Ukrainian soldiers ride on a light armored multi-purpose towing vehicle near Bakhmut, eastern Ukraine. AFP
Russia attacked positions in eastern Ukraine as it tries to encircle Ukrainian forces in the Donbas and fend off a counteroffensive around the city of Izium.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Russia’s offensive in Donbas had stalled and Ukraine could win the war, an outcome few military analysts predicted at the outset of the conflict.
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“Russia’s war in Ukraine is not going as Moscow had planned,” Stoltenberg told reporters on Sunday.
In a strategic blow for Russia, which has long opposed NATO expansion, Finland on Sunday confirmed it would apply to join the Atlantic military alliance.
A local resident looks at a destroyed Russian tank in the village of Mala Rogan, east of Kharkiv, on Sunday. AFP
Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats also on Sunday backed NATO membership, paving the way for an application and abandoning decades of military nonalignment.
NATO and the United States said they were confident both countries would be accepted into the alliance and that reservations from Turkey, which wants the Nordic countries to halt support for Kurdish militant groups present on their territory, could be overcome.
Ukraine has scored a series of successes since Russia invaded on Feb. 24, reversing an advance on the capital Kyiv and driving Russian forces out of Kharkiv in the east.
Banners at the entrance of NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. File/Reuters
Since mid-April, Russian forces have focused much of their firepower on trying to capture two eastern provinces known as the Donbas.
Moscow recognised the independence of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic in the Donbas days before it launched its invasion of Ukraine.
British military intelligence said Russia had lost about a third of the ground combat force deployed in February, and its Donbas offensive had fallen “significantly behind schedule”.
As well as losing large numbers of men and much military equipment, Russia has been hit by economic sanctions, while Western states have provided Ukraine with military aid.
People walk past a residential building heavily damaged during the Ukraine-Russia conflict in Mariupol. Reuters
Ukraine has deployed many of its new US M-777 howitzers at the front lines, and Washington has delivered all but one of the 90 artillery pieces they were due to send, the US. embassy in Kyiv said.
US lawmakers are set to press ahead this week with efforts to send more aid.
Moscow calls its invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation” to rid the country of fascists, an assertion Kyiv and its Western say is a baseless pretext for an unprovoked war.