Almost two and a half months after Russian troops invaded Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called for even more pressure from the international community on Moscow. “With every day of war, global threats increase, there is a new opportunity for Russia to provoke instability in other parts of the world, not only here in Europe,” Zelenskyy said in his daily video address on Friday evening.
In the meantime, however, men and women are dying in Ukraine “who are doing their best so that everyone can live freely,” said Zelenskyj. “So much more pressure on Russia is needed.”
Despite the clear situation, there are countries in which sanctions against Moscow are being withheld or aid for Ukraine is being blocked, Zelenskyy criticized. However, he did not specifically name a country. It is now known that Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports and the war as a whole have provoked a major food crisis. “And Russian officials are also openly threatening the world that there will be starvation in dozens of countries.”
“In fact, today nobody can predict how long this war will last,” said Zelenskyy. “But we are doing everything to liberate our country quickly. To do this, Ukraine needs help from its partners, “from European countries, from countries all over the free world”.
Ukrainian intelligence chief expects Russian defeat
The head of the Ukrainian military intelligence service, on the other hand, predicted in an extremely optimistic sounding prognosis that the war would end with a Russian defeat by the end of the year. There will be a turnaround on the fronts by mid-August at the latest, Major General Kyrylo Budanov told the British broadcaster Sky News. “The turning point will come in the second half of August.” By the end of the year, Ukraine will regain control of all its territories, including the Crimean peninsula.
Budanov also expected major changes in the Kremlin. In his view, a coup against Russian President Vladimir Putin is already underway. He did not provide evidence for his claims.
According to Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych, Russia’s army and economy are on shaky ground. According to the Unian agency, Arestovych said that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s image of the “invincible second-largest army in the world” had already turned out to be “fake”.
The reality of the past few weeks has shown a real picture of the combat capability of the Russian army: “It threatened to dismantle NATO, but has already failed at two villages in the Sumy region (in north-eastern Ukraine).”
At the same time, Zelenskyy’s advisor predicted what he believed to be the impending collapse of the Russian economy in the summer. “Any attempt to negotiate with the West will fail,” said Arestovych. This will make itself felt in July or August at the latest in the event of a possible mobilization. He questioned whether the Russian economy could withstand this pressure. “There can be no healthy economy in a country where everything else is rotten.”
Kyiv sees “third phase” of war
The Ukrainian leadership sees the beginning of the “third phase” of the Russian war of aggression and a protracted struggle associated with it. “Phase one” was an attempt to overrun Ukraine “in a few days,” said Viktor Andrusyw, adviser in the Ukrainian Ministry of the Interior, on television on Saturday night. In the second phase, the Ukrainian forces were to be encircled and crushed in several boilers. “And they didn’t manage that either.”
In the new “third phase” the Russian military prepared to defend the territory gained so far. “It shows that they want to make a long war out of it,” Andrusyw said. Apparently, the Russian government thinks that it can force the West to the negotiating table and thus force Ukraine to give in.
Negotiations for Azovstal defenders difficult
According to Kiev, the negotiations about a possible free withdrawal or partial withdrawal of the Ukrainian soldiers who were surrounded at the Azovstal plant in Mariupol are “extremely difficult”. That said the Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Wereschuk, who is responsible for the talks, as reported by the Unian agency.
“I share the fear and concern of those close to the fort’s defenders,” she said. But there is war. “And miracles don’t happen in war, there are only bitter realities.” Therefore, only a “sober and pragmatic approach” can help in this case.
For days, Vereshchuk, with the help of the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross, has been trying to talk to the Russian side about a possible way out for the Ukrainian troops holed up in the steelworks in the port city of Mariupol. “But negotiations with the enemy are extremely difficult,” she said. “The outcome may not please everyone.”
Turkey has also gotten involved in the negotiations for Azovstal’s defenders. The Russian military has so far refused any concessions and is demanding the surrender of the entrenched Ukrainians. According to inaccurate estimates, around 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers are still in the sprawling plant, many of them wounded. The majority of them belong to the “Azov” regiment, which Russians classify as nationalist and right-wing extremist.
In a video conference with Kyiv, the deputy commander of the Azov regiment reported that his unit had “destroyed” about 6,000 Russian soldiers so far. “In addition, 78 tanks and about 100 armored vehicles,” said Svyatoslav Palamar. “The information could not be independently verified.
Another member of the regiment, David Chimik, reported heavy fighting around the steelworks. Nevertheless, he was optimistic. “We do not think about becoming martyrs, we are fighting for our lives and waiting for support,” Chimik was quoted as saying by Ukrajinska Pravda.
For the mayor of Odessa, the Azovstal fighters are real heroes. “In my opinion, Mariupol saves not only Odessa, but the whole of Ukraine,” said Hennady Trukhanov, according to the Unian agency. “Because this selflessness shown by our military in Mariupol is a true example of heroism.”
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A few hours after the end of the G7 consultations on the Baltic Sea, a meeting of NATO foreign ministers begins in Berlin. The focus should again be on the Russian war in Ukraine and the question of Finland and Sweden becoming NATO members quickly.
In Finland, the social-democratic governing party wants to announce on Saturday what it thinks about a possible NATO membership. Following the positioning of Prime Minister Sanna Marin and President Sauli Niinistö in favor of NATO membership, the Social Democrats are also likely to be in favor of joining. Then there would be a clear majority in Parliament for the path to NATO. (dpa)