Friday, February 17, 2023

Since Russia anticipates Bakhmut's conquest by April, missiles pound Ukraine

Missiles hammer Ukraine as Russia eyes Bakhmut's capture by April

 KYIV: According to Kyiv, Russia struck Ukraine's largest oil refinery on Thursday and fired missiles across the country. Meanwhile, the head of the Wagner mercenary group predicted that the long-encircled city of Bakhmut would take weeks, if not months, to fall.

According to the Ukrainian Air Force, Russia fired 36 missiles in the early hours, following a pattern of heavy bombardments following battlefield or diplomatic victories for Ukraine.

Officials from the NATO alliance had discussed plans for more military equipment for Kyiv the day before, and after their leaders met on Thursday, Britain and Poland agreed that support should be increased in the coming weeks.

The Russian missiles caused air raid sirens to sound and landed all over Ukraine, including the Kremenchuk refinery, where the extent of the damage was unknown. The Air Force added that about 16 planes were shot down, a lower rate than usual.

Ukraine claimed that its air defenses were unable to shoot down three KH-31 missiles and one Oniks anti-ship cruise missile in the barrage.

In its evening report, its general staff stated that Russia had also shelled over two dozen eastern and southern settlements.

Reuters was unable to independently confirm the battlefield reports and there was no word from Moscow regarding the missile strikes or shelling.

A new pro-Western government was approved by Moldovan parliament on Thursday, and police said they found missile debris near the Ukraine-Moldova border.

In the meantime, Belarus stated that it would only fight alongside its ally in the event of an attack because it allowed Russia to use its territory to send troops into Ukraine at the beginning of the war.

Russia has intensified its ground attacks in southern and eastern Ukraine, supported by tens of thousands of reservists. As the first anniversary of its invasion on February 24 approaches, a significant new offensive appears to be taking shape.

The conflict has displaced millions, destabilized the global economy, destroyed Ukrainian cities, and killed tens of thousands of people.

According to Germany, an unprecedented 1.1 million Ukrainian migrants arrived in the year 2022 alone, exceeding the previous record high.

"Their bodies are just piled up" Russia's current focus is the small city of Bakhmut in Donetsk, which is one of two regions that make up the Donbas, the industrial heartland of Ukraine that Russia is now partially occupying.

Russia has been pounding Bakhmut for months in battles commanded by the Wagner group and bolstered by prison recruits. The majority of its 70,000 inhabitants prior to the war have left, leaving Ukrainian soldiers rooted in.

The Russians are deploying a large number of troops. Taras Dzioba, the press officer for the Ukrainian 80th Air Assault Brigade, stated, "I don't think that is sustainable for them to continue attacking in this way."

Their bodies are just piled up in some places. They simply do not evacuate their dead or wounded in a trench.

Dzioba spoke to Reuters outside of a defensive bunker close to the Bakhmut front lines, near a Howitzer battery.

Russia would use its capture as a stepping stone to advance on Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, two larger Donetsk cities further west. However, Ukraine and its allies contend that Russia has suffered losses and that seizing Bakhmut would be a futile victory due to the lengthy process.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Wagner, said in an interview with a military blogger who supports the war that Bakhmut would fall by April, depending on how many Ukrainian soldiers Ukraine sent into the fight and how well his men were fed.

"Because there are numerous issues that require resolution. Naturally, it will also depend on whether or not we continue to be bled," he continued, referring to the end of recruits for prisoners.

According to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's chief of staff, the two sides claimed to have exchanged 101 prisoners of war, with the majority of Ukrainian returnees having served as defenders of Mariupol prior to the besieged southern city's fall to Russian forces in May.

The general staff of Ukraine claimed that Russia was mobilizing homeless and drug addicts in the city. That assertion could not be verified by Reuters.

Zelenskyy said that stopping Russian attacks, preparing for their escalation, and getting ready for a possible Ukrainian counter-offensive were his top priorities in his nightly video address.

He stated, "The priority for the near future is holding the situation at the front and preparing for any enemy steps of escalation."

Israel's approach?

Nato members are increasing production and promising more during this week's meetings in Brussels as Ukraine rapidly consumes munitions and demands more powerful weapons like tanks and fighter jets.

Aid to Zelenskyy's army has already been substantial. Since the conflict began, $27.4 billion has been spent solely by the United States.

Ukraine has been advised by senior US officials to postpone its planned counteroffensive until the most recent supply of US weapons is in place and training has been provided.

Russia has portrayed deliveries of heavy weapons to Ukraine as evidence that the West is escalating the war, describing the invasion as a "special military operation" against security threats.

Russia's actions are called a land grab by Kyiv and its allies.

Diplomats stated in Brussels that nations of the European Union were "on good track" to adopt a tenth package of economic sanctions against Moscow in time for the anniversary of the invasion.

The first such trip by Israel's Foreign Minister Eli Cohen to Ukraine during the war was to coordinate with Russia over strikes on alleged Iranian targets in Syria but not to pledge arms to Kiev.

Cohen stated on Twitter that Israel would support Ukraine's reconstruction and increase its aid to the country.

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