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Zelenskyy Expects Increase in Russian Hostility Ahead of EU Vote

Children stand in front of a building destroyed by attacks in Chernihiv, Ukraine, Sunday, June 19, 2022.
Children stand in front of a building destroyed by attacks in Chernihiv, Ukraine, Sunday, June 19, 2022.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said “we should expect greater hostile activity from Russia” this week as European Union leaders consider whether to support candidate status for Ukraine in the EU.

“And not only against Ukraine, but also against other European countries. We are preparing. We are ready. We are warning partners,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly address Sunday.

The European Commission recommended last week that Ukraine receive candidate status. The 27 member states will discuss the issue and give their votes during a summit Thursday and Friday. If Ukraine does advance to candidate status, the process for joining the EU in full could take several years.

Zelenskyy said, “fierce fighting continues in Donbas,” the eastern region of Ukraine that has been the focus of Russian efforts in recent months.

Leaders implore West for support

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned Sunday that Russia’s war in Ukraine could be long-lasting, but said Western allies should not curb their support for Kyiv’s forces.

“We must prepare for the fact that it could take years,” Stoltenberg told the German weekly Bild am Sonntag. “We must not let up in supporting Ukraine, even if the costs are high, not only for military support, also because of rising energy and food prices.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who visited Kyiv on Friday with an offer of training for Ukrainian forces, also warned against the risk of “Ukraine fatigue” as the war grinds on toward the four-month mark in the coming days.

In an opinion piece in London’s Sunday Times, Johnson said this meant ensuring “Ukraine receives weapons, equipment, ammunition and training more rapidly than the invader.”

Zelenskyy said he had visited forces in the southern Mykolaiv region, about 550 kilometers south of Kyiv.

"Their mood is assured: they all do not doubt our victory," he said in a video Sunday that appeared to have been recorded on a moving train. "We will not give the south to anyone, and all that is ours we will take back" from the Russians.

Zelenskyy said Russian forces had destroyed parts of the Mykolaiv and Odesa regions.

“The losses are significant,” he said. “Many houses have been destroyed; civilian logistics have been disrupted.”

Battles continue in east

While Russia failed early in the war to topple Zelenskyy’s government and capture the capital, Kyiv, intense fighting rages in the eastern part of the country, centering on the embattled industrial city of Sievierodonetsk in Luhansk province, which is part of the broader Donbas region that Russia is trying to control.

Shelling continues, but Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai told Ukraine television, “All Russian claims that they control the town are a lie. They control the main part of the town, but not the whole town.” But he said the battles made evacuations from the city impossible.

Haidai said that in Sievierodonetsk’s twin city of Lysychansk, residential buildings and private houses had been destroyed. “People are dying on the streets and in bomb shelters,” he said.

Russia’s defense ministry said its forces have taken control of Metolkine, just southeast of Sievierodonetsk, with Russian state news agency TASS claiming that many Ukrainian fighters had surrendered there. Ukraine’s military acknowledged that Russia had “partial success” in the area.

Analysts at a Washington-based think tank, the Institute for the Study of War, said in a note that “Russian forces will likely be able to seize Sievierodonetsk in the coming weeks, but at the cost of concentrating most of their available forces in this small area.”

Some information from this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.