Tide Turning? Boris Johnson Warns Russians Making ‘Palpable Progress’ in Donbas

AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda, File

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned that Russian forces are now making “palpable progress” in eastern Ukraine, saying Ukrainian forces need long-range rocket launchers and other military hardware.

Britain’s defence ministry said on Friday that Moscow’s troops have recently captured several villages as they attempt to surround Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk in the eastern Donbas region, but do not yet have full control of the region.

“By 27 May, Russian forces had likely captured most of the town of Lyman, in the north of Donetsk Oblast, in what is likely a preliminary operation for the next stage of Russia’s Donbas offensive,” the Ministry of Defence (MoD) noted in its regular defence intelligence update on Saturday, describing the territory as “strategically important” due to its proximity to river crossings and a major railway junction.

Prime Minister Johnson, meanwhile, told news agency Bloomberg that Russian President Vladimir Putin “at great cost to himself and Russian military is continuing to chew through ground in Donbas, he’s continuing to make gradual, slow but I’m afraid palpable progress.”

Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba appeared to lend credence to this prognosis on Thursday, warning that the situation in the east, where Russian-backed separatists have had a foothold in two self-declared “people’s republics” since 2014, “is as dire as people say.”


A Ukranian serviceman walks next to a damaged Ukrainian armoured vehicle outside the city of Lysychansk in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas, on May 23rd, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Prime Minister Johnson added that it was “absolutely vital that we continue to support the Ukrainians militarily.”

Johnson said long-range multiple-launch rocket systems, or MLRSs, “would enable them to defend themselves against this very brutal Russian artillery.”

The British premier’s intervention follows Foreign Minister Kuleba having taken to social media to implore foreign supporters: “We need heavy weapons. The only position where Russia is better than us it’s the amount of heavy weapons they have. Without artillery, without multiple launch rocket systems we won´t be able to push them back.”

Britain possesses some such systems, but Johnson did not actually confirm whether or not his government would send any to Ukraine.


Ukrainian servicemen assist their comrades not far from the frontline in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas, on May 21st, 2022. (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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