Ukraine’s Zelenskyy defiant as Russia retreats from Kharkiv

Kyiv: Almost three months after Russia shocked the world by invading Ukraine, its military faced a bogged-down war, the prospect of a bigger NATO and a defending country invigorated by its win in a hugely popular pan-European music competition Sunday.
Top NATO diplomats, including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, gathered Sunday in Berlin as Finland announced it would apply to join the Western alliance. Sweden’s governing party plans to announce its position on seeking NATO membership later Sunday.
The two nonaligned Nordic nations becoming part of the alliance would pose an affront to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has justified the war in Ukraine by claiming it was a response to NATO’s expansion in Eastern Europe. Finland shares a 1,340-kilometer (830-mile) border with Russia.
Western military officials said Sunday that Moscow’s campaign in Ukraine, believed to have been launched with the goal of seizing Kyiv and toppling the Ukrainian government, had slowed to a snail’s pace. They said the invadingRussian army had lost up to one-third of its combat strength since February.
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.
Ukraine, meanwhile, celebrated a morale-boosting victory in the Eurovision Song Contest. The folk-rap ensemble Kalush Orchestra won the glitzy, televised Eurovision contest with its song Stefania, which has become a popular anthem among Ukrainians during the war. Votes from home viewers across Europe cemented the victory.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed his nation would claim the customary honor of hosting the next annual competition.
Step by step, we are forcing the occupiers to leave the Ukrainian land, Zelenskyy said.
Russian and Ukrainian fighters are engaged in a grinding battle for the country’s eastern industrial heartland, the Donbas.
Russia has now likely lost one-third of the ground combat forces it committed in February and continues to suffer consistently high levels of attrition while failing to achieve any substantial territorial gains over the past month, Britain’s Defense Ministry said in its daily intelligence update Sunday.
Russia’s Donbas offensive has lost momentum and fallen significantly behind schedule, the ministry said on Twitter, adding that the forces are suffering continued low morale and reduced combat effectiveness.
Under the current conditions, Russia is unlikely to dramatically accelerate its rate of advance over the next 30 days, the ministry said.
The assessments of Russia’s war performance by Ukraine’s supporters came as Russian troops retreated from around Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, after bombarding it for weeks.
The largely Russian-speaking city with a prewar population of 1.4 million is only 80 kilometers (50 miles) southwest of the Russian city of Belgorod, and was a key military objective earlier in the war, when Moscow hoped to capture and hold major cities.
Now, Ukrainian troops are clearing villages on the outskirts of Kharkiv after pushing the Russians back.
The war has shifted to a new level of distance artillery fighting — we fire at them, they fire at us, said a Ukrainian commander who gave only his first name, Serhii. —Agencies



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