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Ukraine counter-attacks Russian forces in the east

Ruska Lozova (Ukraine), May 16

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.

“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.

Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats also on Sunday backed NATO membership, paving the way for an application and abandoning decades of military non-alignment.

NATO and the United States said they were confident both countries would be accepted into the alliance and that reservation 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 February 24, reversing an advance on the capital Kyiv and driving Russian forces out of Kharkiv in the east.

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.

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.

Fighting around Izium

The most intense fighting appeared to be around the eastern Russian-held city of Izium, where Russia said it had struck Ukrainian positions with missiles.

Ukraine’s Joint Forces Task Force said its troops had repelled 17 attacks on Sunday and destroyed 11 pieces of Russian equipment. The command of Ukraine’s air force said Ukrainian forces downed two helicopters, two cruise missiles, and seven drones. .

If Ukraine can sustain pressure on Izium and Russian supply lines, it will be harder for Moscow to encircle Ukrainian troops in the Donbas.

Ukraine’s military also acknowledged setbacks, saying Russian forces “continue to advance” in several areas in the Donbas region.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said “very difficult and delicate negotiations” were going on to save Ukrainians in Mariupol and Azovstal.

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