NATO warns of long Ukraine war as Russian assaults follow EU boost for Kyiv

Published: 19 Jun 2022

Online Desk

The head of NATO said on Sunday the war in Ukraine could last years and Ukrainian forces faced intensified Russian assaults after the EU executive recommended that Kyiv should be granted the status of a candidate to join the bloc.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was cited by Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper as saying the supply of state-of-the-art weaponry to Ukrainian troops would increase the chance of liberating the eastern Donbas region from Russian control, reports Reuters.

"We must prepare for the fact that it could take years. We must not let up in supporting Ukraine," he said. "Even if the costs are high, not only for military support, also because of rising energy and food prices."

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who visited Kyiv on Friday, made similar comments about the need to prepare for a long war in an op-ed for London's Sunday Times newspaper.

Speaking to reporters on Saturday he stressed the need to avoid "Ukraine fatigue" and with Russian forces "grinding forward inch by inch", for allies to show the Ukrainians they were there to support them for a long time.

In the op-ed, he said this meant ensuring "Ukraine receives weapons, equipment, ammunition and training more rapidly than the invader."

"Time is the vital factor," Johnson said. "Everything will depend on whether Ukraine can strengthen its ability to defend its soil faster than Russia can renew its capacity to attack."

Ukraine received a significant boost on Friday when the European Commission recommended that it be granted EU candidate status - something European Union countries are expected to endorse at a summit this week.

This would put Ukraine on course to realise an aspiration seen as out of reach before Russia's Feb 24 invasion, even if actual membership could take years.

INTENSIFIED ATTACKS

On Ukraine's battlefields Russian attacks intensified.

Sievierodonetsk, a prime target in Moscow's offensive to seize full control of the eastern region of Luhansk, was again under heavy artillery and rocket fire as Russian forces attacked areas outside the industrial city, the Ukrainian military said.

The Ukrainian armed forces' general staff admitted its forces had suffered a military setback in the settlement of Metolkine, just to the southeast of Sievierodonetsk.

"As a result of artillery fire and an assault, the enemy has partial success in the village of Metolkine, trying to gain a foothold," it said in a Facebook post late on Saturday.

Serhiy Gaidai, the Ukrainian-appointed governor of Luhansk, referred in a separate online post to "tough battles" in Metolkine.

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