Zelenskyy Father’s Day post focuses on family ties in the midst of war

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A photograph shows a kneeling soldier kissing a child inside a subway station where Ukrainian families are sheltering from Russian airstrikes. In another, an infant and a woman appear on the verge of tears, looking out from a departing train carriage, while a man looks in with his hand spread out the window in a farewell motion.

In an uplifting Father’s Day message Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy posted 10 photos of parents and children set against the grim background of the war, praising fathers who “protect and defend the most precious.”

There are scenes of the birth where a man and a woman look at a wrapped baby in what appears to be a hospital room where the stained walls show scars after a fight. In another, a man lifts a child over a fence against a woman with outstretched arms on a train platform.

Soldiers hold bonfires while attending the funeral of activist and soldier Roman Ratushnyi in Kiev, Ukraine, on Saturday, June 18, 2022. Ratushnyi died in a battle near Izyum, with Russian and Ukrainian troops fighting for control of the area.

Soldiers hold bonfires while attending the funeral of activist and soldier Roman Ratushnyi in Kiev, Ukraine, on Saturday, June 18, 2022. Ratushnyi died in a battle near Izyum, with Russian and Ukrainian troops fighting for control of the area.
(AP Photo / Natacha Pisarenko)

“Being a father is a great responsibility and a great happiness,” Zelenskyy wrote in English text that followed the Ukrainian on Instagram. “It is strength, wisdom, motivation to move forward and not to give up.”

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He urged his nation’s warriors to endure “the future of your family, your children, and thus the whole of Ukraine.”

His message came when four months of war in Ukraine seemed to strain the morale of the troops on both sides, prompting desertation and rebellion against the orders of the officers. The NATO chief warned that the fighting could drag on for “years”.

“Combat units from both sides are committed to intense fighting in the Donbas and are likely to experience varying morale,” the UK Department of Defense said in its daily assessment of the war.

“Ukrainian forces have probably suffered some desertion in recent weeks,” the assessment reads, but added that “Russian morale is most likely to remain particularly troubled.”
It said that “cases of whole Russian units refusing orders and armed stand-off between officers and their troops continue to occur.”

Separately, the Ukrainian Chief Intelligence Agency released what it said were intercepted phone calls in which Russian soldiers complained about frontline conditions, poor equipment and general shortage of personnel, according to a report by the Institute of War Investigation.

In an interview published Sunday in the German weekly Bild am Sonntag, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that “no one knows” how long the war can last. “We have to be prepared for it to last for years,” he said.

He also called on the Allies “not to weaken support for Ukraine, even though the costs are high, not only in the form of military assistance, but also because of the rise in energy and food prices.”

In recent days, Gazprom, the Russian gas company, has reduced supplies to two major European customers – Germany and Italy. In the case of Italy, energy officials are expected to meet this week on the situation. The head of Italian energy giant ENI said on Saturday that with additional gas purchased from other sources, Italy should make it through the coming winter, but he warned Italians that “restrictions” affecting gas consumption may be necessary.

Germany will limit the use of gas for electricity generation due to concerns about possible shortages caused by a reduction in supplies from Russia, the country’s economy minister said on Sunday. Germany has been trying to replenish its gas reserves to capacity ahead of the cold winter months.

Economy Minister Robert Habeck said Germany will try to compensate for the move by increasing the burning of coal, a more polluting fossil fuel. “It’s bitter, but it’s simply necessary in this situation to lower gas consumption,” he said.

Stoltenberg stressed, however, that “the cost of food and fuel is nothing compared to those paid daily by the Ukrainians in the front line.”

Stoltenberg added: What’s more, if Russian President Vladimir Putin were to achieve his goals in Ukraine, as when he annexed Crimea in 2014, “we would have to pay an even higher price.”

The British Ministry of Defense said that both Russia and Ukraine have continued to carry out heavy artillery bombings on axes north, east and south of the Sieverodonetsk pocket, but with little change in the front line.

Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said via Telegram on Sunday: “It is a very difficult situation in Sievierodonetsk, where the enemy in the middle of the city is conducting air reconnaissance around the clock with drones, adjusting the fire and adapting quickly to our changes.”

A man holds a photo of activist and soldier Roman Ratushnyi before the start of the memorial service in Kiev, Ukraine, on Saturday, June 18, 2022. Ratushnyi died in a battle near Izyum, where Russian and Ukrainian troops are fighting for control of the area.  (AP Photo / Natacha Pisarenko)

A man holds a photo of activist and soldier Roman Ratushnyi before the start of the memorial service in Kiev, Ukraine, on Saturday, June 18, 2022. Ratushnyi died in a battle near Izyum, where Russian and Ukrainian troops are fighting for control of the area. (AP Photo / Natacha Pisarenko)
(AP)

Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed on Sunday that Russian and separatist forces had taken control of Metolkine, a settlement just east of Sievierodonetsk.

Bakhmut, a town in the Donbas, is located 55 kilometers (33 miles) southwest of the twin cities of Lysyhansk and Siervierodonetsk, where violent military clashes have erupted. Every day, Russian artillery strikes Bakhmut.

But Bakhmut’s people are trying to go about their daily lives, including shopping at markets that have reopened in recent weeks.

“In principle, it can be quiet in the morning,” said a resident, Oleg Drobelnnikov. “The shelling starts around 7 or 8 in the evening.” Still, he said, it’s been pretty quiet the last 10 days or so.

“You can buy food in small farmers markets,” said Drobelnnikov, a teacher. “It’s not a problem. In principle, educational institutions like schools or kindergartens do not work because of the situation. The institutions moved to other regions. There is no work here.”

The eastern part of Ukraine has been the main focus of Russia’s attacks for more than two months.
On Saturday, Zelenskyy took a trip south from Kiev to visit troops and hospital workers in the Mykolaiv and Odesa regions along the Black Sea. He handed out prizes to dozens of people at each stop, shook their hand and thanked them again and again for their service.

Zelenskyy promised in a busy address aboard a train back to Kiev to defend the south of the country.

“We will not give the south away to anyone. We will return everything that is ours and the sea will be Ukrainian and safe.”

He added: “Russia does not have as many missiles as our people have a desire to live.”

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Zelenskyy also condemned the Russian blockade of Ukraine’s ports amid weeks of unfinished negotiations on safe corridors, allowing millions of tonnes of siled grain to be shipped before the upcoming new harvest season.

In other attacks in the south, Ukraine’s southern military operational command said on Sunday that two people were killed in the shelling of the Galitsyn community in the Mykolaiv region and that the shelling of the Bashtansky district continues.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said seaborne missiles destroyed a factory in Mykolaiv city, where western-supplied howitzers and armored vehicles were stored.

The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has expressed concern that “a bit of fatigue from Ukraine is starting to appear around the world.”

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“It would be a disaster if Putin won. He would love nothing more than to say, ‘Let’s freeze this conflict, let’s have a ceasefire,'” Johnson said Saturday, a day after a surprise visit to Kiev. he met with Zelenskyy and continued to offer aid and military training.

West delivered heavy weapons reaching the front lines. But Ukraine’s leaders have been insisting for weeks that they need more weapons, and they need them sooner.

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