Russia Lacks ‘Quality Forces’ Needed to Take Area from Ukraine, UK Says

Both Russia and Ukraine have committed “significant forces” to the area around the Ukrainian towns of Pavlivka and Vuhledar in south-central Donetsk Oblast, according to the British Defense Ministry.

The agency said in an intelligence update posted on Twitter Sunday that the area “has been the scene of intense combat over the last two weeks, though little territory has changed hands.”

The area will likely remain “heavily contested,” the ministry said, because “Russia assesses the area has potential as a launch point for a future major advance north to capture the remainder of Ukrainian-held Donetsk Oblast.”

However, the ministry said the odds of Russia realizing that goal are slim because “Russia is unlikely to be able to concentrate sufficient quality forces to achieve an operational breakthrough.”

On Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hosted a summit in Kyiv to mark the 90th anniversary of Holodomor, or the Great Famine, and to promote the Grain from Ukraine initiative to send grain to countries most afflicted by famine and drought.

The Holodomor was a manufactured famine engineered by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in the winter of 1932-33, during which as many as 8 million Ukrainians died.

Zelenskyy used anniversary to reiterate Ukraine’s commitment to export grain and other foodstuffs to the global market. These are “not just empty words,” he said.

“In general, under the Grain from Ukraine program, by the end of next spring, we plan to send at least 60 vessels from our ports – at least 10 per month – to countries at risk of famine and drought,” he said. “This is Ethiopia, these are Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Congo, Kenya, Nigeria.”

The initiative is in addition to the U.N.-brokered deal that allows shipments of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea. The Kremlin has said those Ukraine exports have not been reaching the most vulnerable countries.

Zelenskyy said Kyiv had raised around $150 million from more than 20 countries and the European Union to export grain to at-risk countries.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said Ukraine — despite its own financial straits — has allocated $24 million to purchase corn for countries in need.

Shmyhal also met Saturday with his Lithuanian and Polish counterparts in Kyiv. The three prime ministers of the Lublin Triangle affirmed their commitment to work together against Russian aggression.

In a joint statement, the participants condemned the “systemic war crimes committed by Russia’s forces in regions of Ukraine, including deliberate, indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks against the civilian population and elements of the civilian infrastructure.”

Ukraine continues to repair its power grid after the Russia’s latest onslaught.

Zelenskyy said in his Saturday evening video address that millions of people still do not have electricity.

Electricity producers are able to supply about three-quarters of consumption needs, Grid operator Ukrenergo said Saturday, restrictions and blackouts across the country will continue.

“We would like to remind you that now every Ukrainian whose home has had electricity restored can help restore it to others faster, simply by consuming electricity sparingly,” Ukrenergo said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app.

The situation in Kyiv has improved, said Sergey Kovalenko, chief operating officer of YASNO, a branch of Ukraine’s largest private energy provider, and most residents should have at least four hours of power a day.

While not everyone has electricity, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said water service had been restored to the entire city.

Electricity also has been restored in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson after the latest Russian barrage on the city that killed several people and damaged the power infrastructure.

“First we are supplying power to the city’s critical infrastructure and then immediately to household consumers,” Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential administration, wrote on Telegram.

Many people are taking the advice of officials and leaving Kerson for safer parts of Ukraine.

A line of trucks, vans and cars stretched a kilometer or more on the outskirts of the city of Kherson on Saturday.

“It is sad that we are leaving our home,” said Yevhen Yankov, as a van he was in inched forward. “Now we are free, but we have to leave, because there is shelling, and there are dead among the population.”

Ukraine said the attacks are clearly intended to harm civilians, making them a war crime. Russia has said it targets only military-linked infrastructure and has blamed Kyiv for the blackouts.

Heavy snowfall is expected Sunday in Kyiv, with temperatures dropping below freezing around the clock. The weather forecast across much of Ukraine is much the same in the coming days.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty contributed to this report. Some material for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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