July 6, 2022

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‘Battle of Donbas will be like World War II combat’, Ukraine’s foreign minister warns

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Ukraine’s foreign minister said a looming battle against Russian forces in the east would be similar to Second World War-era combat, as he pleaded with Nato allies to provide more weapons in “days not weeks”.

s the Russian army prepares to launch an offensive in the Donbas region, Dmytro Kuleba warned that Moscow would commit yet more atrocities against civilians unless Kyiv’s troops were given Western artillery, jets and air defence systems.

“Either you help us now – and I’m speaking about days, not weeks – or your help will come too late, and many people will die, many civilians will lose their homes, many villages will be destroyed. Exactly because this help came too late,” Mr Kuleba told reporters yesterday.

He was referring to the brutal torture and execution of hundreds of civilians by Russian troops as they withdrew from Kyiv.

“The battle for Donbas [in eastern Ukraine] will remind you of the Second World War, with large operations, manoeuvres, the involvement of thousands of tanks, armoured vehicles, planes, artillery. Russia has its plan, we have ours,” he added.

“I have no doubts that Ukraine will have [the] weapons necessary to fight. The question is the timeline. This discussion is not about the list of weapons”.

Turkish mediators said yesterday that Russian war crimes in towns such as Bucha, near Kyiv, risked derailing peace talks.

“The developments on the ground, pictures coming out of Bucha and now a few other places, make it… more difficult for the negotiations to continue,” Ibrahim Kalin, an adviser to the Turkish president, told the Financial Times.

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Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said Ukraine had presented Moscow with a draft peace plan containing “unacceptable” elements such as the status of Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014, being raised at a meeting between President Putin and President Zelensky.

The draft also said Ukraine could hold military drills with foreign countries without Russia’s permission, which Moscow wants to ban.

It came as trains evacuating residents from eastern Ukraine were halted in Slavyansk and Kramatorsk and a senior US general said that the battle in eastern Ukraine would be crucial as it was uncertain which side would win.

“There is a significant battle yet ahead down in the southeast, down around the Donbas, Donetsk region where the Russians intend to mass forces and continue their assault,” General Mark Milley, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, told US lawmakers. “I think it is an open question right now, how this ends.”

It is understood that Russia hopes to encircle Ukrainian forces in the east and inflict heavy losses on some of its best-trained troops to prevent them returning to defend Kyiv and Odesa and other key cities.

This could, in turn, lead to renewed Russian attempts to capture the Ukrainian capital, a plan abandoned after Kyiv’s troops mounted fierce resistance.

Western officials believe eastern Ukraine will be pivotal in deciding the war’s outcome. A Ukrainian victory in the Donbas, which would depend on Western allies quickly supplying additional weaponry, would raise the prospect of Russians, eventually, being pushed out of the country. But defeat would leave southern and central Ukraine exposed to a rapid takeover by Russian troops. 

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Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]

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