The aftermath of Russian shelling in the city of Bakhmut in Donbas The aftermath of Russian shelling in the city of Bakhmut in Donbas 

Battles overshadow 25th anniversary NATO-Russia Accord

Battles rage in eastern Ukraine on the 25th anniversary of a crucial agreement between the NATO military alliance and Russia that helped ease East-West tensions after the Cold War.

By Stefan J. Bos    

The NATO-Russia Founding Act, signed on May 27, 1997, long ensured cooperation between the military alliance and Moscow. But on Friday, the two sides edged closer to a direct confrontation.

Several U.S. and European defense sources say NATO troops are even active in Ukraine to back the Ukrainian army in its battle against Russia's military.

Despite these efforts, the prime minister of NATO member Britain, Boris Johnson, acknowledged that Russian President Vladimir Putin is making progress in the eastern Donbas region, Ukraine's industrial heartland. "I'm afraid that Putin, at great cost to himself and to the Russian military, is continuing to chew through ground in Donbas," he told Bloomberg television. "He's continuing to make
gradual, slow, but I'm afraid palpable, progress, and therefore, it is absolutely vital that we continue to support the Ukrainians militarily," Johnson added.  

His comments came as Russian-backed separatists claimed Friday to have taken control of the city of Lyman in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk area, which is part of the Donbas region.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that Donbas could be emptied of its population amid relentless Russian shelling. He warned that, "the current offensive by the occupiers in the Donbas could make the region uninhabited. They want to turn the towns of Popasna, Bakhmut, Lyman, Lysyschansk, and Sievierodonetsk into smoldering ashes. Like they did with the towns of Volnovakha and Mariupol."

All this, Zelensky added, "including the deportation of our people, and the mass killings of civilians is an obvious policy of genocide pursued by Russia."

World appeal

The president stressed that the world should keep pressure on Russia and "not delay" with debates or "show weakness" with compromises that he claims "mean more Ukrainians will be killed."        

Clashes also continue elsewhere, including around Ukraine's second largest city, Kharkiv, in the country's northeast. President Zelensky said Kharkiv was also hit, killing at least nine people, including a five-month-old child and the father, while nearly two dozen people were injured.

The president said attacks are also ongoing in the region and the country's south. Additionally, at least ten people reportedly died, and more than 30 were injured overnight in the eastern Dnipro area.

Officials said three missiles launched from Russia struck a military base there, and rescuers were sifting through the debris, looking for people.

The latest victims added to a rising death toll in a war that is believed to have claimed at least tens of thousands of people.

More than three months after Europe's most extensive battle since World War Two began, there were no signs Friday that the Russian invasion of Ukraine would end any time soon.  

Listen to the report by Stefan Bos

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27 May 2022, 21:19