Ukraine war: Conflict could last ‘years’ and costs could be ‘high’, NATO chief warns

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The NATO chief has warned that the West must prepare for a war in Ukraine that could last for years.

Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Western leaders should continue to arm Ukraine against Russian aggression “even if the cost is high.”

“We must prepare for the fact that it may take years. We must not stop supporting Ukraine,” Mr Stoltenberg told the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

“Even if the costs are high, not only for military aid, but also because of rising energy and food prices.”

His comments come ahead of a NATO summit in Madrid later this month, where officials are expected to agree on an aid package for Ukraine that would move the country from Soviet-era weapons to NATO standard equipment. I will help

Russia resumed its offensive in the eastern Donbass region earlier this year after Ukrainian forces successfully repulsed Vladimir Putin’s forces from central and northern regions, including Kyiv.

However, Ukrainian officials have warned that their forces are suffering heavy losses in the region and have urged Western authorities to step up supplies of vital weapons.

Mr Stoltenberg said arming Ukraine with sophisticated weapons was key to liberating the Donbass region from Russian control.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday issued a similar request to Britain’s allies for military and political assistance to Kyiv.

In an article for the Sunday Times, he said the West must ensure that Ukraine has the “strategic tolerance to survive and ultimately prevail.”

“I’m afraid we need to strengthen ourselves for a long war,” he wrote.

“Time is of the essence. Everything will depend on whether Ukraine can strengthen its ability to defend its territory as quickly as Russia renews its ability to attack.”

A woman walks through a ruined structure in a local market in Donetsk.

/ Reuters

Mr Johnson said allowing Mr Putin to control the Donbass would be a “mistake” and “the biggest victory of aggression in Europe since World War II”.

He claimed that any peace deal that required Kyiv to be handed over to Moscow would have serious repercussions for the rest of Europe, despite the economic damage caused by a tense conflict.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Rysenkov met in Brussels on Wednesday with about 50 members of Ukraine’s defense liaison group to request more weapons and ammunition.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky on Sunday visited troops in the southern Mikolayev region, about 550 kilometers south of Kyiv.

“They are in a good mood: they do not doubt our victory,” he said in a video recorded on a moving train.

“We will not give the south to anyone and will take back what we have.”

Mr Zelensky said he had received reports of several Russian attacks on urban areas in the Mikolov and Odessa regions.

“The damage is significant. Many homes have been destroyed. Civil supplies have been disrupted,” he said.

Russian shelling of the besieged city of Severodonetsk continued over the weekend, although the Ukrainian military has denied that Mr Putin’s forces have taken over the area.

The city, located in the Luhansk region, has become the biggest target for Moscow in its offensive in Donbass and has seen the fiercest fighting ever.

“All the Russian claims that they control the town are false. They control the central part of the town, but not the whole town.”

Mr Gidai said residential buildings and private homes had been destroyed in the Severodontsk twin city of Lysichansk.

“People are dying on the streets and in bomb shelters,” he added.