Kyiv – Four months of brutal fighting in Ukraine appears to be weighing on the morale of troops on both sides, leading to desertions and rebellions against officers’ orders, British defense officials said on Sunday. The NATO chief warned that the war could drag on for “years”.
“Combat units from both sides are engaged in intense fighting in the Donbass and are likely to experience shaky morale,” Britain’s MoD said in its daily assessment of the war that has been raging for nearly four months.
“Ukrainian forces have likely suffered desertions in recent weeks,” the assessment said, adding that “Russian morale most likely remains particularly troubled.”
It states: “Cases in which entire Russian units disobey orders and armed clashes between officers and their troops continue to occur.”
The British note said that many Russian soldiers of all ranks “are probably still confused about the aims of the war”.
In an interview published in the German weekly Bild am Sonntag on Sunday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that “no one knows” how long the war could last. “We have to be prepared for it to last for years,” he said.
He also urged allies “not to weaken support for Ukraine, even if the cost is high, not only in terms of military aid but also because of the rise in energy and food prices.”
In recent days, Russian gas giant Gazprom has cut supplies to two major European customers – Germany and Italy. In the case of Italy, energy officials are expected to squabble over the situation this week. The boss of Italian energy giant ENI said on Saturday that Italy should get through the coming winter on additional gas from other sources, but warned Italians that “restrictions” on gas consumption may be needed.
Germany will limit the use of gas to generate electricity amid concerns about possible shortages due to a reduction in supplies from Russia, the country’s economy minister said on Sunday. Germany has tried to fully utilize its gas storage facilities ahead of the cold winter months.
Economy Minister Robert Habeck said Germany would try to offset the move by increasing the burning of coal, a more polluting fossil fuel. “It’s bitter, but in this situation it’s simply necessary to reduce gas consumption,” he said.
However, Stoltenberg emphasized that “the cost of food and fuel is nothing compared to what Ukrainians pay every day at the front”.
Stoltenberg added that if Russian President Vladimir Putin were to achieve his goals in Ukraine, as in the 2014 annexation of Crimea, “we will have to pay an even higher price.”
The British Ministry of Defense said both Russia and Ukraine continued to conduct heavy artillery bombardments on axes north, east and south of the Sieverodonetsk pocket, but with little change on the front line.
Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said by telegram on Sunday: “It is a very difficult situation in Sieverodonetsk, where the enemy conducts round-the-clock aerial reconnaissance with drones in the middle of the city, regulates fire and quickly adapts to our changes . “
On Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy traveled south from Kyiv to visit troops and hospital workers in the Black Sea regions of Mykolaiv and Odessa. He presented awards to dozens of people at each stop, shaking hands and continually thanking them for their service.
Some time after Zelenskyy left Mykolaiv, “the enemy inflicted fire damage against Defense Forces units with cannon and rocket artillery in the areas of the settlements of Pravdyne, Posad-Pokrovskoe and Blahodatne,” according to the Ukrainian army briefing on Sunday.
Stoltenberg’s comments came a day after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed concerns “that a bit Ukraine fatigue is beginning to spread around the world,” and said Ukraine must be helped in an attempt to roll back the Russian invasion.
“It would be catastrophic if Putin won. He would love nothing more than to say, ‘Let’s freeze this conflict, let’s have a truce,'” Johnson said.
Johnson spoke out on his return a surprise trip Friday to Kyiv where he met with Zelenskyy to offer further assistance and military training.
Heavy weapons supplied from the west reach the front lines. But Ukraine’s leaders have insisted for weeks that they need more guns, and sooner.
Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
Sylvia Hui contributed from London, Frank Jordans from Berlin and Frances D’Emilio from Rome.
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https://www.local10.com/news/world/2022/06/19/morale-is-concern-as-nato-chief-warns-war-could-last-years/ Morale is worrying as NATO chief warns war could last ‘years’