Ukraine’s Leader Says His Troops Keep Defying Predictions
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said no one knows how long the war in his country will last but that Ukrainian forces are defying expectations by preventing Russian troops from overrunning eastern Ukraine, where the fighting has been fiercest for weeks.
In his nightly video address, Zelenskyy said he was proud of the Ukrainian defenders managing to hold back the Russian advance in the Donbas region, which borders Russia and where Moscow-backed separatists have controlled much of the territory for eight years.
“Remember how in Russia, in the beginning of May, they hoped to seize all of the Donbas?” the president said late Saturday. “It’s already the 108th day of the war, already June. Donbas is holding on.”
After failing to capture Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, early in the war, Moscow focused on seizing the parts of the largely Russian-speaking Donbas still in Ukrainian hands, as well as the country’s southern coast. But instead of securing a swift, decisive takeover, Russian forces were drawn into a long, laborious battle, thanks in part to the Ukrainian military’s use of Western-supplied weapons.
Both Ukrainian and Russian authorities said Sievierodonetsk, an eastern city with a prewar population of 100,000, remained contested. The city and neighboring Lysychansk are the last major areas of the Donbas’ Luhansk province not under the control of the pro-Russia rebels.
Leonid Pasechnik, the head of the separatist-declared Luhansk People’s Republic, said Ukrainian fighters remained in an industrial area of the city, including a chemical plant where civilians had taken shelter from days of Russian shelling.
“Sievierodonetsk is not completely 100% liberated,” Pasechnik said Saturday, alleging that the Ukrainians were shelling the city from the Azot plant. “So it’s impossible to call the situation calm in Sievierodonetsk, that it is completely ours.”
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