The Ukrainian military has said it is outnumbered and outgunned by Moscow’s forces in the country’s eastern Luhansk region and needs more modern weapons from western allies quickly, as Russian shelling killed at least seven people and injured 17 in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city.
Intense fighting continued in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, as Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy expressed deep frustration over the perceived failure of some western states to give enough military help to Kyiv and the alleged eagerness of some European capitals to compromise with the Kremlin.
“The situation in the Luhansk region is difficult,” said Oleksiy Gromov, a senior officer in the general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces.
“Yes, the enemy still has an advantage in both aviation and artillery, but we are doing everything possible. The supply of modern weapons from partner countries will speed up our victory,” he added.
“The enemy is acting according to the classical scheme — first using bomber aircraft, then attack aircraft, then artillery, and only then do ground forces directly enter battle. But thanks to the resilience of our soldiers… the situation now is difficult, but stable.”
Russia is focusing attacks on Donetsk and Luhansk, known collectively as the Donbas, after being forced back from Kyiv and Kharkiv, Ukraine’s two main cities.
Thousands of Kharkiv residents returned to their homes in the past week, and metro trains resumed running through stations that served as bomb shelters since the start of Russia’s all-out invasion on February 24th, but artillery fire struck the city again on Thursday.
“The enemy is once more… terrorising the civilian population. Once again, I ask everyone not to be on the streets unnecessarily. Pay attention to [air-raid] alarms and be in shelters during such alarms. It is too soon to relax,” said Kharkiv regional governor Oleh Sinehubov, adding that the attack killed seven civilians and injured 17.
The shelling took place as two captured Russian soldiers admitted to a court in central Ukraine that their unit fired artillery at civilian buildings in the Kharkiv region, from across the nearby border with Russia, in the second war crimes trial of the conflict.
Alexander Bobikin and Alexander Ivanov face up to 12 years in jail for violating the laws of war if found guilty; last week, Russian sergeant Vadim Shishimarin was given a life sentence by a Kyiv court after admitting that he shot dead an unarmed civilian in the first days of the war.
“I am completely guilty of the crimes of which I am accused. We fired at Ukraine from Russia,” Mr Bobikin told the court on Thursday. Mr Ivanov said: “I repent and ask for a reduction in the sentence.”
Ukraine insists it can win the war if it gets enough weapons and other support from allies, and is receiving particularly strong backing from the US, Britain and several eastern members of the EU and Nato, notably Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Kyiv is frustrated by the slow and apparently reluctant delivery of weapons from Germany, and by the opposition of some countries, particularly Hungary, to tougher sanctions on Russia, and by calls from several states — including Italy, Hungary and Cyprus — for a ceasefire and peace talks, which Ukraine fears will allow Russia to consolidate the territory it has occupied.
“There are people — and many of them among the powerful of this world — who believe that not all nations matter,” Mr Zelenskiy told Latvia’s parliament.
“Who believe that a nation can simply be forgotten to try to keep peace. Even a temporary peace, even an illusory one… They are okay with that — peace at the cost of the lives of others.”