Next phase of Ukraine conflict could last ‘several months’

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Next phase of Ukraine conflict could last ‘several months’
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The next phase of the war in Ukraine could last “several months”, UK ministers were told on Tuesday, as Vladimir Putin’s forces launch a fresh onslaught on the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

A huge ground offensive by Russia is under way in a bid to take control of the country’s eastern region, with Kremlin forces said to be attacking Ukrainian positions along a 300-mile frontline.

Moscow has declared the capture of the Donbas to be its main objective after attempts to seize the capital, Kyiv, failed.

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During a meeting of Boris Johnson’s Cabinet on Tuesday morning, a national securityofficial briefed ministers telling them that the battle for the Donbas, already the scene of an eight year conflict between Ukrainian forces and Russian backed separatists, would be an “attritional conflict”.

But the official added that there were signs that Moscow’s forces had still not learned lessons from “setbacks in northern Ukraine”.

The warning came ahead of a call between Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden as well as the leaders of Canada, Germany, France, Poland, Romania, Italy, Japan, Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council presiddent Charles Michel.

Number 10 said: “Cabinet were updated by a senior national security official who confirmed Putin was focusing his attention on the Donbas region and that the next phase of the war was likely to be an attritional conflict, which could last several months.

“Russia would aim to exploit its troop number advantage, but Ukraine had already shown that this was unlikely to be decisive on its own.

“There were some signs that Russia had not learned lessons from previous set-backs in northern Ukraine and there was evidence of troops being committed to the fight in a piecemeal fashion.

“Reports of poor Russian morale continued with claims of some soldiers and even units refusing to fight.”

Earlier Mr Johnson told his ministerial colleagues that Ukraine’s position remained “perilous” with Mr Putin angered by defeats but “determined to claim some sort of victory regardless of the human cost”.

The Prime Minister said this meant it was “more vital than ever to increase global support”.

Britain is sending more weapons to Ukraine, a minister disclosed on Tuesday, after Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said a “battle for the Donbas” had begun.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said more weapons would be sent from the UK to Ukraine to help it defend itself.

“We’re seeing a further push, it seems, from Putin’s regime. So we will continue to do all we can to support Ukraine,” Mr Lewis told BBC Breakfast.

“As the Prime Minister said when he was in Kyiv with the president just a week or so ago, we will be sending out further defensive arms.”

Meanwhile Downing Street has said it is looking to reopen the British Embassy in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv “as soon as possible”.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman was responsing to questions prompted by the European Union’s announcement last week that it will resume its diplomatic presence in Kyiv, after temporarily moving it to Poland after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The spokesman said: “We want to reopen our embassy in Kyiv as soon as possible. The reopening of an embassy is dependent on several factors including security assessments and we want to take into account safety of our staff. I don’t have an update on when that might be feasible but it is something we will keep under review.

“We have sought to provide as much consular support as possible throughout this conflict and we will continue to do that whenever possible and this is something we are actively keeping under review.”

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