Ukraine army works to recapture territory
By Stefan J. Bos
Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov says Kyiv wants to focus its efforts first on retaking the country's south.
He explains that a million-strong army equipped with NATO weapons must recapture the areas around the Black Sea, which he claims are vital to the country's economy.
The minister estimates that Ukraine has some 700,000 men in the armed forces, backed by the national guard, police, and border guard, which will increase to a million-strong force.
However, commentators caution that his remarks published by The Times newspaper are a sign of desperation as Ukraine rapidly loses territories in the east.
Civilians suffer in the region. Authorities say a Russian missile strike on a five-story apartment building in the eastern town of Chasiv Yar killed at least two dozen people over the weekend. Moscow denies deliberately targeting civilian sites, despite witnesses suggesting otherwise.
There has also been concern about strikes around the capital Kyiv where Russian troops were forced to withdraw after facing fierce resistance.
No end yet in sight
Among those commanding troops around Kyiv is an Afghan refugee, Jalal Noory, who is in his 40s.
The man who previously worked for a security company and has lived in Ukraine since 1998 says he was “100 percent sure that the Russians would reach Kyiv.”
Now commanding 12 soldiers, he adds: “I didn’t want to surrender and see a Russian flag over my head. I had two options defend or die.”
His fellow commander Andrew Klishchuk admits he had doubts about working with an Afghan refugee. “First I thought: ‘Oh my God, what did guy his doing here?’ But I get to know him, and sometimes he knows more than Ukrainians do.”
Yet while fighters of different nationalities have been able to push back Russian forces here, isolated attacks continue around Kyiv.
And with Russian forces capturing territories in the east and south, it has become clear there is no end yet to a war that killed tens of thousands of people.
There is also mounting pressure from Moscow on Western nations not to support Ukraine militarily and end European Union sanctions.
On Monday, Germany, the EU’s largest economy, said Russian gas supplies to Germany via the Baltic Sea pipeline Nord Stream 1 have been halted for ten days.
The pipeline's Russian-backed operators claim the move is because of annual maintenance work.
But German ministers believe the shutdown is politically motivated to put pressure on Berlin.
Last month, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said Russian President Vladimir Putin was using gas "as a weapon" in response to EU sanctions.