Politics

Russia ready for ‘long war’ in Ukraine, US warns


French President Emmanuel Macron (L, with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz) said it would take ‘decades’ for Ukraine to join the EU

The United States warned Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin was ready for a long war in Ukraine and will not stop at the eastern Donbas region where fighting is currently raging.

Washington’s bleak prediction came as Ukraine said its membership of the European Union was a question of “war and peace” for the whole continent as it faces up to Moscow.

Violence still raged in southern Ukraine with overnight missile strikes in the port of Odessa, while officials said some 1,000 troops were trapped in the Azovstal steel works in the devastated city of Mariupol.

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Putin gave few hints on his plans in a speech during a huge military parade in Moscow on Monday, saying only that Russian troops were defending the “Motherland” and blaming the West for the conflict.

US intelligence also views it as increasingly likely that Putin will mobilise his entire country, including ordering martial law, and is counting on his perseverance to wear down Western support for Ukraine.

– ‘Counting the bombs’ –

Ukraine’s presidency said the “epicentre of the fighting has moved” to Bilogorivka in the Lugansk region, the site of a deadly Russian air strike on a school on Sunday that Ukrainian officials said killed 60 people.

Civilians were struggling to survive between the constantly shifting front lines.

He was trying to get supplies for his family of nine, as people in the areas steadily lose access to water and food.

In the south, a series of missile strikes in Odessa overnight meanwhile destroyed buildings, set ablaze a shopping centre and killed one person, just hours after a visit by European Council President Charles Michel.

– Germany ‘changed position’ –

But the tone changed on Tuesday when German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock’s surprise visit to Bucha, a town outside Kyiv where Russian troops have been accused of war crimes.

“Germany has changed its position on arms supplies to Ukraine,” said Kuleba, adding that Kyiv was also “grateful to Germany for supporting the introduction of the oil embargo” by the EU.

“I want to emphasise that Ukraine’s membership in the EU is a matter of war and peace in Europe,” said Kuleba. “One of the reasons that this war started is that Putin was convinced that Europe doesn’t need Ukraine.”

US President Joe Biden has meanwhile resurrected a World War II measure to aid Kyiv, opening the spigots on artillery, anti-aircraft missiles, anti-tank weapons and other powerful Western materiel.

– ‘Urgent evacuation’ –

The plant is the final bastion of Ukrainian resistance in the city, which has seen relentless destruction since Russian President Vladimir Putin’s February 24 invasion.

Many civilians have been evacuated from the plant in recent days, as Russia pushes for full control of Mariupol to open up a land corridor from Crimea, which it seized in 2014.

Moscow said it would not participate in Thursday’s special session of the UN Human Rights Council on Ukraine.

In another step forward in building pressure on Russia, EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said she made “progress” on a proposed Russian oil embargo during talks with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Western powers on Tuesday separately accused Russian authorities of carrying out a cyberattack against a satellite network an hour before the invasion of Ukraine to pave the way for its assault.

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