Western-made weapons are starting to tell on the battlefields of eastern Ukraine as US-donated howitzers obliterate Russian tanks in the raging battle for Severodonetsk.
A video released by Ukraine’s military shows artillery fire destroying a tank and two BMP infantry fighting vehicles as deadly precise shells rain in on them from up to 25 miles away.
Artillerymen of the 81st Airmobile Brigade were operating the US-donated, British-built M777 howitzer on the front lines around the eastern city of Severodonetsk in the Luhansk region.
The United States has already donated more than 100 howitzers to Ukraine, with a further 18 – and tactical vehicles to tow them along with ammunition – included in the latest tranche of military aid valued at $1 billion.
With the recent Ukrainian admission that they are losing 100 men a day, mostly due to concentrated fire by the superior Russian creeping artillery barrages, potent NATO weapons are absolutely essential for the smaller nation to stay in the fight and defend their territory.
In a separate video released by Ukrainian forces last month celebrating the much-loved US howitzers, the words ‘From America with love’ can be seen scrawled along the barrel of one M777.
Pictured: A M777 howitzer artillery cannon. The United States has already donated more than 100 howitzers to Ukraine, with a further 18 – and tactical vehicles to tow them along with ammunition – included in the latest tranche of military aid valued at $1 billion
Ukrainian forces last month released a video celebrating the much-loved US howitzers, the words ‘From America with love’ can be seen scrawled along the barrel of one M777
With the recent Ukrainian admission that they are losing 100 men a day, mostly due to concentrated fire by the superior creeping Russian artillery barrages, potent NATO weapons are absolutely essential for the smaller nation to stay in the fight and defend their territory
A video released by Ukraine’s military shows artillery fire destroying a tank and two BMP infantry fighting vehicles as deadly precise shells rain in on them from up to 25 miles away
Artillerymen of the 81st Airmobile Brigade were operating the US-donated, British-built M777 howitzer on the front lines around the eastern city of Severodonetsk in the Luhansk region
Severodonetsk and Lysychansk are located in the east of Ukraine in the Luhansk region, where the fighting is fiercest
‘My guys know the value of artillery,’ Commander in Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Valery Zaluzhnyi said in the video description.
The M777 can fire as far as 25 miles and is capable of striking within 10 yards of a target when coupled with the M982 Excalibur precision guided munition.
This range is significantly greater than Russia’s primary artillery systems, the 2S19 self-propelled howitzer and D-30 towed guns.
The fiercest fighting in Ukraine is centred around the now largely-destroyed population centre of Severodonetsk, which straddles the Donets River.
Moscow has been trying to seize the city of 100,000 for a number of weeks.
Ukrainian troops holed up in a chemical plant in Severodonetsk have been told to lay down their arms and surrender as Russia makes further ground in the Donbas.
More than 500 civilians and an unknown number of soldiers are trapped inside the Azot factory after sheltering from a Russian bombardment.
‘Now the most fierce battles are near Severodonetsk. They (Russia) do not control the city entirely,’ the governor of the eastern Lugansk region, Sergiy Gaiday, said on Telegram.
‘In nearby villages there are very difficult fights – in Toshkivska, Zolote. They are trying to break through but failing,’ he said, adding that Ukrainian forces were ‘fighting Russians in all directions.’
Gaiday said there was ‘more destruction’ at the besieged Azot chemical plant in Severodonetsk, where he said 568 people were sheltering, including 38 children.
He also said Lysychansk – a Ukrainian-controlled city across a river from battered Severodonetsk – is being ‘heavily shelled’.
Lysychansk residents were preparing to be evacuated.
‘We’re abandoning everything and going. No one can survive such a strike,’ said history teacher Alla Bor, waiting with her son-in-law Volodymyr and 14-year-old grandson.
‘We are abandoning everything, we are leaving our house. We left our dog with food. It’s inhumane but what can you do?’
In light of the difficult military situation in the east, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed Brussels’ support for Kyiv’s European Union bid as a historic achievement.
The European Commission spearheaded a powerful show of solidarity on Friday by backing Ukraine for EU candidate status, an endorsement that could add it to the list of countries vying for membership as early as next week.
