Updated 15 minutes ago
THE WAR IN Ukraine could reach a “breaking point” by August and end in defeat for Russia before the end of the year, Kyiv’s head of military intelligence has said.
Major General Kyrylo Budanov (36) today told Sky News he is “optimistic” about the current trajectory of the conflict.
“The breaking point will be in the second part of August,” he said.
“Most of the active combat actions will have finished by the end of this year.
“As a result, we will renew Ukrainian power in all our territories that we have lost including Donbas and the Crimea,” he said.
Intense fighting is currently raging in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region, where Russia has recently been concentrating its forces without making significant progress.
Budanov said that Ukraine knows “everything about our enemy”, adding: “We know about their plans almost as they’re being made.”
The intelligence chief also made unverified claims that a coup is already under way in Moscow to depose President Vladimir Putin, and that the Russian leader is “very sick” with cancer.
“Victory for Ukraine will absolutely come”.
Ukraine’s head of military intelligence, Maj Gen Kyrylo Budanov, tells Sky’s @DominicWaghorn that his country will win the war over Russia by the end of the year.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) May 13, 2022
Europe yesterday pledged another €500 million in military support for Ukraine as it resists the Russian invasion that began on 24 February, while Sweden and Finland’s moves towards joining Nato hit multiple obstacles.
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto spoke with Putin today about the Nordic country’s application for Nato membership, expected to be announced this weekend, his office said.
The phone call, which was “initiated by Finland … was direct and straightforward and it was conducted without aggravations. Avoiding tensions was considered important”, Niinisto was quoted as saying in a statement by his office.
But the Kremlin responded by saying that Putin viewed any end to Finland’s military neutrality as a “mistake”.
“Putin stressed that the end of the traditional policy of military neutrality would be a mistake since there is no threat to Finland’s security,” it said in a statement.
“Such a change in the country’s political orientation can have a negative impact on Russian-Finnish relations developed over years in a spirit of good neighbourliness and cooperation between partners,” the Kremlin added.
Finland is expected to officially announce its Nato membership bid on Sunday.
The Nordic country and eurozone member “wants to take care of the practical questions arising from being a neighbour of Russia in a correct and professional manner”, said Niinisto, who has communicated regularly with Putin in recent years.
Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine has swung political and public opinion in Finland and neighbouring Sweden in favour of Nato membership as a deterrent against Russian aggression.
Both countries have long cooperated with the Western military alliance and are expected to be able to join it quickly.
Sweden, like Finland traditionally neutral, is also expected to announce its own Nato membership bid in the coming days.
Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg has repeatedly said they would be welcomed “with open arms”.
Russia suspended electricity supplies to Finland overnight after its energy firm RAO Nordic threatened to cut off supplies over payment arrears, an official for Finland’s grid operator told AFP today.
The supplies “are zero since midnight”, Timo Kaukonen said.
RAO Nordic had on Friday said it would suspend supplies, citing problems with payments, as Helsinki prepares to announce its application for Nato membership in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Fierce fighting in Ukraine’s east
Ukraine today claimed it is holding back a Russian assault in the eastern Donbas region and vowed to extract its last remaining fighters from a besieged steel plant.
The G7 group of the world’s top industrialised nations meanwhile reiterated it would “never recognise” the borders Russia has attempted to redraw through aggression and pledged more sanctions to tighten the screw on Moscow.
Russia has increasingly turned its attention to eastern Ukraine since the end of March, after failing to take the capital Kyiv.
Western analysts believe Putin has his sights on annexing southern and eastern Ukraine in the months ahead but his troops have appeared to be encountering stiff resistance.
The governor of the eastern Lugansk region, Serhiy Gaidai, said Ukrainian forces had prevented Russian attempts to cross a river and encircle the city of Severodonetsk.
“There’s heavy fighting on the border with Donetsk region,” Gaidai said, reporting big Russian losses of equipment and personnel.
“From interceptions (phone calls), we understand that a whole (Russian) battalion has refused to attack, because they see what’s happening.”
Aerial images showed dozens of destroyed armoured vehicles on the river bank and wrecked pontoon bridges.
UK military intelligence also said Russian forces had sustained heavy losses as they attempted the river crossing.
The highly risky manoeuvre reflected “the pressure the Russian commanders are under to make progress in their operations in eastern Ukraine”, it added.
Russian forces had “failed to make any significant advances despite concentrating forces in this area”, it said.
In Washington, a senior US defence official said most of the activity was now in the Donbas area.
Kharkiv regional governor Oleh Synegubov meanwhile said in a video on Telegram that Ukrainian forces were counter-attacking in the direction of the northeastern city of Izium.
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The Ukrainian General Staff said troops had managed to push Russian troops out of the Kharkiv, a priority target for Moscow.
“The enemy’s main efforts are focused on ensuring the withdrawal of its units from the city of Kharkiv,” a spokesman said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday said his troops would fight to recapture all occupied territory, and those under siege.
That included those in the southern port city of Mariupol, where the last defenders are holed up in the vast Azovstal steelworks.
“Currently, very difficult negotiations are under way on the next stage of the evacuation mission — the rescue of the seriously wounded, medics. It is a large number of people,” he said.
Women, children and the elderly who had taken refuge in the tunnels and bunkers in the Azovstal plant were evacuated at the end of April with the help of the United Nations and Red Cross.
The Ukrainian General Staff said in an update Saturday that Russian forces continued “to blockade our units near the Azovstal plant” and carried out “massive artillery and air strikes”.
From inside, Sviatoslav Palamar, one of the leaders of the Ukrainian Azov regiment, told the online Kyiv Security Forum there were 600 wounded there and pleaded for help to evacuate them.
“We continue to defend ourselves, and we shall not surrender,” he said.