KYIV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zeleskyy stated that no one knows how long the conflict in his country will last, but that Ukrainian forces are exceeding expectations by stopping Russian troops from taking over eastern Ukraine. This is where the fighting has been intense for weeks.
Zelenskyy stated that he was proud of Ukrainian defenders' ability to stop the Russian advance in Donbas, which borders Russia, and where Moscow-backed separatists control much of the territory since eight years.
The president stated late Saturday that "Remember how Russia, at the beginning of May they hoped to seize all the Donbass?" It's already the 108th Day of War, already June. Donbas is holding onto."
Moscow set its sights on the Donbas, a large part of which is Russian-speaking, and the country's southern coast, after Ukraine failed to capture Kyiv. Instead of a quick, decisive takeover of Ukraine's capital, Russian forces were drawn into a lengthy, tedious battle due to the use of Western-supplied weaponry by the Ukrainian military.
Both Russian and Ukrainian authorities confirmed that Sievierodonetsk - an eastern city of 100,000 people prewar - was still under dispute. Lysychansk and the city are the last areas in the Donbas' Luhansk region that is not under the control pro-Russian rebels.
Leonid Pasechnik (the head of the separatist-declared Luhansk People's Republic) said that Ukrainian fighters were still in an industrial area within the city. This included a chemical plant, where civilians had sought refuge from Russian shelling for days.
Pasechnik claimed Saturday that "Sievierodonetsk was not completely liberated". He said that the Ukrainians had been bombarding the city from the Azot facility. "So it's difficult to call the situation calm at Sievierodonetsk. It is entirely ours."
Luhansk Gov. Serhii Haidai reported Saturday, that the plant caught fire during hours of Russian bombardment.
According to Zelenskyy, Russians were forced out of some areas of the south Kherson region that they had taken early in the war. Moscow installed authorities in Kherson, and other occupied areas along the coast, and offered residents Russian passports. They also broadcast Russian news broadcasts.
Zelenskyy stated that, while an end is not in sight for the war, Ukraine should do all it can to make sure the Russians "regret every thing they have done and that we answer for every killing or strike against our beautiful state."
According to the leader of Ukraine, Russia suffered three times the military casualties than the Ukrainian side. He added: "For what?" Russia, what did it do you? There have been no independent estimates of the war’s death toll.
On Sunday, Gen. Wei Fenghe, the Chinese Defense Minister, stated that Beijing supports peace talks between Russia, Ukraine and China and hopes the U.S., NATO allies, and Russia have discussions to "create the conditions for a quick ceasefire."
Wei stated that China will continue to play an constructive role and contribute to the ease of tensions and a political solution to the crisis.
He suggested that countries supplying weapons to Ukraine were hindering peace and "adding fuel the fire". He also stressed that China did not provide any material support for Russia during the war.
Wei stated that the growth of China-Russia relations was a partnership and not an alliance.
The Institute for the Study of War is a Washington-based think tank that stated in its most recent assessment that Ukrainian intelligence indicated that the Russian military was planning to fight "a longer war".
According to the institute, the deputy head of Ukraine’s national security agency stated that Moscow had extended its war timeline up until October. Adjustments would be made depending upon any success in the Donbas.
According to the think tank, the intelligence "likely suggests that the Kremlin has, in a minimum, admitted it cannot achieve its goals in Ukraine quickly and is further adapting its military objectives in order to correct the initial deficiencies of the invasion of Ukraine."
Rodion Miroshnik (ambassador of the Luhansk People's Republic to Russia) stated Saturday that 300-400 Ukrainian troops were still blocked from the Sievierodonetsk Chemical Plant along with hundreds civilians.
To arrange for the evacuation of civilians, the Russians made contact with Ukrainian troops. However, the troops can only leave if they surrender to the authorities, Miroshnik stated.
Similar conditions prevailed for several weeks in a Mariupol steel mill before an evacuation was ordered and the defending forces were ordered to surrender by the Ukrainian military commanders. Russians took the fighters from the Mariupol plant prisoner.
Pasechnik, the separatist leader from the unrecognized Luhansk Republic, stated that the Ukrainians taking a stand at Sievierodonetsk would be better for their own safety.
He said, "If I were them, then I would already make a decision to surrender." "We will reach our goal in every case. In any case, we will free the industrial zone. In any case, we will free Sievierodonetsk. Lysychansk is ours in every case."
David Rising contributed from Bangkok.
Follow AP's coverage of the Ukraine war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine