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Ukraine, Outgunned in the East, Is Turning Up the Pressure on Europe for Help

June 13, 2022 Updated Mon., June 13, 2022 at 1:20 p.m.

By Steven Erlanger The New York Times

BRUSSELS — The incremental but seemingly relentless Russian advance in eastern Ukraine is placing mounting pressure on Western leaders to speed up arms deliveries that could help Ukraine regain momentum on the battlefield and forge a cohesive strategy on when and how Ukraine should pursue negotiations with Moscow to end the war.

With Russian forces poised to take the battered city of Sievierodonetsk and closing in on Lysychansk, they are close to completing their slow and bloody occupation of the Luhansk region, one of the two provinces of the Donbas in eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials, running out of Soviet-era ammunition in the east and losing more soldiers to Russian shelling, have repeatedly called for more and faster delivery of more modern NATO-country artillery and weapons systems.

As Western leaders consider further military aid, the war in the east will largely depend on how fast and in what quantities these heavy weapons arrive, and how quickly Ukrainian soldiers can be taught how best to use them.

The leaders of three of Europe’s largest countries — France, Germany and Italy — are planning their own trip to Kyiv before the Group of 7 summit later this month — perhaps as early as this week, European officials say.

While confirmation and specific dates are being kept secret for security reasons, such a visit would be the first there since the war began for President Emmanuel Macron of France, Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany and Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy. Each has raised questions about how to bring the warring sides to serious negotiations about ending the war.

All have also said that it is up to the democratically elected leaders of Ukraine to decide how and when to enter such negotiations, and all have provided significant financial and military support to Kyiv and supported tough sanctions on Russia.

But in their own ways, they worry that a long war will bring in NATO countries and even lead President Vladimir Putin to escalate what has been a brutal but conventional campaign. And many in Europe are eager to find a way, even if a temporary cease-fire, to get Ukrainian grain and foodstuffs back into the world market.

Those competing concerns have raised hackles in Kyiv and in the capitals of Central and Eastern Europe about how committed these countries truly are to beating back Russia.

Macron in particular has twice said that it was important not to “humiliate Russia,” which has angered Ukrainians and his European colleagues in Central and Eastern Europe. They believe that this war is about more than Ukraine and that Russia’s ambitions to overthrow the European security order must be met with defeat, not a cease-fire.

Under questioning, a spokesperson for Macron said anonymously that France wants Ukraine to be victorious — but Macron has never said those words. And while Scholz, who is criticized for not supplying more arms to Ukraine and faster, says that Russia must not win, he has never said Ukraine must achieve victory.

Draghi, for his part, has broken with an Italian tradition of closeness to Moscow by strongly supporting Ukraine, even for membership in the European Union, a subject Macron has said is unrealistic for decades.

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