Ukraine’s general staff said the Russians were pulling back from the northeastern city of Kharkiv and focusing on guarding supply routes, while launching mortar, artillery and airstrikes in the eastern Donetsk region in order to “deplete Ukrainian forces and destroy fortifications,” AP reported.
Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said Ukraine was “entering a new, long-term, phase of the war.”
Russia’s offensive in the Donbas, Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland, appeared to be turning into a village-by-village and back-and-forth slog with no major breakthroughs on either side.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukraine’s forces made progress, retaking six Ukrainian towns or villages in the past day.
Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said, Moscow would take adequate precautionary measures if NATO deploys nuclear forces and infrastructure closer to Russia’s border.
“It will be necessary to respond ... by taking adequate precautionary measures that would ensure the viability of deterrence,” Grushko said, according to Interfax.
Moscow has no hostile intentions towards Finland and Sweden and does not see “real” reasons for those two countries to be joining the NATO alliance, Grushko added.
He also reiterated the Kremlin’s earlier statement that Moscow’s response to NATO’s possible expansion will depend on how close the alliance moves military assets towards Russia and what infrastructure it deploys.
Finland’s plan to apply for NATO membership, announced on Thursday, and the expectation that Sweden will follow, would bring about the expansion of the Western military alliance that Russian President Vladimir Putin aimed to prevent.