Politics

Ukraine ‘winning’ war against Russia, says top UK military officer

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ritain’s most senior military officer says Ukraine is winning the war against Vladimir Putin’s forces and will “survive” as a nation.

Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, Chief of the Defence Staff, said the Russian forces had planned for “a short campaign” and now “find themselves bogged down in a war of attrition”.

Speaking at Parliament where he delivered the Air League’s Sir John Slessor Memorial Lecture, he said the war was “part of a much larger struggle”.

He said: “It’s clear Ukraine is winning and Putin is losing.”

He added: “Ukraine is winning because Ukraine is in an existential fight for the survival… and it is going to survive.”

Admiral Sir Tony Radakin delivers the Sir John Slessor lecture

/ Air League

He told his invited audience: “Certainly, Russia believed it could take Ukraine’s cities in a matter of days, and the rest of the country thereafter. The fact they didn’t is emblematic of the conceit at the heart of Putin’s worldview.

“On the Ukrainian side, we’ve seen incredible national effort, matched by bravery on the ground and in the air.”

The Admiral said the Prime Minister had told him “Putin must fail”, adding: “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is part of a much larger struggle. At stake is the future of global order, and the rules and values that underpin stability and security worldwide.”

He spoke as Ukrainian troops made advances with Russian forces pulled back from around the northeastern city of Kharkiv in recent days. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked his forces who reportedly pushed all the way to the Russian border in the Kharkiv region in a symbolic gain.

But the war continues to take a devastating toll on Ukraine where 20 civilians including a child were reportedly killed by Russian attacks in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

The eastern city of Sievierdonetsk came under heavy shelling, with at least 10 people killed, Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the Luhansk region said on Monday. In the Donetsk region, Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Facebook that some nine civilians were killed in shelling there.

The end of the Ukrainian defence of Mariupol may also be in sight after the unit holed up beneath the Azovstal steelworks said it was fulfilling orders to save the lives of troops, an apparent indication the long siege was coming to an end.

A view shows destroyed facilities of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works in Mariupol

/ REUTERS

The fighting at Azovstal in ruined Mariupol has symbolised Ukrainian resistance throughout Russia’s nearly three-month-old invasion. Most civilians who had sought shelter at the vast Soviet-era plant were evacuated earlier this month.

“In order to save lives, the entire Mariupol garrison is implementing the approved decision of the Supreme Military Command and hopes for the support of the Ukrainian people,” the Azov Regiment said in a social media post.

In an accompanying video, one of the unit’s senior commanders, Denys Prokopenko, said: “The main thing is to realise all the risks, is there a plan B, are you fully committed to that plan which must allow for fulfilling the assigned tasks and preserve the lives and health of personnel?”

“This is the highest level of overseeing troops. All the more so when your decision is endorsed by the highest military command.”

Prokopenko did not spell out what action the defenders were taking. The video was released hours after Russia said it had agreed to evacuate wounded Ukrainian soldiers to a medical facility in the Russian-controlled town of Novoazovsk.

Ukraine estimates tens of thousands of civilians died in Mariupol during months of siege by Russian forces who destroyed the Sea of Azov port, a city of around 400,000 people. The last defenders, including many who were wounded, had been holding out for weeks in bunkers beneath Azovstal, one of the largest steel plants in Europe.

“An agreement has been reached on the removal of the wounded,” Russia’s defence ministry said in a statement.

“A humanitarian corridor has been opened through which wounded Ukrainian servicemen are being taken to a medical facility in Novoazovsk.”

On the diplomatic front, the EU’s efforts to impose a new round of sanctions against Russia appeared to bog down on Monday, as a small group of countries continued to oppose a ban on Russian oil imports.

Its executive branch, the European Commission, proposed on May 4 a sixth package of war sanctions including a ban on oil imports from Russia but several member countries, including Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, are highly dependent on Russian oil.

Its chief diplomat Josep Borrell said it had “not been possible to reach an agreement” on the issue which he said was “technically too complicated”, adding: “it was not possible to reach a political decision.”

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he was disappointed by the delay.

“We understand why it is not happening,” he told reporters as he left the meeting.

“But time is running out, because every day Russia keeps making money” by selling oil to Europe.

Borrell did confirm a political agreement was reached on a fourth tranche of money to help supply weapons to Ukraine. It would bring to 2 billion euros (£1.69 billion) the total sum available to fund the purchase of arms and other nonlethal assistance.

The pro-Ukrainian alliance also faced another diplomatic issue after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Swedish and Finnish delegations should not bother coming to Ankara to convince it to approve their NATO bid.

Sweden’s government has formally decided to apply for NATO membership, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said on Monday, a day after Finnish President Sauli Niinisto confirmed Helsinki will also apply for membership.

In a news conference on Monday, Erdogan repeated Turkey would not approve their bids to join NATO, calling Sweden a “hatchery” for terrorist organisations.

Ankara says Sweden and Finland harbor people it says are linked to groups it deems terrorists, namely the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group and followers of Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating a 2016 coup attempt.

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