All 27 leaders must back Ukraine’s candidacy at a Brussels summit next week but the heads of the bloc’s biggest members – France, Germany and Italy – gave full-throated support to the idea during a highly symbolic visit to Kyiv this week.
Even though EU membership could still be years away, Zelensky called the decision a ‘historic achievement’ and said it would ‘certainly bring our victory closer’ against Russia.
The European Union today gave its blessing to Ukraine and its neighbour Moldova to become an official candidate to join the bloc – with EU Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen announcing the move wearing blue and yellow (pictured) – a show of support for Ukraine
Mr Zelensky and French president Emmanuel Macron shared an awkward embrace as EU leaders visited Ukraine yesterday
Emmanuel Macron, dressed impeccably in his trademark dark suit, flashed a smile as he posed for cameras and clasped Zelensky’s hand on Thursday. But the Ukraine’s Churchillian leader simply scowled at the floor, evidently displeased with the posturing
‘Ukrainian institutions maintain resilience even in conditions of war. Ukrainian democratic habits have not lost their power even now,’ Zelensky said in a video address.
On Friday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen made her support of clear by donning a striking outfit in Ukraine’s national colours in blue and yellow.
‘We all know that Ukrainians are ready to die for the European perspective. We want them to live with us for the European dream,’ she said.
Russian state television meanwhile aired social media videos of two US military veterans who went missing last week while fighting alongside the Ukrainian army, stating they had been captured by Russian forces.
US President Joe Biden had said on Friday he did not know the whereabouts of Alexander Drueke and Andy Huynh, after their relatives lost contact with the pair.
The missing Americans – including a third identified as a former US Marines captain – are believed to be part of an unknown number of mostly military veterans who have joined other foreigners to volunteer alongside Ukrainian troops.
Ukrainian civilian volunteers however continue to sign up, with a group performing military exercises on Friday in fortified positions left by Russian troops in Bucha, a town synonymous with war crimes blamed on Moscow’s forces.
‘Most of those who are here aren’t soldiers. They’re just civilians who want to defend their country – 50 percent of them have never held a weapon until today,’ a sergeant known as ‘Ticha’ told AFP.
Moscow has warned Western countries against getting involved in its ex-Soviet neighbour, saying it invaded to ‘de-nazify and de-militarise’ a country that was getting too close to the West.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said he had ‘nothing against’ Ukraine joining the EU, saying it was ‘their sovereign decision to join economic unions or not’ – unlike the security risk he sees in Kyiv joining NATO.
Alexander Drueke, 39, left, and Andy Huynh, 27, appeared terrified in footage released by Russian forces where they identified themselves and denounced war. They men went missing last week after their platoon in Ukraine was ambushed by Russian soldiers
An undated photo of the two veterans, Drueke, (left) and Huynh (right), was uploaded on the Telegram messaging app on Thursday, a day before the video went up
But he said European Union membership would turn Ukraine into a ‘semi-colony’ of the West.
Putin also insisted that the Russian invasion was not the cause of global inflation and grain shortages, blaming Western sanctions that he said threatened starvation ‘primarily in the poorest countries’.
Moscow then turned up the pressure on Western allies by sharply reducing flows of natural gas in its pipelines to western Europe, driving up energy prices in a region dependent on Russian gas.
Boris Johnson pictured with Volodymyr Zelensky during his visit to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv yesterday
Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra (pictured) won the event in Turin, Italy, in May with their song ‘Stefania’, meaning traditionally Ukraine should host next year’s event
France’s network provider said it had not received any Russian gas by pipeline from Germany since June 15, and Italy’s Eni said it expected Russian firm Gazprom to cut its supplies by half on Friday.
Ukraine was meanwhile battling on another front – the right to host next year’s Eurovision song contest after its morale-boosting win this year.
Kyiv condemned a decision by organisers to move the 2023 version of the world’s biggest live music event on security grounds, possibly to Britain.
‘We will demand to change this decision, because we believe that we will be able to fulfil all the commitments,’ Ukrainian Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko said.