Key Ukrainian troops are locked in a “bitter” confrontation with Russian forces attempting to take Vougledar, southwest of Donetsk in Ukraine.
Ukrainian troops are locked in a “bitter” confrontation with Russian forces trying to capture Vougledar, southwest of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, where fighting has intensified in recent days. “Soon, Vougledar could become a very important new success for us,” Denis Pushilin, head of the Moscow-appointed Donetsk region, said on Friday. Both sides have claimed victory, but Kyiv says the city remains contested.
The spokesman for the Ukrainian army for the eastern zone, Serguiy Tcherevaty, confirmed “fierce fighting” but assured that the Russians had been repulsed. 150km from Bakhmout, the mining town of 15,000 before the Russian invasion, “serious, brutal” clashes erupted and Russian troops were “deployed to the southeast and east of the town,” a pro-Russian official said Authorities of the eastern Donetsk region, Ian Gagin.
Intensifying Russian attacks
“The enemy is indeed trying to succeed in this sector, but thanks to the efforts of the Defense Forces of Ukraine, they are not succeeding,” he said on TV. “The enemy is exaggerating, and that is an understatement, its success,” he continued, concluding: “In the face of its casualties, the enemy is retreating”. “The encirclement and future liberation” of this place will “change the balance of forces at the front” by paving the way for an offensive on the more northerly places of Pokrovsk and Kurakhové, judged Donetsk separatist leader Denis Pushilin.
Ukraine said this week that outnumbered Russian troops had stepped up attacks in the east, particularly on Vougledar and Bakhmout, which had been their targets for months. And a new Russian offensive is being prepared for February 24, exactly a year to the day after Russia invaded Ukraine, said Oleksii Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s Defense and National Security Council.
“They are now preparing for maximum activation (…) and believe that they will achieve some success by the anniversary,” he said on Radio Svoboda. This new offensive wave in preparation for February 24 “is no secret,” he added. According to the Institute for the Study of War, Russia is trying to “disperse” Ukrainian forces to “create the conditions for a decisive offensive operation.”
Russian soldiers and men from the Wagner paramilitary group recently captured Soledar north of Bakhmout, a first success in many months and a series of setbacks for the Kremlin. “The Russians are advancing, there’s constant shooting day and night, they’re trying to find weaknesses in our defenses,” Yuri, a 44-year-old Ukrainian soldier, told AFP in a trench in Bachmout. Also to the east, in Chassiv Iar, two people were killed and at least five injured in Russian artillery fire on Friday, local authorities said.
Further north, in the Kharkiv region, shelling of the village of Dvoritchna left two more dead, the Ukrainian presidency said. According to the same source, the southern city of Kherson was also attacked by Russian shells. Russia has mobilized hundreds of thousands of reservists and convicts to try to break through Ukrainian lines and conquer the rest of Donbass, a vast industrial area in eastern Ukraine.
60 more Polish tanks
In this regard, President Zelensky welcomed the decision announced by Poland to supply his country with 60 additional tanks, half of which will be a modernized version of the Soviet T-72, after the already promised 14 German-made Leopard 2s. At the same time, has committed the Belgian government to provide new funds to Ukraine, in particular for the supply of missiles, machine guns, ammunition and armored vehicles.
Ukraine’s Air Force decided on Friday that the American-made F16 could be “the best candidate” to become “the only type” of multi-role aircraft in its fleet, according to its spokesman Yuri Ignat. The Ukrainian president is demanding fighter jets and long-range missiles, as many weapons as the West has so far refused.
For its part, the European Union decided to extend its sanctions against Russia by six months when it annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014, and is preparing new measures against Moscow. French President Emmanuel Macron, on the other hand, emphasized on Friday that he would continue to “talk to Russia”. Volodymyr Zelensky also denounced the “hypocrisy” of the International Olympic Committee which, despite repeated calls from Kyiv to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from the Paris 2024 Olympics, said the IOC on Wednesday was “studying” the possibility of allowing them to participate approve a neutral banner. He invited his leader, Thomas Bach, to visit Bakhmout, one of the hottest points in the war with Russia, “to see with my own eyes that neutrality does not exist.”