kyiv sees itself winning before the end of the year, tensions between Russia and Finland… the point on the war in Ukraine

Situation on the ground, international reactions, sanctions: the point of this Saturday, May 14, 2022 on the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

The Ukrainian authorities showed their optimism on Saturday in the war against Russia, announcing that they had repelled offensives in the East. On the 80th day of the invasion of Ukraine, Russian forces continued to try to advance in Donbass, a strategic region in the east that pro-Russian separatists have partially controlled since 2014, and which they have made their main objective since their withdrawal from the vicinity of kyiv at the end of March.

On Saturday morning, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense recorded around thirty bombardments in 24 hours in the Lugansk region, one of the two provinces of Donbass with that of Donetsk. Ten Russian attacks were also repelled in 24 hours in the two regions, according to the Ukrainian general staff. The Russians have been trying for three weeks, without success, to cross the Severskyi Donets river, at the level of the village of Bilogorivka, in Lugansk region. In the near-deserted village, several buildings are still burning, the roads are littered with abandoned military equipment and artillery fire echoes nearby, an AFP team noted. Only three soot-covered corners remain of a school bombed a week ago, a strike that kyiv touts as one of the most serious crimes committed by Russian forces since they began their invasion of Ukraine. with sixty civilians killed.

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In this region of eastern Ukraine, theRussians fail to make ‘meaningful hold’ in terms of cities or territories, said a US defense official on condition of anonymity. “Ukrainian artillery thwarts (their efforts) to gain ground, including crossing the Donets River,” he added. Further north, in the province of Kharkiv, the Ukrainian authorities claimed to have launched a “counter-offensive” in the vicinity of Izium. The city itself, strategic for Moscow’s offensive on the Donbass, has been under Russian control since April 1. “Our armed forces are repelling the enemy and residents are starting to return to their homes,” said Oleg Sinegoubov, governor of this region, while calling on those who had fled not to return immediately because, according to him, “the enemy mined absolutely everything: courtyards of buildings, forests, roadsides, even children’s beds”.

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The situation also seems to have changed around Kharkiv, the country’s second largest city. Russian forces had to withdraw from several localities northeast of the city, according to the Ukrainian General Staff. “The gradual liberation of the Kharkiv region proves that we will leave no one to the enemy,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky noted Friday evening in his daily address. These developments fuel Ukrainian optimism. The war will experience a “turning point” in August and Russia will be defeated “before the end of the year”, assured the head of Ukrainian military intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov, in an interview with the British channel Sky News broadcast Friday evening. But according to the American Institute for the Study of War (ISW), “Ukraine and its Western partners probably have only a small window of opportunity to support a counteroffensive in the territories occupied” by Russia. . Vladimir Putin “probably intends to annex southern and eastern Ukraine to the Russian Federation in the coming months”, according to this institute.

Time also seems to be running out for the last Ukrainian fighters from the Azovstal steelworks, the last pocket of resistance in the strategic port of Mariupol, at the southern tip of Donbass. While President Zelensky spoke on Friday of “very difficult negotiations” to obtain the evacuation of 38 seriously injured fighters – out of some 600 wounded in total – some of their relatives called on Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday to intervene with Vladimir Putin . “We call on His Excellency, Chinese President Xi Jinping (…) to work to save the defenders of Mariupol”, launched the wife of a fighter, Natalia Zarytska, in a room where a portrait of the Chinese leader had been hung. . For days, relatives and some Azovstal fighters have been calling for help, sometimes to Turkey, the United States, now China.

“Direct Talk”

Outside Ukraine, the imminent candidacy of Finland – and probably also of Sweden – to NATO has been the main point of tension with Moscow in recent days. Finnish President Sauli Niinistö officially informed Vladimir Putin of this on Saturday by telephone. “The conversation was direct and straightforward and went without annoyance. Avoiding tension was considered important,” said Ninistö, a very regular interlocutor with the Russian president in recent years. Mr. Putin told him that Helsinki’s renunciation of its historical military non-alignment – caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine – “would be a mistake, since there is no threat to the security of the Finland,” according to the Kremlin.

Moscow threatened Thursday to retaliate with “technical-military” measures, without specifying which ones. During the night from Friday to Saturday, electricity exports from Russia to Finland – around 10% of the Nordic country’s consumption – were suspended, as the Finnish subsidiary of the Russian group InterRAO had warned, citing unpaid. Most NATO countries have supported Helsinki joining, except Turkey, which has threatened to block this process. Washington said on Friday “to work to clarify Turkey’s position”.

“Extend the sanctions”

In this context, the heads of diplomacy of the G7 (Germany, France, Italy, Canada, United States, Japan and United Kingdom), meeting in Wangels in the far north of Germany, indicated that they would “never” recognize the borders that Russia wants to impose on Ukraine. And again called on Belarus, a neighbor of Ukraine and an ally of Moscow, to “stop facilitating the intervention of Russia”. In their final communiqué, the seven powers promised “to extend the” economic sanctions to “sectors on which Russia is particularly dependent”, while urging China “not to undermine” these measures.

The European Union also pledged on Friday to provide additional aid of half a billion euros to support Ukraine’s fight, bringing it “to two billion euros in total”. The recipe is “clear”, said EU diplomacy chief Josep Borrell from Wangels: “more of the same” is needed, i.e. more economic sanctions against Russia, more support for kyiv, and ” keep working to isolate Russia.” However, the 27 EU countries are struggling to agree to gradually stop their purchases of Russian oil, Hungary having deemed the waiver obtained insufficient. An informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers was planned immediately after in Berlin, devoted to Ukraine.

Ukraine favorite of Eurovision

In kyiv, where daily life is returning to normal, the city council renamed an emblematic Soviet monument on Saturday. The Ark of Friendship of Peoples has become the Ark of Freedom of the Ukrainian People, announced the mayor of the capital, Vitali Klitschko. If many places or monuments of the capital are called to be thus “decommunized”, the mayor stressed that the designation of the new names would take time and would involve “specialists”, in particular historians, “in order not to take a hasty decision “.

Many Ukrainians were also preparing to follow the Eurovision final live on Saturday evening, with the hope that their favorite song, “Stefania”, would win in this competition, including Russia and Belarus. were excluded. “Winning Eurovision would give us a lot of hope of winning the war” against Russia, confided a Ukrainian fan, Maria Lembak, 40, from Turin where the final is being held.

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