RUSSIA,UKRAINE: Ukrainian Forces dug in on Sunday as Russia lined up more firepower ahead of an expected showdown in eastern Ukraine that military experts say could come within days.
Moscow has tapped a top general as war commander for what could be a decisive battle in a conflict that has flattened countless Ukrainian cities, killed thousands of people and left Russia isolated both economically and politically.
While military strategists said a full-scale offensive was imminent in the east of the country, questions remained about the ability of Russia’s depleted and demoralised forces to conquer much ground after failing to capture the capital, Kyiv.
The bulk of Ukraine’s military forces is already in the East preparing to defend existing territory and to attempt to win back areas of the Donbas region already lost. Estimates vary, but the number of Ukrainian fighters awaiting the arrival of Russian reinforcements is believed to be in the tens of thousands.
Russia-backed separatists have fought Ukrainian Forces in the eastern Donbas region since 2014 and declared some territory there as independent republics.
Meanwhile, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said that the bloc will deploy a permanent full-scale military force on the eastern flank to deter Russia. The move comes in response to Moscow’s military campaign against Ukraine.
In an interview published by The Telegraph on Saturday, Stoltenberg explained that the US-led military organisation has been focused on “a very fundamental transformation” in order to better reflect the “new reality” in Europe.
Meanwhile, the World Bank issued dire forecasts for Ukraine as Russia’s invasion impacts both the country and its neighbors, warning in a report released Sunday of an even bleaker economic outlook if the conflict drags on.
Ukraine’s economy will collapse by 45.1 percent this year, the bank predicted, far worse than the 10 percent to 35 percent downturn the IMF projected last month.
Russia will see an 11.2 percent decline in GDP, and the World Bank said the entire region is suffering economic consequences from the war, which began in late February and has caused more than four million Ukrainians to flee to Poland, Romania and Moldova. The conflict also has caused prices of grains and energy to soar. “The results of our analysis are very sobering. Our forecasts show that the Russian invasion in Ukraine has reversed the region’s recovery from the pandemic,” said Anna Bjerde, World Bank vice president for Europe and Central Asia.
– THE MALAY MAIL, THE HINDUSTAN TIMES, RUSSIA TODAY