LVIV, Ukraine — As fighting continued to rage in Ukraine on Saturday, with Kyiv making gains in a northeast offensive and Russia mounting a push amid fierce defenses in villages of the eastern Donbas region, senior Ukrainian officials predicted a “new, long-term phase” of fighting to last through much of the summer.
Now in its 80th day, the war hit new flashpoints with the opening of the first war crimes trial of a Russian soldier in Kyiv and a Russian accusation that Ukrainian shelling killed a civilian in a Russian village near the Ukrainian border.
“We are entering a new, long-term phase of the war,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov posted on Facebook. While he welcomed a growing supply of Western arms flowing into his nation, he said he expected “extremely difficult weeks” ahead, adding, “How many there will be? No one can say for sure.”
In an interview on Sky News on Saturday, Ukrainian military intelligence leader Kyrylo Budanov said he expected battles to last through the summer and predicted, perhaps prematurely, a Ukrainian win.
“The breaking point will be in the second part of August. Most of the active combat actions will have finished by the end of this year,” he said.
The comments were spoken as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced that he had met with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in an unannounced visit of the GOP leader to Kyiv, the latest in a string of high-profile U.S. officials, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to have gone to the Ukrainian capital.
The meeting was “a strong signal of bipartisan support for Ukraine from the United States Congress and the American people,” Zelenskyy said on Instagram.
Photos and video also showed Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, John Barrasso, R-Wy., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, to have joined the delegation to Kyiv.
“Thank you for your leadership in helping us in our struggle not only for our country, but also for democratic values and freedoms,” Zelenskyy said.
It was unclear on which day the delegation met Zelenskyy.