‘One side or the other will be successful’ Russian war in Ukraine reaches critical moment

Ukrainians take out Russian tank in Donetsk region

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Fighting in rebel-held Donetsk is about to hit a pivotal moment in which Moscow or Kyiv will get significantly closer to victory, the anonymous senior official said. But for Ukraine to get a chance to defeat the Russians, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a renewed call for aid to the West, it needs more heavy weaponry.

The NATO source said: “I think that you’re about to get to the point where one side or the other will be successful.

“Either the Russians will reach Slovyansk and Kramatorsk or the Ukrainians will stop them here.”

Speaking to CNN, they added: “And if the Ukrainians are able to hold the line here, in the face of this number of forces, that will matter.”

Back-and-forth artillery fire has taken centre stage in the frontline, with both sides suffering important losses among their troops and facing potential manpower shortfalls.

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US intelligence officials have publicly said Russia will struggle to make any serious advances without a full mobilisation – a politically dangerous move that Putin has so far not dared to make.

Kyiv, meanwhile, remains cautious in its estimations of the invaders’ capabilities and has reiterated its requests for support from Western nations.

President Zelensky warned on Tuesday: “I am sure that if Ukraine is not strong enough, they will go further.

“We have shown to them our strength. And it is important for this strength to be also demonstrated together with us by our Western partners as well.”

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Western military aid, he stressed, “has to come quicker” if Ukraine’s allies want to hinder the Kremlin’s territorial ambitions.

Responding to the call, NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said he agreed that Kyiv should be supplied with more long-range heavy weaponry, though provided no details.

He was speaking after informal talks in the Netherlands with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and the leaders of Denmark, Poland, Latvia, Romania, Portugal and Belgium ahead of a June 29-30 NATO summit in Spain.

Dutch leader Mr Rutte said: “In terms of weaponry, we stand united here that it is crucial for Russia to lose the war.

“And as we cannot have a direct confrontation between NATO troops and Russia, what we need to do is make sure that Ukraine can fight that war, that it has access to all the necessary weaponry.”

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Mr Stoltenberg also highlighted the Alliance’s intention to work on “even higher readiness” and strengthen its weapons capabilities along NATO’s eastern border in the wake of the new geopolitical situation.

He said: “Tonight we discussed the need for more robust and combat-ready forward presence and an even higher readiness and more pre-positioned equipment and supplies.”

In a meeting of defence ministers on Thursday, he confirmed the Alliance has placed over 40,000 troops under its direct command, mainly on the eastern border.

Mr Stoltenberg said allies will decide on the scale of their posture in the longer term “to ensure that we can defend every inch of Allied territory”.

The NATO chief welcomed Washington’s decision to send an additional $1bn in military aid to Ukraine, adding that allies are “prepared to continue to provide substantial, unprecedented support” to the war-torn nation.

The US said its latest package includes anti-ship missile launchers, howitzers and more rounds for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) that US forces are training Ukrainian servicemen on now.

The aid is the largest single tranche of arms and equipment since Moscow’s full-scale began in late February.

President Joe Biden, who spoke by phone with Mr Zelensky on Wednesday, also said the US will send $225million (£183million) more in humanitarian assistance to provide safe drinking water, medical supplies, food, health care, shelter and money for families to buy essential items.

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