Ukraine readies counteroffensive as Russia advances in Bakhmut

Ukraine readies counteroffensive as Russia advances in Bakhmut

The Ukrainian military was preparing Sunday for a counterattack in Bakhmut after more than seven months of fighting in the region, a top commander has said. Ukraine’s foreign minister has urged Germany to speed up supplies of ammunition and to start training Ukrainian pilots on Western fighter jets. Read our live blog to see how all the day’s events unfolded. All times are Paris time (GMT+1).

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8:07pm: More than 1,100 Russian dead in less than a week in Bakhmut, says Zelensky

Russian forces suffered more than 1,100 dead in less than a week of battles near the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, the focal point of fighting in eastern Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday.

“In less than a week, starting from 6th March, we managed to kill more than 1,100 enemy soldiers in the Bakhmut sector alone, Russia’s irreversible loss, right there, near Bakhmut,” Zelensky said in his nightly video address.

He said Russian forces had also sustained 1,500 “sanitary losses” – soldiers wounded badly enough to keep them out of further action. Dozens of pieces of enemy equipment were destroyed as were more than 10 Russian ammunition depots.

7:54pm: Moldova police say they foiled Russia-backed unrest plot

Police in Moldova said they foiled a plot by groups of Russia-backed actors who were trained to cause mass unrest during a Sunday protest against the country’s new pro-Western government.

The head of Moldova’s police, Viorel Cernauteanu, said in a news conference that an undercover agent had infiltrated groups of “diversionists,” some Russian citizens, who allegedly were promised $10,000 to organize “mass disorder” during the protest in the capital, Chisinau. Seven people were detained, he said.

Separately, police said they arrested 54 protesters, including 21 minors, who exhibited “questionable behavior” or were found to be carrying prohibited items, including at least one knife.

The protest Sunday is one of several held in recent weeks organized by a group calling itself Movement for the People, which is backed by Moldova’s Russia-friendly Shor Party, which holds six seats in the country’s 101-seat legislature.

5:24pm: The Ukrainian army decided to defend Bakhmut for ‘strategic reasons’

FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Kyiv Emmanuelle Chaze reports that although the Ukrainian army has “decided to stay and defend Bakhmut for strategic reasons”, there have been losses that are deeply felt. Thousands of mourners, including Ukraine’s armed forces chief, knelt on Kyiv’s main square on Friday at the funeral of a “repected and loved” war hero nicknamed “Da Vinci”, who was killed by Russians in the battle for Bakhmut.

3:34pm: Swiss president defends neutrality, Ukraine arms ban

Swiss neutrality is more important than ever, President Alain Berset said in an interview published Sunday, defending the controversial ban on transferring Swiss-made arms to Ukraine.

“Swiss weapons must not be used in wars,” he told the NZZ am Sonntag weekly.

The long tradition of neutrality has been hotly debated since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

While the wealthy Alpine country, which is not a member of the European Union, has followed the bloc’s lead on sanctions targeting Moscow, it has so far shown less flexibility on its military neutrality.

Despite pressure from Kyiv and its allies, Switzerland has continued to block countries that hold Swiss-made weaponry from re-exporting it to Ukraine.

To date, requests from Germany, Spain and Denmark have ben rejected under the War Materiel Act, which bars all re-export if the recipient country is in an international armed conflict.

11:54am: ‘No confirmed advances’ for Russian troops in Bakhmut, says US think tank

Russia’s advance seems to have stalled in Moscow’s campaign to capture the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, a leading think tank said in an assessment of the longest ground battle of the war.

The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said there were no confirmed advances by Russian forces in Bakhmut. Russian forces and units from the Kremlin-controlled paramilitary Wagner Group continued to launch ground attacks in the city, but there was no evidence that they were able to make any progress, ISW said late Saturday.

Ukraine: USA’s ‘The Study of War’ think tank

The report cited the spokesperson of the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ Eastern Group, Serhii Cherevaty, who said that fighting in the Bakhmut area had been more intense this week than the previous one. According to Cherevaty, there were 23 clashes in the city over the previous 24 hours.

10:05am: Situation in Bahkmut ‘very, very difficult’ for Ukrainian troops

Ukraine‘s commander in chief says the situation in Bakhmut is “increasingly difficult” after more than seven months of fighting in the region, FRANCE 24’s Emmanuel Chaze reports.

While Russia’s Wagner group has made unverified claims of gains in region, “one thing is for sure: the situation is very, very difficult for Ukrainian troops,” Chaze added.

7:39am: Russians living in richest cities ‘relatively unscathed’ by high casualties of war toll says UK intelligence

Russian casualties of war are concentrated among people living in east Russia while wealthier families based in Moscow and St Petersburg are “relatively unscathed” the British Ministry of Defence said on Sunday. In some cases, ethnic minority groups are disproportionately impacted, it added.

“In many of the Eastern regions, deaths are likely running, as a percentage of population, at a rate 30+ times higher than in Moscow. In places, ethnic minorities take the biggest hit; in Astrakhan some 75% of casualties come from the minority Kazakh and Tartar populations,” it said in a Tweet.

5:08am: Ukraine readies for counteroffensive commander says, as Russia advances in Bakhmut

The Ukrainian military was preparing Sunday for an upcoming counteroffensive, with a top commander saying his forces’ ongoing defence of Bakhmut in the face of fierce and sustained Russian attacks was necessary to “buy time” for that push.

Some military experts have questioned the sense of continuing to hold the city, but the commander of Ukraine’s ground forces argued his case. Colonel-General Oleksandr Syrsky, said on Saturday, “It is necessary to buy time to build reserves and launch a counteroffensive, which is not far off.

In a video released on Saturday, Yevgeny Prigozhin, chief of Russian mercenary group Wagner, said that his forces were close to the administrative centre of the city.

Standing on the rooftop of a high-rise building in what is said to be Bakhmut, Prigozhin is seen pointing towards a building in the distance.

“This is the building of the town administration, this is the centre of the town,” he said, clad in full military gear. “It is one kilometre and two hundred metres away.”

12:00am: Ukraine urges Germany to speed up ammunition supplies and train pilots

Ukraine’s foreign minister urged Germany in an interview published on Sunday to speed up supplies of ammunition and to start training Ukrainian pilots on Western fighter jets.

Dmytro Kuleba told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that ammunition shortages were the “number one” problem in Ukraine’s attempt to repel Russia’s invasion.

He said German weapons manufacturers had told him at the Munich Security Conference last month they were ready to deliver but were waiting for the government to sign contracts.

“So the problem lies with the government,” Kuleba was quoted as saying.

Kuleba made it clear he did not expect Western allies to give Ukraine the fighter jets it has been asking for any time soon. But he said Ukrainian pilots should be trained anyway, so they will be ready once that decision was taken, the paper reported

If Germany were to train Ukrainian pilots, that would be a “clear message of its political engagement”, he added.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP & Reuters)

Originally published on France24

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Author: Shirley