News from Ukraine: US and NATO see gains but see war drag on

BRUSSELS –

Ukraine’s armed forces have made significant progress in their counteroffensive against Russian troops in southern and eastern Ukraine, but the fighting is expected to drag on for months, the secretary of state said Friday. American Antony Blinken and the head of NATO.

Blinken, who was at NATO headquarters briefing the 29 US allies after a trip to Kyiv on Thursday, said Ukraine’s six-month war was entering a critical period. He urged Western donors to the conflict-torn country to maintain their support through the winter.

“The early signs are positive, and we see Ukraine making real and demonstrable progress in a deliberate way,” Blinken said, referring to the Ukrainian military’s recent push into Russian-occupied areas in southern Ukraine. Ukraine and the eastern region of Donbass.

“But it’s probably going to last for a significant period of time,” he said. “There are a large number of Russian forces that are in Ukraine, and unfortunately, tragically, horribly, President (Vladimir) Putin has demonstrated that he will send a lot of people in there at a huge cost to Russia.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the invasion launched by Putin in February “is entering a critical phase”.

“Ukrainian forces succeeded in blocking Moscow’s offensive in Donbass, retaliating behind Russian lines and recapturing territory,” he said.

But Stoltenberg warned that Allied unity will be tested in the coming months, “with the strain on energy supplies and the skyrocketing cost of living caused by Russia’s war”. He renewed calls for allies to provide special uniforms, generators, tents and equipment to help the Ukrainian army through the winter.

Blinken appeared moved by his visit to Ukraine as he spoke out against what he said were Russian war crimes and the price of “indiscriminate violence” inflicted on civilians.

“I saw the costs when I visited a children’s hospital in Kyiv, where I met children who will spend the rest of their lives without limbs, or with persistent brain damage, or with other traumas that may be invisible to the eye, due to atrocities committed by Russian forces,” he said.

The one-day visit was Blinken’s second to the Ukrainian capital since the start of the war, and his fifth to Ukraine since becoming secretary of state. On his last trip, in April, he traveled on the same overnight train with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, but did not get to see much of the damage in and around the city caused by Russian bombing.

At the hospital, Blinken met, among other children injured in air and artillery attacks, a six-year-old girl named Maryna who lost her leg after a rocket hit her home in the town of Kherson. He also visited the town of Irpin, largely devastated by repeated Russian airstrikes.

“You see a few kilometers from downtown Kyiv these bombed buildings, civilian dwellings,” he said after returning. “The only thing you can tell when you see it is that at best it was indiscriminate attacks on civilian buildings, and at worst intentional, deliberate, designed to terrorize the population.”

“There must be accountability to those who committed atrocities,” Blinken said.

At NATO on Friday, Blinken said Putin was using every weapon at his disposal, including energy, to try to “break the will” of allies, but that there is “growing recognition around the world that , even if the cost of resisting the Kremlin’s aggression is high, the cost of a resignation would be even higher.”

Christi C. Elwood