Morale a concern as NATO chief warns war could go on for ‘years’

British defense officials said four months of brutal fighting in Ukraine was affecting the morale of soldiers on both sides, fueling rebellion and rebellion against officers’ orders.

t comes because the head of NATO warned that the war could go on for “years”.

“The combat units of both sides are committed to intense fighting in the Donbass and are probably experiencing variable morale,” the Ministry of Defense (MoD) said in its daily assessment of the battle, which has been raging since February 24.

“Ukrainian forces have faced disappointment in recent weeks,” the assessment said, but added that “Russian morale remains particularly troubled”.

It said “there continue to be cases of refusal of orders from entire Russian units and armed standoffs between officers and their soldiers”.

The MoD’s note said that many Russian soldiers of all ranks are “likely to remain confused about the objectives of the war”.

In an interview published Sunday in the German weekly Bild am Sonntag, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said “no one knows” how long the war might last.

“We need to be prepared for this to go on for years,” he said.

He also urged allies “not to dilute support for Ukraine, even if the cost is high, not only in terms of military aid, but also because of rising energy and food prices”.

In recent days, the Russian gas company Gazprom has cut supplies to two major European customers – Germany and Italy.

In the case of Italy, energy officials are expected to speak about the situation this week.

The head of Italy’s energy giant ENI said on Saturday that Italy should make it through the coming winter, with additional gas purchased from other sources, but warned Italians that “restrictions affecting gas use”. “May be necessary.

Germany will limit the use of gas for electricity generation amid concerns about a potential shortage due to a lack of supplies from Russia, the country’s economy minister said on Sunday.

Germany is trying to fill its gas storage facilities to capacity before the cold months.

Economy Minister Robert Habeck said Germany would try to compensate for the move by increasing the burning of coal, the more polluting fossil fuel.

“It is bitter, but in this situation it is necessary to reduce the use of gas,” he said.

Mr Stoltenberg insisted, however, that “the cost of food and fuel is nothing compared to the daily payments by Ukrainians on the front lines”.

He added: What’s more, if Russian President Vladimir Putin should reach his objectives in Ukraine, such as when he annexed Crimea in 2014, “we will have to pay an even higher price”.

The MoD said that both Russia and Ukraine have continued heavy artillery bombardment on axes north, east and south of the Sverodonetsk pocket, but with little change on the front line.

Luhansk Governor Serhi Haidai said via telegram on Sunday: “It is a very difficult situation in Svyarodonetsk, where in the middle of the city the enemy is conducting aerial reconnaissance with drones around the clock, adjusting the fire , is quickly adjusting to our changes.”

On Saturday, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky traveled south from Kyiv to meet with soldiers and hospital staff in the Mykolaiv and Odessa regions along the Black Sea.

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Workers and soldiers flare up as they attend the funeral of Roman Ratushny in Kyiv, Ukraine (Natacha Pisarenko/AP)

He gave prizes to dozens of people at every stop by shaking hands and thanked them repeatedly for their service.

According to a Ukrainian army briefing on Sunday, shortly after Mr Zelensky left Mykolaiv, “the enemy inflicted fire against units of the Defense Forces with cannon and rocket artillery in the areas of the settlements of Pravdne, Posad-Pokrovskoe and Blahodtne”. “. ,

Mr Stoltenberg’s comments were published a day after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed concern “Ukraine is starting to fatigue around the world” and said Ukraine should be supported in trying to back the Russian offensive. .

“It will be a catastrophe if Putin wins. He would prefer nothing more than to say, ‘Let’s stabilize this conflict, let’s make a ceasefire,'” Mr Johnson said.

Mr Johnson spoke on Friday on his return from a surprise trip to Kyiv, where he called on Zelensky to offer continued support and military training.

Western-supplied heavy weapons are reaching the front lines, but Ukraine’s leaders have insisted for weeks that they need more weapons and they need them soon.