For civilians in Sievjerodonetsk in eastern Ukraine, the situation is becoming increasingly precarious. How quickly can Ukraine take the path to becoming an EU member? An overview of the current developments.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz is convinced that Russian President Vladimir Putin was guilty of “terrible guilt” with the attack on Ukraine.
In an interview with the German Press Agency published on Saturday, Scholz said about his trip to the attacked country that it was “something different when you see the destruction with your own eyes and feel that people have died in a specific place, that in the cars that are standing there in ruins there were families who wanted to flee and were brutally shot”.
The SPD politician visited Ukraine on Thursday with French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis. He stopped in Irpin, among other places, where almost 300 civilians, some of whom were executed, were found after the withdrawal of Russian troops at the end of March.
Ukraine is preparing for a longer defensive war and is not aiming for new negotiations with Russia until the end of August – after Ukrainian counterattacks. The situation for civilians who are still holding out in the hard-fought city of Sieverodonetsk is becoming increasingly difficult. There are hardly any ways out of the city.
Stoltenberg: War could last for years
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg expects the war in Ukraine to last for years. “We have to prepare for the fact that it could take years,” he told the “Bild am Sonntag”. Therefore, one should not let up in supporting Ukraine against Russia.
The cost of doing so is high because military aid is expensive and energy and food prices are rising. But that is no comparison to the price that Ukraine pays every day with many lives, said Stoltenberg. If the Russian President Vladimir Putin is not resolutely opposed, “then we will pay a much higher price”.
The NATO chief expected Ukraine to be able to drive Russian troops out of the Donbass again with the help of further arms deliveries from the West. “The Ukrainians are bravely defending themselves against the Russian invaders,” he told the newspaper. The western defense alliance will not intervene in the fighting itself. “We are helping the country, but we will not send NATO soldiers to Ukraine.” As a clear signal to Moscow, 40,000 soldiers under NATO command have strengthened their own defenses.
Peace talks in August?
Only at the end of August, after counterattacks, does the Ukrainian chief negotiator David Arakhamiya want to resume peace negotiations with Moscow, as he said in an interview with the Voice of America broadcaster on Saturday. Then his country will have a better negotiating position. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited a frontline region in southern Ukraine on Saturday.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) promised Ukraine further support with money and arms deliveries. According to an assessment by the British Ministry of Defence, the civilians in the heavily contested Ukrainian city of Sievjerodonetsk are in a difficult situation. There are hardly any ways out of the city. Meanwhile, a debate is raging in Europe about how quickly Ukraine can progress to the EU. Deputy President of the European Parliament Katarina Barley (SPD) warned against going too fast.
Moscow: Almost two million Ukrainians brought to Russia
According to the Moscow military, almost two million people have been brought to Russia from the contested areas of Ukraine. A Defense Ministry representative put the total number of Ukrainians at 1.936 million, including 307,000 children. On Saturday alone, 29,730 people were evacuated to Russia, including 3,500 children, said Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev.
Russian missiles destroy Ukrainian oil tanks near Dnipro
Russian troops destroyed oil tanks near the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro in a rocket attack on Saturday. The regional administration reported three rockets hit the depot in the Novomokovsk district. “There is a strong fire,” wrote the governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region, Valentin Resnichenko, on Telegram. Three people were taken to hospital with burns. A total of eleven people were injured.
Ukraine sinks Russian ship
Russia has lost another ship in its Black Sea fleet to attacks by the Ukrainian military. The tug “Vasily Bech” was damaged by Ukrainian missiles. “Later it became known that he sank,” Odessa military governor Maxym Marchenko said in a video address on his Telegram channel. There is no confirmation from Russian or independent sources. According to Ukrainian sources, the ship, which was commissioned in 2017 and equipped with a Tor anti-aircraft defense system, was hit by Harpoon missiles. Denmark delivered the anti-ship missiles to Ukraine.
Captured US soldiers in Russian media
Two US soldiers who were fighting in the Ukrainian army and captured by troops loyal to Moscow were presented in Russian media. In an interview with the Kremlin-affiliated newspaper Izvestia, which the paper showed on its Telegram channel on Friday, one of the men justified himself by believing Western “propaganda” about the “bad Russians” and therefore going to war. “The Western media doesn’t tell us how incompetent and corrupt the Ukrainian army is,” he said.
The second prisoner appeared on the Kremlin channel RT. He sent only a greeting to his mother and spoke of the hope of being allowed to return home.
Debate on EU perspective for Ukraine
Ukraine wants to join the European Union as soon as possible. Selenskyj emphasized the value that this would also have for the EU. “Our rapprochement with the European Union is not only positive for us,” he said in his video address in Kyiv. “This is the biggest contribution to the future of Europe in many years.”
On the other hand, Deputy President of the European Parliament Barley and CDU European politician David McAllister warned against too much speed and too high expectations. “There must be no hasty accessions. Once you’re in the EU, you can’t be excluded,” Barley told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung. McAllister advised that Ukraine should first be brought closer to the internal market – on the basis of the association agreement that has already been adopted. “Becoming a member of the European Union requires a lot of time, a lot of strength and a lot of effort,” he told radio station Bayern 2.
In a TV interview conducted in English by the German Press Agency on Friday, Chancellor Scholz was confident that the EU member states would find a common position on Ukraine’s application for membership. On Friday, the EU Commission spoke out in favor of officially nominating Ukraine and Moldova as candidates for accession to the European Union. The heads of state and government already want to discuss the issue at a summit meeting at the end of next week.
Street fighting and encircled civilians
Street fighting continues in the fiercely contested city of Sieverodonetsk in eastern Ukraine. The city and its surroundings are under heavy artillery fire, the Ukrainian General Staff said. The Ukrainian civilians in shelters at the Azot chemical plant do not want to be evacuated, according to the regional leadership. “There is constant contact with them. They have been offered evacuation several times, but they don’t want to,” said the governor of the eastern Ukrainian region of Luhansk, Serhiy Hajday, on television. 568 civilians sought shelter in the plant, including 38 children.
The place cannot be compared to the Azovstal steel mill in the port city of Mariupol, Hajdaj said. ‘This is not an underground city. These are individual emergency shelters that are separate, not connected to each other.”
The Russian side had announced on Wednesday that a humanitarian corridor would be created through which civilians would flee from the chemical plant in Sieverodonetsk to Russian-controlled territory. However, Ukrainians mistrusted the Russian promises. The Russians, in turn, accused Ukrainian soldiers of using force to prevent civilians from escaping.
The British Ministry of Defense estimates that, with bridges destroyed, civilians have few routes out of the city other than the humanitarian corridors unilaterally issued by Russia and its allies. On the other hand, in previous cases in Ukraine and also in Syria, Moscow has abused such corridors as a means of gaining advantages on the battlefield and forcibly relocating people.
Johnson: ESC should take place in Ukraine
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson supports hosting the next Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) in Ukraine. “The fact is, they won it and they deserve to have it,” Johnson said. During a short-term visit to Kyiv on Friday, he saw for himself that the city was already much busier than it was a few weeks ago, said the conservative politician. “Kyiv or another safe Ukrainian city would be a fantastic venue,” Johnson said, adding: “It’s a year away, a year! That will be okay.”
In mid-May, the Ukrainian group Kalush Orchestra won the 66th ESC in Turin with the song “Stefania”. This was the third time that the Ukrainians had won the right to host next year, having previously hosted in 2005 and 2017.
But due to security concerns, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) announced on Friday that it would start talks with the BBC in Great Britain about the event. Briton Sam Ryder had finished second in Turin.