Cyprus Mail

Russia reports battlefield advances as Ukraine urges faster military aid

nato defence ministers' meeting in brussels
Finland's Defence Minister Mikko Savola talks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at NATO defence ministers' meeting at the Alliance's headquarters in Brussels

Russia said on Wednesday its troops had broken through two fortified lines of Ukrainian defences on the eastern front, as Kyiv demanded faster supplies of military aid from its allies ahead of a predicted Russian offensive.

The Russian Defence Ministry said the Ukrainians had retreated in the face of Russian attacks in the Luhansk region, although it provided no details and Reuters was not able to independently verify the battlefield report.

“During the offensive … the Ukrainian troops randomly retreated to a distance of up to 3 km (1.9 miles) from the previously occupied lines,” the ministry said on the Telegram messaging app.

“Even the more fortified second line of defence of the enemy could not hold the breakthrough of the Russian military.”

The Kremlin has intensified attacks across a swathe of southern and eastern Ukraine in recent weeks, and a major new offensive has been widely anticipated.

Russia’s main effort has been focused on the town of Bakhmut in Donetsk province adjacent to Luhansk.

The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces did not mention any significant setbacks in Luhansk in its morning update on Wednesday.

It said Ukrainian units had repelled attacks in the areas of more than 20 settlements, including Bakhmut and Vuhledar – a town 150 km (90 miles) southwest of Bakhmut.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Tuesday said Russia was in a hurry to achieve as much as it can with its latest push before Ukraine and its allies gather strength.

“That is why speed is of the essence,” he said as NATO defence chiefs met in Brussels for talks that continue on Wednesday. “Speed in everything – adopting decisions, carrying out decisions, shipping supplies, training. Speed saves people’s lives.”

Bakhmut’s capture would provide a stepping stone for Russia to advance on two bigger cities, Kramatorsk and Sloviansk in Donetsk, giving it momentum after months of setbacks ahead of the first anniversary of the invasion on Feb. 24.

“The situation on the front line, especially in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, remains very difficult. The battles are literally for every foot of Ukrainian land,” Zelenskiy said in his evening address on Tuesday.

Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said there was fighting “around every single house” in Bakhmut. “The situation remains extremely difficult, but under control of our forces and the front line has not moved,” he said in a YouTube video.


Ukraine is using shells faster than the West can make them and says it needs fighter jets and long-range missiles to counter the Russian offensive and recapture lost territory.

The United States and NATO have pledged that Western support will not falter in the face of a looming Russian offensive.

Representatives of the 27 European Union countries meet in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss a new batch of sanctions against Russia, with politicians, military leaders and four more Russian banks expected to be targeted. Any new measures would require the unanimous backing of all EU member states.

German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said supplying Ukraine with fighter jets would certainly be discussed but that it was not a focus at the moment. British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said Western allies could help Ukraine more quickly by supporting their position on the ground rather than focusing on the provision of jets.

Russia, which calls the invasion a “special military operation” to eliminate security threats, said NATO demonstrated its hostility towards Russia every day and was becoming more involved in the conflict. Kyiv and its allies call Russia’s actions an unprovoked land grab.

Russia holds swathes of Ukraine’s southern regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, including its nuclear plant, nearly all of Luhansk and over half of Donetsk. Last year, Russia declared it had annexed the four regions in a move condemned by most United Nations members as illegal.

Russia plans to seize back all the settlements in Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region that it surrendered to Kyiv last year, the head of the Russian-installed administration there said on Wednesday.

The upper chamber of Russia’s parliament will hold an extraordinary meeting on Feb. 22 that will focus on adoption of laws on the integration of four regions into the Russian Federation, RIA Novosti reported citing a senior lawmaker.

A U.S.-backed report published on Tuesday said Russia had held at least 6,000 Ukrainian children – likely many more – in camps in Crimea and Russia whose primary purpose appeared to be political re-education.

Russia’s embassy in Washington said Russia accepted children who were forced to flee with their families from the shelling in Ukraine.

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