Kiev says the Ukrainian military has managed to free more than 600 settlements from the control of Russian forces in the country’s eastern and southern regions over the past month.
Ukraine’s Ministry for Reintegration of the Temporary Occupied Territories said in a statement late on Thursday that some 502 settlements have been liberated in the northeast Kharkiv region since Ukrainian forces advanced deep into Russian lines last month.
The ministry also said 43 settlements have been liberated in the Donetsk region and seven in the Luhansk region, as well as 75 in the highly strategic Kherson region in the south.
“The area of liberated Ukrainian territories has increased significantly,” the statement read.
The veracity of the report has yet to be confirmed by Ukraine’s military or President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office.
Kherson, Donetsk and Luhansk, along with Zaporizhzhia, were seized by Russian troops late last month as a counterattack by Ukrainian forces rapidly advanced in the northeast, east and south.
The Moscow-appointed governor of the Kherson region urged residents on Thursday to evacuate amid fighting between Russian and advancing Ukrainian forces.
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a military operation in Ukraine on February 24. At the time, Putin said one of the goals of what he called a “special military operation” was to “de-Nazify” Ukraine.
The United States and the European Union have imposed several rounds of sanctions on Moscow since the onset of the Russian operation.
The Western states have also been accommodating Ukraine generously with advanced weapons in a move that Moscow says would only draw out the conflict.
‘NATO’s dispatch of more arms to Ukraine harms world peace’
In a recent interview with China Central Television (CCTV) published on Thursday, a Spanish scholar said the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)’s decision to send more weapons to Ukraine is fanning the flames of the conflict and harming world peace.
Fernando Colli, Professor of Economics at the University of Vic-Central University of Catalonia, said Washington is manipulating the Ukraine tension via NATO, but Europe should not join it because negotiation is the only solution to end the conflict.
“I think it’s incorrect for NATO to continuously provide military support to Ukraine, because it makes us away from peace and harms the interests of Europe. I’m a European citizen with different interests from US citizens. The United States manipulates the Ukraine crisis through NATO,” Colli said.
At the two-day meeting of NATO Ministers of Defense which concluded on Thursday in Brussels, NATO decided to continue sending weapons to Ukraine, including counter-drone equipment and US surface-to-air missile systems and planned to help with Ukraine’s transition toward modern NATO equipment.
The move comes as the Russia-Ukraine conflict has soured the relationship between Europe and Moscow since late February, with the European economy greatly affected. Energy prices have kept soaring and inflation has hit new record highs across Europe.
Colli said that NATO’s move to dispatch more arms to Ukraine can only make the situation in Europe even worse.
“[European residents’] living and social security standards will be lowered. People will see more money spent buying military equipment from the United States. Therefore, the United States is becoming richer while Europe is becoming poorer. Europe is transferring public spending to weapon purchase, which will slash the wealth of European people,” Colli said.
The Spanish scholar added that NATO is now an outdated alliance and its expansion will bring only more risks to world peace.
US pushes allies to assemble patchwork air defenses for Ukraine
Also on Thursday, reports said the administration of US President Joe Biden was pressing allies to hastily build for Ukraine a patchwork air defense network using NATO-compatible equipment to protect strategic targets from Russian strikes.
Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it would be necessary to build air defenses made up of multiple layers in order to protect Ukraine from Russia’s varied threats.
“What you’re looking at, really, is short-range, low-altitude systems, then medium-range, medium-altitude, and then long-range and high-altitude systems,” Milley said in a news conference in Brussels, adding that the three levels would protect major cities and key infrastructure in Ukraine from Russian ballistic and cruise missiles as well as drones.
“That doesn’t control all the airspace over Ukraine, but they are designed to control priority targets that Ukraine needs to protect,” he added.
Washington has promised to provide Ukraine with short- to medium-range, medium-altitude NASAMS air defense system, with the first two expected to arrive soon. It has also ordered six more from manufacturer Raytheon, but those deliveries may not occur for two to three years.
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