NATO warns Ukraine crisis could last ‘years’ – News

Ukrainian troops ‘won’t give anyone the south,’ says Zelensky



By AFP

Published: Sun 19 Jun 2022, 10:27

President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed on Sunday that his forces ‘won’t give anyone the south’ after his first visit to the southern frontline, as the NATO chief warned the crisis in Ukraine could last ‘for years’ .

Making a rare trip outside of Kyiv, where he is based for security reasons, Zelensky traveled to the Black Sea city of Mykolaiv and visited troops nearby and in the neighboring Odessa region to the first time since the Russian attack.

“We will not give the south to anyone, we will return everything that belongs to us and the sea will be Ukrainian and safe,” he said in a video posted on Telegram as he returned to Kyiv.

He said he spoke with soldiers and police during his visit.

“Their mood is confident, and looking into their eyes, it’s obvious they’re not all in doubt about our victory,” he said.

While Zelensky remained defiant, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned that “we have to be prepared for this to go on for years.”

Speaking to German daily Bild, Stoltenberg said: “We must not weaken our support for Ukraine, even if the costs are high – not only in terms of military support, but also due to the rising prices of energy and food”.

Russian forces have directed their firepower towards eastern and southern Ukraine in recent weeks since their failed attempt to take the capital Kyiv after the February 24 blitz.

“The losses are significant. Many houses have been destroyed, civilian logistics have been disrupted, there are many social problems,” Zelensky said.

“I instructed to make assistance to people who lost loved ones more systemic. We will certainly restore everything that was destroyed. Russia does not have as many missiles as our people want to live.”

Mykolaiv is a key target for Russia as it lies on the way to the strategic port of Odessa on the Black Sea.

Zelensky inspected the city’s badly damaged regional administration building and met with officials in what appeared to be a basement where he handed out awards to soldiers, in a video released by his office.

Meanwhile, soldiers in Mykolaiv were trying to maintain their pre-crisis routines, with one saying he would not give up his vegan diet on the front line.

Oleksandr Zhuhan said he received a package from a network of volunteers to maintain his plant-based diet.

“There was pâté and vegan sausages, hummus, soy milk… and all that for free,” rejoices the 37-year-old theater teacher.

Back in Kyiv, as the shockwaves of the crisis continued to reverberate around the world, thousands of people gathered to pay their respects to a young man – Roman Ratushny, a leading figure in the pro-European movement Maidan in Ukraine, who was killed earlier fighting Russians in the east of the country. this month at just 24 years old.

In front of the coffin draped in a yellow and blue Ukrainian flag at the foot of a monument that overlooks the sprawling Independence Square in the capital, people of all ages saluted his memory.

“I think it’s important to be here because he’s a hero of Ukraine and we have to remember him,” 17-year-old high school student Dmytro Ostrovsky told AFP.

This loss puts a human face on the shared grief of Ukrainians, as the bloodshed continues.

The worst of the fighting continues to unfold in the eastern industrial region of Donbass, with fighting raging in villages outside the city of Sievierodonetsk, which Russia has been trying to seize for weeks.

“There is an expression: prepare for the worst and the best will come by itself,” the governor of the eastern Lugansk region, Sergiy Gaiday, told AFP in an interview from the Ukrainian city of Lysychansk, of the across the river from Sievierodonetsk.

“Of course we have to prepare.”

Dressed in a bulletproof vest and carrying pistol cartridges and a tourniquet, he said Russian forces “just shell our troop positions around the clock.”

Earlier, Gaiday told Telegram there was “more destruction” at the beleaguered Azot chemical plant in Sievierodonetsk, where hundreds of civilians are sheltering.

He also said that Lysychansk was “heavily shelled”.

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There are signs of preparations for street fighting in the city: soldiers digging in, setting up barbed wire and police pulling burned-out vehicles to the side to slow traffic, as residents prepare to be evacuated.

“We are giving up everything and leaving. No one can survive such a strike,” said history teacher Alla Bor, who is waiting with her son-in-law Volodymyr and her 14-year-old grandson.

Meanwhile, pro-Russian officials in the separatist-held eastern city of Donetsk said five civilians had been killed and 12 injured by Ukrainian shelling.

In Lysychansk, Governor Gaiday said seeing his hometown of Sievierodonetsk being bombed and people he knew dying was “painful”.

“I’m a human being but I bury that deep inside of me,” he said, adding that his task was “to help people as much as possible.”

Christi C. Elwood