Ukraine warns that only talks can end the war as Russia reduces gas from Finland

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned on Saturday that only a diplomatic breakthrough, rather than a direct victory, could end Russia’s war against his country, as cuts gas supplies to .

After more than 12 weeks of fierce fighting, Ukrainian forces have stopped Russian attempts to conquer and the northern city of , but are under renewed and intense pressure in the eastern Donbas region.

Moscow’s army has flattened and captured the southeastern port city of Mariupol and subjected Ukrainian troops and cities in the east to an unscrupulous ground and artillery attack.

Zelensky’s Western allies have sent modern weapons to his forces and imposed extensive sanctions on the Russian economy and President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.

But the has responded by disrupting Europe’s energy supply and on Saturday shut off gas supplies to Finland, which upset Moscow by applying to join the NATO alliance.

“It will be bloody”

Against this background, Zelensky told Ukrainian television that the war would end “through diplomacy”.

The conflict, he warned, “will be bloody, there will be fighting but will only definitely end through diplomacy”.

To circumvent financial sanctions and force European energy customers to support their central bank, Putin has demanded that importers from “unfriendly countries” pay for gas in rubles.

Russian energy giant said it had halted deliveries to neighboring Finland because it had not received ruble payments from Finland’s state-owned energy company Gasum by the end of Friday.

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Gazprom delivered 1.49 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Finland in 2021, about two-thirds of the country’s gas consumption but only eight percent of its total energy use.

Gasum said it would compensate for the shortage from other sources, through the Balticconnector pipeline, which connects Finland with Estonia, another EU member.

Moscow turned off gas to Poland and Bulgaria last month in a move that the described as “blackmail”, but importers in some other EU countries more dependent on Russian gas are planning to open ruble accounts with Gazprom’s bank.

Finland and neighboring Sweden this week broke their historic military freedom of alliance and applied to join NATO, after public support for the alliance skyrocketed after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Serious mistake”

Moscow has warned Finland that joining NATO would be “a serious mistake with far-reaching consequences” and Defense Minister said it would respond by building military bases in western Russia.

But both Finland and Sweden are now apparently well on their way to joining the military alliance, with US President this week offering “full, total, complete backing” to their bid.

All 30 existing NATO members must agree on possible new participants, and Turkey has condemned Sweden’s alleged tolerance of Kurdish militants, but diplomats are convinced to avoid a veto.

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On the ground in Ukraine, fighting is fiercest in the eastern Donbas region, a Russian-speaking area that has been partially controlled by pro-Kremlin separatists since 2014.

“They completely destroyed Rubizhne, Vonokvakha, just as they did Mariupol,” Zelensky said on Friday, adding that the Russians “were trying to do the same with Severodonetsk and many other cities.”

In Severodonetsk, a city on the front lines that is now in danger of being surrounded, 12 people were killed and another 40 were injured by Russian shelling, the regional governor said.

“End of operation”

Zelensky described the bombing of Severodonetsk as “brutal and absolutely pointless”, as residents crawling into basements described an endless ordeal of terror.

The city forms part of the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in Lugansk, which together with the neighboring region of Donetsk forms the war zone of the Donba.

On Friday, Moscow said that the battle over the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol – a symbol of Ukraine’s stubborn resistance since Putin began the invasion on February 24 – was now over.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenko said 2,439 Ukrainian personnel had capitulated at the steel plant since May 16, the last 500 on Friday.

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Ukraine hopes to replace the surrendered Azovstal soldiers with Russian prisoners. But in Donetsk, pro-Kremlin authorities are threatening to bring some of them to justice.

Biden has thrown the Ukraine war as part of a US-led struggle that pits democracy against authoritarianism.

The US Congress this week approved a $ 40 billion ($ 38 billion) aid package, including funds to improve Ukraine’s armored vehicle fleet and air defense system.

And at the meeting in Germany, the G7 industrialized nations pledged $ 19.8 billion to support Ukraine’s shattered public finances.

Underground housing

While the invasion has subsided around the northeastern city of Kharkiv, it is still within the reach of Russian artillery, and hundreds of people are refusing to leave the relative safety of its metro system.

“We are tired. You can see what home comforts we have,” said Kateryna Talpa, 35, pointing to mattresses and sheets on the ground and some food in a carton.

“They got used to it,” Talpa said.

(- AFP)

Originally published on RFI

Ukraine warns that only talks can end the war as Russia reduces gas from Finland


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