In a Saturday night speech Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gave his most dire assessment to date of the status of Ukraine forces in the eastern Donbas region, where for over at least the last two months Russia has concentrated its forces, following the Feb.24 invasion of the country. Saturday marked the 95th day of the conflict.
He described conditions there as “indescribably difficult” in what marks a notably pessimistic shift and negative tone for the Ukrainian leader, strongly suggesting the fall of Donbas – or at least whole regions such as Luhansk – could be imminent. He identified several intense ongoing battles in places with a large Russian force presence, including Severodonetsk, Lysychansk, Bakhmut and Popasna. Sievierodonets in particular is scene of fierce up-close street battles.
“But our defense holds on,” Zelensky sought to assure the public. “It’s indescribably difficult there. And I am grateful to all those who withstand this onslaught of the occupiers.”
As the AP describes of some instances of “close-quarter combat”:
Ukrainian regional officials reported that Russian forces were “storming” Sievierodonetsk after trying unsuccessfully to encircle the city. The fighting knocked out power and cellphone service, and a humanitarian relief center could not operate because of the danger, the mayor said.
Zelensky in the address also denounced what he called “absolutely senseless, openly barbaric strikes at the Sumy region,” which left at least one person dead and seven wounded and two in critical condition, saying further mortars struck close to a kindergarten.
“These are the enemies chosen by the Russian Federation,” he added. With this, he again called on the West and world leaders to official label Russia as a “terrorist state” – something US has thus far resisted doing, even after Biden previously described Russia’s actions as “genocide”.
“This is fair and reflects the daily reality that the occupiers have created in Ukraine and are eager to bring further to Europe. And this must be legally enshrined,” he said.
The Biden administration has meanwhile signaled the US is getting ready to ship long-range rocket systems to Ukrainian forces, a major first marking a significant escalation. But given what appears to be Russia’s steady progress over Donbas, it’s likely too-little too-late to turn the tide for the Ukrainians in the East.
Americans have been fed a steady diet of propaganda about Ukraine “winning.” In fact, Russia has taken Lyman (a key logistics hub) and has encircled the Ukrainian army in Sievierodonetsk. I’m not pro-Russian. I am pro-American, and pro-sticking to facts.https://t.co/e75MwpYXdD
— Jim Rickards (@JamesGRickards) May 27, 2022
Just prior to these latest remarks, on Friday night, the Ukrainian leader vowed he would resist any territorial concessions for the sake of a negotiated peace – as a small handful of Western officials have called for – instead saying that Donbas will be “Ukrainian again”.
“We are protecting our land in the way that our current defense resources allow,” he had said according to a presidential office transcript. “We are doing everything to increase them. And we will increase them.” However, all of this appears to be preparing the public and his Western backers to brace for bad news in the days and weeks ahead. As we noted Friday, even The Washington Post has changed its narrative, suggesting for the first time that things are looking worse for Ukraine’s military than previously thought.
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