The real goal the US is pursuing by providing military aid to Ukraine is to deprive Russia of its independent stance on the international stage, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Rossiya 1 on the show “Moscow. Kremlin. Putin”. Washington wants Moscow to have no say on international issues, but it will not succeed, the minister added.
The conflict in Ukraine is being used by the US and its allies as just another way to weaken Russia, Lavrov said when asked what America’s real goals in Ukraine are.
“They [the US] are pursuing a goal they have long made public. Russia must know its place. Russia [must] have no voice in international affairs. Russia must abide by the rules set by the US,” the minister stated, adding that Washington was apparently “well aware” of the fact that it would not succeed.
The words of the Russian foreign minister came as Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told German tabloid Bild that Western weapons supplied by the military bloc make it more likely that Ukraine will drive Russian forces out of Donbas. The Nato chief has also openly stated that the bloc plans to no longer designate Moscow as a partner but as a security threat in the next update of its strategic concept.
Meanwhile, four months of brutal fighting in Ukraine appear to be straining the morale of troops on both sides, prompting desertions and rebellion against officers’ orders, British defence officials said Sunday. Nato’s chief warned the war could drag on for “years”. “Combat units from both sides are committed to intense combat in the Donbas and are likely experiencing variable morale,” Britain’s defence ministry said in its daily assessment of the war.
“Ukrainian forces have likely suffered desertions in recent weeks,” the assessment said, but added that “Russian morale highly likely remains especially troubled.” It said, “Cases of whole Russian units refusing orders and armed stand-offs between officers and their troops continue to occur.”
Separately, the Ukrainian Main Intelligence Directorate released what it said were intercepted phone calls in which Russian soldiers complained about frontline conditions, poor equipment, and overall lack of personnel, according to a report by the Institute for the Study of War.
In an interview published today in the German weekly Bild am Sonntag, Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that “nobody knows” how long the war could last. “We need to be prepared for it to last for years,” he said. He also urged allies “not to weaken support for Ukraine, even if the costs are high, not only in terms of military aid, but also because of the increase in energy and food goods prices.”
In recent days, Gazprom, the Russian gas company, has reduced supplies to two major European clients – Germany and Italy. In Italy’s case, energy officials are expected to huddle this week about the situation. The head of Italian energy giant ENI said on Saturday that with additional gas purchased from other sources, Italy should make it through the coming winter, but he warned Italians that “restrictions” affecting gas use might be necessary.
Germany will limit the use of gas for electricity production amid concerns about possible shortages caused by a reduction in supplies from Russia, the country’s economy minister said today. Germany has been trying to fill its gas storage facilities to capacity ahead of the cold winter months.
Economy Minister Robert Habeck said that Germany will try to compensate for the move by increasing the burning of coal, a more polluting fossil fuel. “That’s bitter, but it’s simply necessary in this situation to lower gas usage,” he said.
Stoltenberg stressed, though, that “the costs of food and fuel are nothing compared with those paid daily by the Ukrainians on the front line.”
Stoltenberg added: What’s more, if Russian President Vladimir Putin should reach his objectives in Ukraine, like when he annexed Crimea in 2014, “we would have to pay an even greater price.”
Britain’s defence ministry said that both Russia and Ukraine have continued to conduct heavy artillery bombardments on axes to the north, east and south of the Sieverodonetsk pocket, but with little change in the front line.
Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai said via Telegram today: “It is a very difficult situation in Sievierodonetsk, where the enemy in the middle of the city is conducting round-the-clock aerial reconnaissance with drones, adjusting fire, quickly adjusting to our changes.”
Russia’s defence ministry claimed today that Russian and separatist forces have taken control of Metolkine, a settlement just to the east of Sievierodonetsk.
On Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a trip south from Kyiv to visit troops and hospital workers in the Mykolaiv and Odesa regions along the Black Sea. He handed out awards to dozens of people at every stop, shaking their hands and thanking them again and again for their service.
Some days after Zelenskyy left Mykolaiv, “the enemy carried out fire damage against units of the defence forces with cannon and rocket artillery in the areas of the settlements of Pravdyne, Posad-Pokrovskoe and Blahodatne,” according to the Ukrainian army briefing today.
In other attacks in the south, Ukraine’s southern military operational command said today that two people were killed in the shelling of the Galitsyn community in the Mykolaiv region and that shelling of the Bashtansky district is continuing.
Russia’s defence ministry said seaborne missiles destroyed a plant in Mykolaiv city where Western-supplied howitzers and armoured vehicles were stored.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has expressed concerns “that a bit of Ukraine fatigue is starting to set in around the world” and has urged support for Ukrainian efforts to try to roll back the Russian invasion. “It would be a catastrophe if Putin won. He’d love nothing more than to say, Let’s freeze this conflict, let’s have a cease-fire,'” Johnson said on Saturday, a day after a surprise visit to Kyiv, where he met with Zelenskyy and offered offer continued aid and military training.
Western-supplied heavy weapons are reaching the frontlines. But Ukraine’s leaders have insisted for weeks that they need more arms and they need them sooner.
Today Pope Francis, despite having lamented arms build-ups, added his own admonition to those who might lose focus on Ukraine, which he has said deserves to defend itself. “And let’s not forget the martyred Ukrainian people at this moment,” Francis told the public in St. Peter’s Square. He prodded them to ask themselves “‘What did I do today for the Ukrainian people?”