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Is the US helping the Ukraine or prolonging the inevitable? Admission to NATO?

While Russia disrupts the cost of oil and food across the globe, he patiently bides his time knowing that the Donbas will be matter what. No amount of weaponry going to change the eventual result except to prolong the global bleeding?

Is inviting the Ukraine into NATO going to do anything but increase Putin's resolve and elevate his popularity among Russians?

Ukraine Loses Ground in Battle for Severodonetsk but Gains Firepower From U.S.

EU leaders agree to make Ukraine an official candidate to join the bloc

By Stephen Kalin and Georgi Kantchev, WSJ

Updated June 23, 2022 5:01 pm ET

EU leaders agreed to make Ukraine an official candidate to join the bloc, fulfilling one of Zelensky’s biggest requests of European countries.

LVIV, Ukraine—Ukrainian forces said they had pulled back from some areas outside the city of Lysychansk in the country’s eastern Donbas region and face encirclement there by Russian troops pressing to capture the strategic city of Severodonetsk.

The pullback comes as U.S.-provided guided rocket systems—whose 48-mile range is expected to boost Ukraine’s firepower against Russian troops—arrived in the country, according to Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov.

“Summer will be hot for Russian occupiers,” he wrote on Twitter. “And the last one for some of them.”

The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, can launch rockets with twice the range of the M777 howitzers that the U.S. has also supplied. Unlike the battle for urban centers like the capital, Kyiv, control for Ukrainian territory in the east has been largely fought with artillery. Ukrainian officials have pushed for longer-range rockets, saying such weapons are essential for halting and reversing the Russian invasion.

The Pentagon on Thursday announced that it was providing Ukraine with another $450 million worth of weapons, the 13th such drawdown of U.S. supplies since the Feb. 24 invasion. The latest weapons package will include four more HIMARS, 36,000 rounds of 105mm ammunition and 2,000 machine guns. In all, the U.S. has sent roughly $6.1 billion worth of weapons to help Ukraine, the Biden administration said.

Russian forces captured two villages southwest of Lysychansk and looked to control a third as they pushed toward the river bank west of Severodonetsk, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in a statement early Thursday, while Russian reinforcements arrived in Donetsk region further south to help seize a strategic highway.

For the past month and a half, the fighting in Donbas has been concentrated around Severodonetsk, the administrative center of Luhansk region, which together with Donetsk makes up Donbas. If Russian forces gain full control of the city, it would lay an important marker in Moscow’s goal of seizing the entirety of Donbas, portions of which in 2014 came under the sway of pro-Russian separatists now fighting alongside Russian forces to expand their territory.

Russian troops have made slow gains in the city, at heavy costs to both sides. They have so far failed in their efforts to take it over completely and move on to an offensive against remaining Ukrainian-held parts of Luhansk, such as Lysychansk, across the Siverskyi Donets river from Severodonetsk. But that standoff now appears to be shifting.

Russian forces have likely advanced more than 3 miles toward the southern approaches of Lysychansk since Sunday, according to the British Defense Ministry, after concentrating troops to make a breakthrough to overrun Ukrainian positions. Some Ukrainian units have withdrawn to avoid being surrounded, the ministry said in a statement Thursday.

“Russian forces are putting the Lysychansk-Severodonetsk pocket under increasing pressure with this creeping advance around the fringes of the built-up area,” it said. “However, its efforts to achieve a deeper encirclement to take western Donetsk Oblast remain stalled.”

For years after Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union, the country’s Russian-speaking east played an outsize role in the economy and politics. That dynamic changed after a Russian-backed separatist movement resulted in the establishment of Moscow-controlled statelets in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Haidai said strikes on Lysychansk had killed one person and wounded three, while Ukrainian authorities brought 48 tons of water to residents who remained in the city amid a water crisis because of strikes on infrastructure.

Snake Island, in the Black Sea, is a key battleground in the Ukraine war. Satellite images show how Russian forces are using the island to strengthen their military capabilities and block ships carrying grain, as Moscow continues its push in eastern Ukraine. Photo composite: Eve Hartley

He wrote on Telegram that Ukrainian forces continued to hold out in a chemical plant on the outskirts of Severodonetsk. “The situation is extremely difficult,” he said. “The Russians have mobilized all resources and directed them all toward storming Severodonetsk.”

President Volodymyr Zelensky said air and artillery strikes by Moscow were aimed at destroying the whole of Donbas step by step. “That is why we repeatedly emphasize the acceleration of weapons supplies to Ukraine,” he said in a video address.

Among the obstacles to a large-scale shipment of Western weapons has been a U.S. fear that Kyiv could use them to strike targets inside Russia, which continues to launch attacks on Ukrainian cities from its territory.

Meanwhile Thursday, European Union leaders agreed to make Ukraine an official candidate to join the bloc, fulfilling one of Mr. Zelensky’s biggest requests of European countries.

EU membership would formally cement Kyiv’s ties with the West and strike at Russia’s prime objective of bringing Ukraine closer into the Kremlin’s orbit.

Membership negotiations usually take a decade or more and include broad domestic economic, judicial and political demands.

Mr. Zelensky said he had spoken with the leaders of 11 countries including Austria, Belgium and Greece ahead of Thursday’s decision, and planned to continue his telephone diplomacy. Mr. Zelensky was connected into the room to join the meeting after the decision, an EU official said.

U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said she was meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu about steps to get grain out of Ukraine.

Russia’s invasion has left about 18 million metric tons of grain stranded in Ukraine, heightening fears of a global food crisis.

“Putin is weaponizing hunger, “ she wrote on Twitter. “He is using food security as a callous tool of war.”

Russia has rejected accusations that it is hindering Ukrainian wheat exports. On Thursday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov again blamed Ukraine and the West for the growing food crisis, calling on Kyiv to demine Black Sea ports so the blocked grain can pass. Mr. Lavrov called the West’s attempts to solve the crisis an interference.

Also Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied Russia had stolen Ukraine’s grain, following accusations made by the Ukrainian government and farmers.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba denied that Kyiv had blocked vessels from entering or exiting the waterway and said Russia couldn’t be trusted not to attack if the mines were removed.

“We were mining the sea to defend ourselves. The Russians were mining it to destroy our ships,” he said in a Zoom call with African journalists organized by the U.S. State Department.

On Wednesday, Russian forces struck at least two large North American-owned grain terminals in the Ukrainian port of Mykolaiv.

Three foreigners fighting alongside Ukrainian forces who were sentenced to death in the Donetsk People’s Republic, a Moscow-backed separatist region of Ukraine, are preparing to appeal the verdict, Russian state news wire TASS said Thursday. Earlier this month, a court in the region, which isn’t recognized in international law, said the three men—two from the U.K., both of whom had lived for years in Ukraine before the invasion, and one from Morocco—were guilty of working as mercenaries.

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