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Ukraine live updates: Stoltenberg says Russian nuclear attack unlikely – USA TODAY

Russia’s war in Ukraine could go on for years and the effort requires Western support, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in an interview published Sunday by the German publication Bild.

“We must prepare for the fact that it could take years,” he said.

International leaders have repeatedly shown their support for Ukraine in recent days, including recommending the country join the European Union. The Group of Seven pledged to support Ukraine “for as long as necessary,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in an interview with Germany’s dpa news agency.

He said he wants to discuss the issue with fellow G-7 leaders in a scheduled meeting this week, saying they intend to disrupt Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plans. 

“Putin obviously hopes that everything will fall into place once he has conquered enough land and the international community will return to business as usual,” Scholz said. “That is an illusion.”

Also, in a second surprise visit since the war began, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was in Kyiv on Friday to offer continued aid and military training. Johnson  shares Stoltenberg’s belief that this will be a protracted conflict, writing in The Sunday Times of London: “I am afraid that we need to steel ourselves for a long war, as Putin resorts to a campaign of attrition, trying to grind down Ukraine by sheer brutality,”

JUNE 18 RECAP:900 Ukrainian kids dead or injured since start of war; Zelenskyy visits troops

Latest developments:

►Russia may be violating international humanitarian law with its use of weapons that cause indiscriminate damage to humans and property and have been banned under several treaties, the New York Times reported after a photo analysis.

►Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited troops and health care workers on the front lines in south Ukraine on Saturday during a trip to the Mykolaiv and Odesa regions.

CAPTURED:Two US military veterans felt compelled to fight Russia. They’ve been captured in Ukraine.

Germany will burn more coal to offset Russian natural gas

Germany’s economy minister said Sunday that the country will limit the use of natural gas for electricity production amid concerns about possible shortages caused by a cut in supplies from Russia. Robert Habeck said Germany will try to compensate for the move by increasing the burning of coal, a more polluting fossil fuel.

“That’s bitter, but it’s simply necessary in this situation to lower gas usage,” said Habeck, a member of the environmentalist Green party.

Russian gas company Gazprom announced last week that it was sharply reducing supplies through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline for technical reasons. Habeck said the decision appeared to be politically motivated.

Germany, which has long relied heavily on energy imports from Russia, began significantly scaling them back because of the war in Ukraine.

– Associated Press

Ukrainian medic who treated wounded on both sides freed

A celebrated Ukrainian medic who treated soldiers on both sides of the war was freed by Russian forces three months after she was taken captive on the streets of Mariupol, a development Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced to the country.

Yuliia Paievska is known in Ukraine as Taira, a nickname she chose in the World of Warcraft video game. Using a body camera, she recorded 256 gigabytes of her group’s efforts over two weeks to save the wounded — both Ukrainians and Russians — and had the footage smuggled out of the besieged city by an Associated Press team.

The videos, shown by major networks in the U.S. and Europe, were seen by millions of people globally. They illustrated the war’s brutality but also the medical workers’ humanity. Taira and a colleague were taken prisoner by Russian forces on March 16.

“I’m grateful to everyone who worked for this result. Taira is already home,” Zelenskyy said in a national address over the weekend. “We will keep working to free everyone.”

Stoltenberg: Russian nuclear attack unlikely

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told Bild that Western backing of Ukraine’s fight against Russia must remain strong.

“We must not let up in supporting Ukraine,” he said. “Even if the costs are high, not only for military support, but also because of rising energy and food prices. But that is no comparison to the price that the Ukrainians have to pay every day with many lives.”

Stoltenberg emphasized that while NATO is supporting Ukraine with weapons and stronger defenses on its eastern flank, troops would not set foot in Ukraine.

He also said a nuclear attack appears unlikely. “We do not see a higher level of readiness in the Russian nuclear forces,” Stoltenberg said.

In this image provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, centre, and Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson walk on the square where damaged Russian military vehicles are displayed in Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, June 17, 2022.

British report: Morale low on both sides

The British Defense Ministry’s Sunday update on the war in Ukraine indicated morale is waning on both sides.

“Ukrainian forces have likely suffered desertions in recent weeks, however, Russian morale highly likely remains especially troubled,” the ministry tweeted. “Cases of whole Russian units refusing orders and armed stand-offs between officers and their troops continue to occur.”

On the Russian side, morale is depressed because of poor leadership and few opportunities for soldiers to rotate out of combat units, the ministry said.

“Many Russian personnel of all ranks also likely remain confused about the war’s objectives,” it said. “Morale problems in the Russian force are likely so significant that they are limiting Russia’s ability to achieve operational objectives.”

A Ukrainian serviceman sits next to a destroyed Russian tank at an abandonned Russian position near the village of Bilogorivka not far from Lysychansk, Lugansk region, on June 17, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine’s bid to join EU to be discussed in Brussels next week

The European Union’s executive arm recommended Friday putting Ukraine on a path to membership, a symbolic boost for a country fending off a Russian onslaught that is killing civilians, flattening cities and threatening its very survival.

The possibility of membership in the EU, created to safeguard peace on the continent and serve as a model for the rule of law and prosperity, fulfills a wish of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his Western-looking citizens.

The European Commission’s recommendation that Ukraine become a candidate for membership will be discussed by leaders of the 27-nation bloc next week in Brussels. The war has increased pressure on EU governments to fast-track Ukraine’s candidacy, but the process is expected to take years, and EU members remain divided over how quickly and fully to welcome new members.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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