Kyiv, Ukraine — A photo shows a kneeling soldier kissing a child inside a subway station where Ukrainian families are fleeing Russian airstrikes. In another photo, a baby and a woman on the verge of crying look out from an outgoing train car, and a man stares into the car with his hands open through the window, saying goodbye.
In his Father’s Day address on Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky posted 10 photos of parents and children against the grim backdrop of war, praising fathers for “protecting and defending what is most precious.”
There are childbirth scenes, when a man and woman look at a swaddle baby in what looks like a hospital room, where the walls are scarred from fights. In another photo, a man lifts a child over a fence and walks towards a woman with outstretched arms on a train platform.
“Being a father is a great responsibility and a great happiness,” Zelensky wrote in English following the Ukrainian on Instagram. “It’s strength, intelligence, drive, the drive to move forward, not give up.”
He urged his country’s fighters to be patient “for the sake of “your family, your children and the future of Ukraine as a whole.”
His message comes as four months of war in Ukraine appear to have strained the morale of troops on both sides, sparking desertion and rebellion against officer orders. The NATO chief warned that the fighting could continue for “years”.
“Fighting forces on both sides are committed to intense fighting in the Donbass and may be experiencing volatile morale,” the MoD said in its daily assessment of the war.
“Ukrainian troops may have been deserted in recent weeks,” the assessment said, but added that “Russian morale is likely to remain particularly disturbed.”
“The refusal of orders by the entire Russian force and the armed confrontation between officers and their troops continued,” it said.
Separately, Ukraine’s main intelligence service released allegedly intercepted calls in which Russian soldiers complained about front-line conditions, poor equipment and overall staffing shortages, according to a report by the Institute of War.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in an interview published Sunday in the German weekly Bild am Sonntag that “no one knows” how long the war will last. “We need to prepare for it to last for many years,” he said.
He also urged allies “not to weaken support for Ukraine, even if the cost is high, not only in terms of military aid, but also because of rising energy and food prices.”
In recent days, Russian gas company Gazprom has reduced supplies to two major European customers, Germany and Italy. In the case of Italy, energy officials are expected to discuss the situation this week. The head of Italian energy giant ENI said Saturday that by buying additional gas from other sources, Italy should be able to survive the coming winter, but warned Italians that “restrictions” affecting gas use may be necessary.
Germany will limit the use of natural gas for power generation amid concerns that a reduction in Russian supplies could lead to gas shortages, Germany’s economy minister said on Sunday. Germany has been trying to fill its natural gas storage facilities to capacity ahead of the cold winter.
Economy Minister Robert Habeck said Germany would try to make up for the move by increasing the burning of coal, a more polluting fossil fuel. “It’s painful, but in this case, lowering gas usage is necessary,” he said.
Still, Stoltenberg stressed, “the cost of food and fuel is insignificant compared to what Ukrainians pay every day on the front lines.”
Furthermore, if Russian President Vladimir Putin achieves his goals in Ukraine, such as when he annexed Crimea in 2014, “we will have to pay a higher price,” Stoltenberg added. “
The British Ministry of Defence said both Russia and Ukraine continued their heavy shelling on the axis north, east and south of the Sifdonetsk pocket, but the front lines were little changed.
“The situation in Sivye Donetsk is very difficult, the enemy in the center of the city is conducting all-weather aerial reconnaissance with drones, adjusting firepower and quickly adapting to our changes,” Luhansk Governor Shershi Heyday said by cable on Sunday. .”
Russia and separatist forces have taken control of Metolkine, a settlement in eastern Donetsk, Russia, the Russian Defense Ministry claimed on Sunday.
Bakhmut is a city in the Donbass, 55 kilometers (33 miles) southwest of the twin cities of Lysihansk and Servye Donetsk, where fierce military conflict has been raging. Every day, Russian artillery is attacking Bakhmut.
But people in Bahmut are trying to live their daily lives, including shopping at markets that have reopened in recent weeks.
“In principle, the morning can be peaceful,” said one resident, Oleg Drobelnnikov. “The shelling started around seven or eight in the evening.” However, he said, the situation has been calm for the past 10 days or so.
“You can buy food at a small farmers’ market,” says teacher Drobelnnikov. “This is not a problem. In principle, educational institutions such as schools or kindergartens cannot work because of this situation. These institutions are moved to other areas. There are no jobs here.”
For more than two months, eastern Ukraine has been the main focus of Russian attacks.
Zelensky traveled south from Kyiv on Saturday to visit troops and hospital staff in the Nikolaev and Odessa regions on the Black Sea coast. At each stop, he presented awards to dozens of people, shook hands with them, and thanked them again and again for their service.
Zelensky, speaking on the train back to Kyiv, vowed to defend the south of the country.
“We will not give the South to anyone. We will give back everything that belongs to us, and the sea will be Ukrainian and safe.”
“Russia doesn’t have as many missiles as our people want to live with,” he added.
Zelensky also blamed Russia for blocking Ukrainian ports after weeks of inconclusive security corridor talks to move millions of tons of barns out of the country ahead of the upcoming new harvest.
In other attacks in the south, two people were killed in the shelling of the Galitsyn community in the Mykolaiv region, and the shelling of the Bashtansky region continued, the military operations command in southern Ukraine said on Sunday.
The Russian Defense Ministry said the missile at sea destroyed a factory in the city of Nikolayev, where Western-supplied howitzers and armored vehicles were stored.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed concern that “some Ukrainian fatigue is starting to occur around the world”.
“If Putin wins, it will be a disaster. He just wants to say, ‘Let’s freeze this conflict, let’s have a ceasefire,'” Johnson said Saturday, a day after a surprise visit to Kyiv, where he met Zelen Skye also offered to continue to provide aid and military training.
Heavy weapons from the West are reaching the front lines. But Ukrainian leaders have insisted for weeks that they need more weapons, and they need it sooner.
Sylvia Hui in London, Frank Jordans in Berlin, Frances D’Emilio in Rome and Srdjan Nedeljkovic in Bachmut, Ukraine contributed to this report.
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