New Delhi: Ukrainian and Russian forces were entrenched in eastern Ukrainian battlegrounds on Wednesday, a day of commemoration in both countries to mark the anniversary of Hitler`s invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Fighting in the months-long war has favoured Russia in recent weeks because of its huge edge in artillery firepower, a fact Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy acknowledged in a late Tuesday address.
“Thanks to tactical manoeuvres the Ukrainian army is strengthening its defences in the Luhansk region,” he said. “That is really the toughest spot. The occupiers are also pressing strongly in the direction of Donetsk.”
Luhansk and Donetsk provinces combined are known as the Donbas, where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014 following Russia`s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
“And just as actively as we are fighting for a positive decision by the European Union on Ukraine`s candidate status, we are also fighting every day for modern weaponry for our country. We don`t let up for a single day,” Zelenskiy said, urging his country`s supporters to speed up arms deliveries.
In a symbolic decision, Ukraine is set to become an official candidate for European Union membership on Thursday, EU diplomats said.
Russia`s failure to make a major breakthrough since invading Ukraine on Feb. 24 means time is on the side of Ukrainians, according to some military analysts.
“It`s a heavyweight boxing match. In 2 months of fighting, there has not yet been a knockout blow. It will come, as RU forces become more depleted,” retired U.S. Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, a former commander of U.S. ground forces in Europe, wrote on Twitter.
Day of Remembrance and Sorrow
June 22 is a significant date in Russia – the “Day of Remembrance and Sorrow” – marking when Hitler`s Nazi Germany forces invaded the Soviet Union in World War Two. It is also commemorated in Ukraine and neighbouring Belarus, then part of the Soviet Union. The war there lasted 1,418 days from June 22, 1941, and historians estimate about 27 million Soviet soldiers and civilians were killed.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who launched what he calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine to root out Nazis, is due to lay flowers to honour the dead.
To mark the anniversary, the Russian defence ministry on Wednesday released documents dating back to the beginning of World War Two purporting to show Germany intended to claim the Soviet army was bombing churches and cemeteries to justify its invasion.
“Just as nowadays, in 1941, the Nazis prepared provocations in advance to discredit our state,” Russia`s defence ministry said.
Russian forces and separatists in east Ukraine made advances on Tuesday, pushing towards Lysychansk city, the Ukrainian forces` main bastion in the Donbas. In some of the bloodiest fighting in Europe since World War Two, Russia has made slow progress in the Donbas since April in a conflict that has cost thousands of soldiers` lives on both sides.