A major new Russian offensive has begun, said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Ahead of a two-day meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels, Stoltenberg said Russia was sending “more troops, more weapons, more capabilities.” NATO was planning to increase its ammunition stockpile targets and he expected a possible delivery of planes to Ukraine to be discussed. Stoltenberg said Ukraine’s ammunition consumption is “several times greater than our current production rate.”
Ukrainian defenders, who have been holding out for months, are braced for fresh ground attacks, Ukrainian military officials said. The eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut is facing heavy artillery shelling, according to local officials. “The city, the city’s suburbs, the entire perimeter and essentially the entire Bakhmut and Kostyantynivka direction are under crazy, chaotic shelling,” said Volodymyr Nazarenko, deputy commander of Ukraine’s Svoboda Battalion. According to the Ukrainian military, 16 settlements near Bakhmut were bombed.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked Ukrainian soldiers for “preventing the occupiers from encircling Bakhmut”. Capturing Bakhmut would give Russia a new foothold in the Donetsk region and mark a rare victory after months of setbacks.
Ukraine’s top general and the US Army Europe’s top commander have discussed further military aid to Kiev. Valeriy Zaluzhnyi of Ukraine spoke with the Commander-in-Chief of NATO’s European combined forces, US General Christopher Cavoli, ahead of the NATO defense ministers’ meeting. “We discussed the issue of supplying international military aid to Ukraine and training our units on the territory of partner countries,” the Ukrainian Defense Ministry quoted Zaluzhnyi as saying.
Ukraine’s allies have started training Ukrainian troops on the Leopard 2 and other modern main battle tanks. Germany on Monday began training Ukrainian soldiers on the Leopard at an army base in the northern city of Munster. Ukrainian troops are also being trained by Polish, Canadian and Norwegian instructors at a military base in Swietoszow in south-west Poland.
Two Dutch F-35 fighters intercepted and escorted a formation of three Russian military planes over Poland. The Dutch Defense Ministry said: “The then unknown aircraft was approaching from Kaliningrad from the Polish NATO area of responsibility,” according to a Portal translation of the ministry’s statement. “After identification, it turned out to be three aircraft: a Russian IL-20M Coot-A escorted by two Su-27 flankers. The Dutch F-35s escorted the formation from afar and handed the escort over to NATO partners.”
Moldova’s President Maia Sandu has accused Russia of plotting to use foreign saboteurs to overthrow her country’s government, prevent it from joining the EU and use them in the war against Ukraine. Sandu’s comments on Monday came after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said his country had intercepted Russian intelligence plans “to destroy Moldova” – this was later confirmed by Moldovan intelligence officials.
According to Norway’s secret services, Russia will become “more authoritarian and militarized” in the coming years believes. “There is no turning back,” said Lars Nordrum, second in command of Norwegian intelligence. “Russian interests will not be compatible with those of the West.”
Russian arms shipments to India have been worth $13 billion over the past five years and India has placed orders for a further £10 billion. according to Russian state media. India is the world’s largest buyer of Russian arms, accounting for about 20% of Moscow’s current order book. India has not condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called for dialogue and diplomacy to resolve the conflict.
An unverified video has been circulating on social media that appears to show the sledgehammer murder of a former Russian mercenary who was fleeing the Wagner group while fighting in Ukraine. The clip is similar to the one that showed the killing of another Wagner fighter, Yevgeny Nuzhin, in November last year. Wagner’s founder declined to say whether or not the apparent victim had been killed.
The UN human rights office said it had recorded 7,199 civilian deaths and 11,756 wounded since the Russian invasion in February, mainly through shelling, missiles and airstrikes. However, he believed the actual number was far higher.