kherson region, which is almost entirely occupied by the Russians. Two people were killed and 20 injured in a Russian airstrike on Friday.

It remains a target for Moscow as it is on the road to Odessa, Ukraine’s largest port, 130 km southwest near Moldova, also still under Ukrainian control and at the center of discussions about blocked exports of millions of tons of Ukrainian goods Grain.

Russia, which controls this area of ​​the Black Sea despite firing Ukrainian missiles at its ships, says the waters are mined.

Blockaded by Russia, Odessa residents are trying to participate in the war effort as much as possible. “I come every day, including weekends, to make camouflage nets for the army,” says Natalia Pinchenkova, 49.

In Mykolaiv, Ukrainian soldiers are struggling to maintain their pre-war routines, with one saying he will not give up his vegan diet on the front lines.

Oleksandr Zhuhan said he received a package from a network of volunteers to help maintain his diet. “There was vegan pies and sausages, hummus, soy milk […] and all of that for free,” said the 37-year-old drama teacher.

“Prepare for the worst”

In the Donbass region (east), fierce fighting is raging, particularly near Sievierodonetsk, partly controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014 and where Russia, having failed to capture Kyiv in the first weeks of its offensive, is targeting has to take it completely control.

“An expression says: You have to prepare for the worst, and the best will come by itself,” said Serguiï Gaïdaï, governor of the Lugansk region, which is home to the cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk in particular, in an interview with AFP on Saturday.

“Of course we must prepare,” added the man, who had repeatedly warned that the Russians would end up encircling Lysytchansk by cutting off its main supply routes.

In Lysytchansk “the situation is difficult, in the city and in the whole region”, stressed Serguiï Gaidaï, because the Russians “bomb our positions 24 hours a day”.

Mr Gaidaï added that it was “painful” to see his hometown of Sievierodonetsk being bombed and people he know dying.

“I’m human, but I bury that deep inside me,” he said, adding that his job is “to help people as best I can.”

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