RUSKA LOZOVA: Ukrainian troops have pushed back Russian forces from the northeastern city of Kharkiv, and some have advanced to the border with Russia, Ukrainian officials said on Monday.
The developments, if confirmed, would signal a new shift in momentum in Ukraine’s favor nearly three months into a conflict that began when Russia sent tens of thousands of troops from the across the border with Ukraine on February 24.
Meanwhile, Sweden was due to make a formal decision on Monday to apply to join NATO following a similar move by Finland – a shift in the Nordic countries’ longstanding policy of neutrality prompted by the Russian invasion. and concern over President Vladimir Putin’s broader ambitions. .
“Europe, Sweden and the Swedish people now live in a new and dangerous reality,” Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said during a debate in parliament in Stockholm.
Moscow warned of “considerable consequences” if they were to go ahead.
And in another setback for Putin, McDonald’s Corp, the world’s largest fast-food chain, said it was pulling out of Russia over the dispute.
In Brussels, the European Union was working on a package of new economic sanctions against Russia to intensify international pressure on Putin.
On the battlefields near Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, Interior Ministry adviser Vadym Denisenko said Ukrainian troops were mounting a counteroffensive.
“He can no longer be stopped… Thanks to this, we can go to the rear of the group of Russian forces,” he said.
Kharkiv, located about 30 miles (50 km) from the border with Russia, had endured weeks of heavy Russian bombardment. The Russians’ withdrawal from the city followed their failure to capture the capital kyiv at the start of the war.
But thousands of people, many of them civilians, were killed across the country, cities were reduced to rubble and more than six million people fled their homes to take refuge in neighboring states in scenes never before seen in Europe. since the Balkan Wars of the 1990s. Russia denies targeting civilians.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said on Monday that the 227th Battalion of the 127th Brigade of the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces had reached the border with Russia.
Kharkiv region governor Oleh Sinegubov said troops had restored a sign at the border.
“We thank all those who, at the risk of their lives, liberate Ukraine from Russian invaders,” Sinegubov said.
Reuters could not verify Ukraine’s account and it was unclear how many troops had reached the Russian border or where.
If confirmed, it would suggest the northeastern counteroffensive is enjoying growing success after Western military agencies said Moscow’s offensive in two eastern provinces known as Donbass was in focus. dead.
Konrad Muzyka, director of Poland-based consultancy Rochan, said he was not surprised by Ukraine’s gains.
“The Ukrainians have already been in the border regions for a few days,” he told Reuters. “It’s symbolic and definitely has PR value, but that’s to be expected.
“Don’t get me wrong, the Russians still enjoy the overall superiority of artillery in terms of numbers, but I’m not sure the same is true for quality now.
Donbass Luhansk region governor Serhiy Gaidai said the situation “remains difficult” with Russian forces trying to capture the town of Sieverodonetsk.
He said the leaders of the Lugansk People’s Republic, the Luhansk territory controlled by Russian-backed separatists, declared a general mobilization, adding that it was “either fight or get shot, there is no there is no other choice”.
In the south, fighting raged around the city of Kherson and Russian missiles hit residential areas of Mykolaiv, the presidential office in Kyiv said. Reuters was unable to verify the information.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Sunday that Ukraine could win the war, an outcome few military analysts predicted when Russia invaded Ukraine.
In a blow to Russia, which has long opposed NATO enlargement, Finland and Sweden have moved forward with plans to join the alliance.
But Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Monday that Finland and Sweden were making a mistake that would have far-reaching consequences.
“They shouldn’t have any illusions that we’re just going to put up with it,” Ryabkov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
Moscow calls its invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation” to rid the country of fascists, a claim kyiv and its Western allies see as a baseless pretext for unprovoked war.
The heaviest fighting appears to have taken place around the eastern Russian-held city of Izium, where Russia said it hit Ukrainian positions with missiles.
Russia continued to target civilian areas along the entire frontline in Luhansk and Donetsk, firing on 23 villages and towns, Ukraine’s military task force said.
The Ukrainian military has also acknowledged setbacks, saying Russian forces “continue to advance” in several areas of the Donbass region.
There was also no respite on Sunday in Russia’s bombardment of steelworks in the southern port of Mariupol, where a few hundred Ukrainian fighters are resisting weeks after the city fell to Russian hands, the report said. Ukrainian army.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said “very difficult and delicate negotiations” were underway to save Ukrainians in Mariupol and Azovstal.
Farewell to the Big Macs
McDonald’s said it has begun the process of selling its restaurants to Russia, following many other Western companies dumping their Russian assets to comply with international sanctions.
The decision to close its 847 restaurants in Russia marked the decline of a Western brand whose presence there had been emblematic of the end of the Cold War.
“The humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Ukraine and the precipitating unpredictable operating environment have led McDonald’s to conclude that continued ownership of the business in Russia is no longer tenable,” McDonald’s said.
French carmaker Renault has also announced that it will sell its majority stake in carmaker Avtovaz to a Russian scientific institute.