Ukraine 'can win' war, says Nato chief as huge military exercise gets under way in Estonia

16 May 2022, 08:54 | Updated: 16 May 2022, 09:38

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg has said Ukraine "can win" the war against Russia as 14 countries and 15,000 troops take part in a huge military exercise in Estonia.

The alliance's general secretary told reporters following a meeting of Nato foreign ministers in Berlin: "Russia's war in Ukraine is not going as Moscow had planned. They failed to take Kyiv.

"They are pulling back from Kharkiv and their major offensive in Donbas has stalled."

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Deputy secretary general Mircea Geoana reiterated this, saying: "The brutal invasion of Russia is losing momentum.

"With significant support from allies and partners in billions of dollars, in military support, in financial support, humanitarian support, we know that with the bravery of the Ukrainian people and army and with our help, Ukraine can win this war."

It comes as 15,000 Nato troops from 14 countries are involved in an exercise dubbed 'Hedgehog' near the Russian border in Estonia.

It is one of the largest military drills in the country since 1991.

"Exercises like these show that Nato stands strong and ready to protect our nations and defend against any threat," a spokesperson for the alliance said.

Finland's president Sauli Niinisto confirmed his country intends to apply to join Nato, with Sweden expected to follow suit.

The Finnish Parliament is expected to endorse the decision in coming days, to be followed by the submission of a formal membership application next week.

Mr Stoltenberg said, if the two Nordic nations did apply, it would be a "historic moment".

"Their membership in Nato would increase our shared security, demonstrate that Nato's door is open, and that aggression does not pay," he said.

Boris Johnson, who visited both countries last week, has said the UK would strongly support their applications.

British military intelligence said on Monday that Russia may have lost a third of the invasion force it sent into Ukraine as its offensive continues to struggle.

In its latest assessment, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the Russian campaign in the east of Ukraine had "lost momentum" and was now "significantly behind schedule".

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said it was essential to maintain support for the government in Kyiv to help it "push Russia out".

She said in a statement: "(President) Putin must face a sustained defeat in Ukraine, Russia must be contained and such aggression must never happen again.

"Ukraine's security must come from it being able to defend itself. Allies must support Ukraine's move to Nato-standard equipment, immediately providing artillery, training and the required expertise."

The Russians switched the focus of their offensive to the eastern region of the Donbas - which was already part-held by pro-Moscow separatists - after their advance on Kyiv was driven back.

However, the MoD said despite small-scale initial advances, they had failed to make any substantial territorial gains over the past month while suffering "consistently high levels of attrition".

It said the offensive was being further hampered by the loss of "critical enablers" such as bridging equipment and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance drones.

"Russia has now likely suffered losses of one third of the ground combat force it committed in February," it said.

"Russian forces are increasingly constrained by degraded enabling capabilities, continued low morale and reduced combat effectiveness.

"Many of these capabilities cannot be quickly replaced or reconstituted and are likely to continue to hinder Russian operations in Ukraine.

"Under the current conditions, Russia is unlikely to dramatically accelerate its rate of advance over the next 30 days."