Western leaders warn war in Ukraine could last years

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June 19 (UPI) — Russia’s war in Ukraine could extend for several years, a pair of Western leaders warned on Sunday.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg urged the international community to maintain its support for Ukraine as it fights to fend off Moscow’s invasion, warning it is nearly impossible to tell when the conflict will come to an end.

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Johnson wrote in the Sunday Times of London that Ukraine’s allies must work to ensure that it “has the strategic endurance to survive and eventually prevail” over Russian forces” in a prolonged conflict.

“I am afraid that we need to steel ourselves for a long war as [Russian President Vladimir Putin] resorts to a campaign of attrition, trying to grind down Ukraine by sheer brutality,” he said.

Johnson said that allies must also increase efforts to make sure Ukrainian forces are properly trained to operate advanced equipment, adding that Britain hoped to train “up to “10,000 soldiers every 120 days.”

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It was estimated that Russia now controls 80%-90% of the Donbas region going into Sunday and at least 4,509 civilians have been killed and 5,585 civilians have been injured, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights since the war began on Feb. 24.

However, the Ukrainian military said that a Russian regiment was forced to withdraw from the eastern front “to restore combat capability” after sustaining heavily losses, while Ukrainian forces had destroyed “30 units of various equipment and weapons of the enemy” in a 24-hour period beginning Friday morning.

Stoltenberg told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag that Western nations “must not let up in supporting Ukraine” noting that Ukrainian forces were fighting bravely and could push Russian troops out of the Donbas region.

He said the support must persist “even if the costs are high, not only for military support but also because of rising energy and food prices” noting that those costs could not compare “to the price that the Ukrainians have to pay every day with many lives.”

NATO will meet in Madrid for two days beginning June 29 to address security concerns and the strategic direction of the alliance over the next decade, Stoltenberg added.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky issued a message to fathers who “protect and defend” during the war in a Father’s Day message posted Sunday.

“Being a father is a great responsibility and a great happiness,” said Zelensky, a father of two. “It is strength, wisdom, motivation to go forward and not to give up. And no matter how difficult it is — to protect and defend the most precious. Thank you, our heroes.”

On Saturday, the U.S. State Department said it had reviewed photos and videos appearing to show two Americans who had been captured after traveling to Ukraine to voluntarily join the war effort.

The agency had previously described the two men, Alex Dreuke, 39, and Andy Tai Ngoc Hyunh, 27, as “reportedly captured by Russia’s military forces in Ukraine, after they were reported missing by their families last week but declined to comment on the authenticity of the images or the men’s conditions.

American officials, however, remained in contact with the men’s families, Ukrainian authorities and the International Committee of the Red Cross, a State Department spokesperson said.