Pope Francis’ appeal to end a nuclear threat over the war in Ukraine and his calls for a ceasefire came as tensions mount in the region following Russia’s annexation of four territories.
Ukraine on Sunday claimed its most significant battlefield success in an ongoing counteroffensive and sought to join the NATO military alliance.
Ukrainian soldiers were seen praying while Russian flags were removed in the city of Lyman. Ukraine announced it is in complete control of this eastern logistics hub, Kyiv’s most significant battlefield gain in weeks.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky suggested it could provide a staging post for further gains after Russian annexed four Ukrainian territories, Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia, on Friday.
He warned: “The Ukrainian counteroffensive will continue. The Ukrainian flag is already in Lyman in the Donetsk region.” Zelensky explained in a video message that fighting was still going on but added there was “no trace of any pseudo referendum” Russia used to annex the territories.
He claimed there would “be more missteps for the enemy.” Zelensky said, “they [the Russian forces] are already biting each other, blaming even their generals for the failures.”
The U.S. defense secretary Lloyd Austin welcomed the capture by the Ukrainian forces of Lyman, a critical Russian stronghold in eastern Ukraine.
Austin said he was “very encouraged” by the Ukrainian victory on Saturday, which he stressed was an embarrassment for Russian President Vladimir Putin. He declared on Friday that Lyman city – in the Donetsk region – was Russia’s “forever.”
Yet, Sunday, footage emerged of Ukrainian troops celebrating their victory there. But concerns remain about a possible nuclear confrontation after the head of Russia’s region of Chechnya said Moscow should consider using a low-yield nuclear weapon in Ukraine after its battlefield defeat in Lyman.
And Moscow won’t be pleased with Kyiv saying Sunday that Ukraine already has the support of 10 bloc countries to join the western NATO military alliance.
Additionally, the presidents of nine NATO countries in Central and Eastern Europe declared on Sunday that they would never recognize Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory.
Four signatories – Poland and the three Baltic states – are on Nato’s eastern flank with Russia. Two others – Romania and Slovakia – have borders with Ukraine.
Hungary, which also borders Ukraine, was notably absent from the list. Its prime minister, Viktor Orban, has sought close ties with Moscow and railed against European Union sanctions against Russia.
Source: Vatican News