Ukraine said Saturday it was holding back a Russian assault in the eastern Donbas region and vowed to extract its last remaining fighters from a defeated steel mill.
Meanwhile, the G7 group of the main industrialized nations of the world reiterated that it “will never recognize” the borders that Russia has tried to redraw with aggression and has promised more sanctions to tighten the screw on Moscow.
The chief of Ukrainian military intelligence, however, predicted a turning point in the months to come and said that one of the largest conflicts in Europe since World War II could also end by the end of the year.
Russia, which sent troops to Ukraine on February 24, has increasingly turned its attention to eastern Ukraine since late March after failing to take the capital Kiev.
Here are the latest developments from the war in Ukraine:
Intense battles in the east
Intense fighting rages in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, where Russia has concentrated its forces without making significant progress.
Ukrainian forces have repelled Russian attempts to cross a river and surround the city of Severodonetsk, says Serhiy Gaidai, governor of the eastern Luhansk region.
“There is heavy fighting on the border with the Donetsk region, on the Popasna side,” Gaidai said, reporting heavy losses of equipment and personnel from the Russians.
Ukraine could win by “end of the year”
The war in Ukraine could reach a “breaking point” by August and end in defeat for Russia before the end of the year, Kiev’s chief of military intelligence told Sky News.
“The breaking point will be in the second half of August,” Major General Kyrylo Budanov told the news network.
“Most of the active combat actions will be finished by the end of this year.”
The G7 ‘never’ will recognize war borders …
The Group of Seven Industrialized Nations says they will never recognize the borders of Russia which is trying to change its war against Ukraine.
“We will never recognize the borders that Russia has attempted to change with military aggression and we will support our commitment to support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including Crimea, and of all states,” ministers say G7 foreign officials in a statement after three days of talks in northern Germany.
… vote for more sanctions
G7 leaders also vow to extend sanctions to include sectors Russia depends on and warn China against undermining punitive action against Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine.
“We reaffirm our determination to further increase the economic and political pressure on Russia by continuing to act in unity,” their statement said, adding that the G7 “will expand our sanctions measures to include sectors from which Russia has a particular dependence”.
Russia suspends electricity supplies to Finland
Russia suspends electricity supplies to Finland, confirms a Finnish grid operator, while tensions over Helsinki’s candidacy for NATO escalate.
“It is currently at zero, and it started at midnight as planned,” says Timo Kaukonen, Fingrid’s operational planning manager.
Russian supplier RAO Nordic had warned that it would suspend supplies, citing problems with payments, as Helsinki prepares to announce its application for NATO membership.
Finland, Sweden discuss NATO offers
Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto speak with US President Joe Biden for just over half an hour about their expected offers to join NATO, the White House says.
Niinisto says on Twitter that he has explained “Finland’s next steps” to join the transatlantic defense group, and that his country “deeply appreciates all the necessary support from the United States.”
But the two hitherto non-aligned countries face a potential obstacle from Turkey, whose president Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he does not have “a positive opinion” on their joining the alliance.
The head of the Pentagon speaks with the Russian counterpart
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin urges Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to move immediately to implement a ceasefire in Ukraine, in their first conversation since before the war, the Pentagon says.
“Secretary Austin called for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and stressed the importance of maintaining lines of communication,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
A senior US defense official dampened expectations about the progress being made. “The call itself did not specifically solve any acute problems or lead to a direct change in what the Russians are doing or what they are saying,” the official said.