Ukraine wages counter offensive against Russian forces in east


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Mariupol, which has suffered the heaviest fighting in nearly three months of war, is now in Russian hands but hundreds of Ukrainian fighters are still holding out at the Azovstal steel works despite weeks of heavy Russian bombardment.

Fresh off his country’s Eurovision win, Zelensky vowed on Sunday to one day host the song contest in the embattled city.

Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra won the popular contest with its song Stefania, which has become a popular anthem among Ukrainians during the war, and its victory was a morale booster.

“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe,” Zelensky said on Facebook. “Next year, Ukraine will host Eurovision!”

Western military analysts say Russian President Vladimir Putin and his generals failed to anticipate such fierce Ukrainian resistance when they launched the invasion on February 24.

As well as losing large numbers of men and much military equipment, Russia has been hit by economic sanctions. The Group of Seven leading Western economies pledged in a statement on Saturday to “further increase economic and political pressure on Russia” and to supply more weapons to Ukraine.

Ukrainian National Guard soldiers gather in a house used as temporary base in a recently retaken village on the outskirts of Kharkiv, east Ukraine.Credit:

Moscow’s invasion, which it calls a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists, has jolted European security. Kyiv and its Western allies say the fascism assertion is a baseless pretext for an unprovoked war of aggression.

Top NATO diplomats, including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, gathered on Sunday in Berlin to discuss the war and moves by Finland, Sweden and other countries to join the Western military alliance over mounting worry about Russia’s intensions.

“The brutal invasion (by) Russia is losing momentum,” NATO Deputy Secretary-General Mircea Geoana said. “We know that with the bravery of the Ukrainian people and army, and with our help, Ukraine can win this war.”

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Putin has justified the war in Ukraine by claiming it was a response to NATO’s expansion in Eastern Europe.

The war has prompted Finland to abandon its military neutrality and seek membership of NATO. Sweden is widely expected to follow suit.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto told Putin by phone that his country, which shares a 1300 kilometre border with Russia, wanted to join NATO to bolster its own security.

Putin told Niinisto it would be a mistake for Helsinki to abandon its neutrality, the Kremlin said, adding that the move could harm bilateral relations.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday it was not possible for his country, a NATO member, to support enlarging the alliance because Finland and Sweden were “home to many terrorist organisations”.

The foreign ministers of Finland and Turkey were due to meet in Berlin later on Saturday to try to resolve their differences over NATO accession.

Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, said on Saturday that Turkey had not shut the door to Sweden and Finland joining but wants negotiations with both countries and a clampdown on what it sees as terrorist activities in Europe.

Kalin said the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) – designated a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union – was fundraising and recruiting in Europe and its presence was “strong and open” in Sweden in particular.

“What needs to be done is clear: they have to stop allowing PKK outlets, activities, organisations, individuals and other types of presence to … exist in those countries,” Kalin said.

Reuters, AP



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