Ukraine army chief warns of front line pressure as US aid lags

Ukraine army chief warns of front line pressure as US aid lags

Russian drones early on Sunday struck the Black Sea city of Mykolaiv, setting a hotel ablaze and damaging energy infrastructure, Ukrainian officials said, while the army chief warned of a worsening situation as his forces wait for much-needed arms from a huge US aid package to reach the front lines.

Vitaliy Kim, the governor of Ukraine’s southern Mykolaiv province, said that Russian drones “seriously damaged” a hotel in its namesake capital, sparking a fire that was later extinguished. Kim also reported that the strike damaged heat-generating infrastructure in the city. He added that there were no casualties.

Russian state agency RIA reported that the strike on Mykolaiv targeted a shipyard where naval drones are assembled, as well as a hotel housing “English-speaking mercenaries” who have fought for Kyiv. The RIA report cited Sergei Lebedev, described as a coordinator of local pro-Moscow guerrillas. His comments couldn't be independently verified.

Also on Sunday, Ukraine’s army chief reported that the battlefield situation was worsening for Kyiv, with Ukrainian forces tactically retreating along three sections of the front line in the eastern Donetsk region. In a post on the Telegram messaging app, Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi said that Russian troops continue to attack “along the entire front line" of more than 1,000 kilometres, with pitched battles raging west of the city of Avdiivka.

Russian troops “will likely make significant tactical gains in the coming weeks” while Kyiv awaits badly needed weaponry from the US, a Washington-based think tank said.

In its latest operational assessment, the Institute for the Study of War said that Moscow’s forces have opportunities to push forward around Avdiivka, the eastern city they took in late February after a grueling, montshlong fight, and threaten nearby Chasiv Yar. Its capture would give Russia control of a hilltop from which it can attack other key cities forming the backbone of Ukraine’s eastern defences.

Despite this, the think tank assessed that neither of these efforts by Moscow are likely to cause Kyiv’s defensive lines to collapse “in the near term."

US President Joe Biden promised on Wednesday that US weapons shipments would begin making their way into Ukraine within hours, as he signed into law a €88 billion measure — €56 billion of which was allocated for Ukraine — that also included assistance for Israel, Taiwan and other global hot spots. The announcement marked an end to the long, painful battle with Republicans in Congress over urgently needed assistance for Ukraine.