EU defense chiefs discuss arming Ukraine
KIEV – EU defense ministers were preparing to meet on Wednesday to discuss a plan to bring €1 billion worth of ammunition to Ukraine amid mounting pressure on Kiev’s allies to step up supplies for its war effort.
Ukraine’s critical ammunition shortage will be high on the agenda of the Stockholm meeting, where European leaders will try to replenish the thousands of 155mm howitzer shells that Kiev’s armed forces are using every day in the fight against a grueling launch a Russian offensive.
Fighting is raging around the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned that if the city were to fall, Moscow would be given an “open road” for offensives deeper into his country.
“We understand that they could go further after Bakhmut. They could go to Kramatorsk, they could go to Sloviansk, it would be an open road for the Russians to Bakhmut to other cities in Ukraine, towards Donetsk,” Zelenskyi told CNN in an interview aired in the United States on Wednesday .
During a visit to Canada on Tuesday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen underscored Europe’s determination to repel Russian aggression.
“We will never accept a military power with imperial fantasies rolling its tanks across an international border,” von der Leyen said in a speech to Canada’s parliament.
But a report published Tuesday in the New York Times that claims US officials have seen new information suggesting a “pro-Ukrainian group” was behind last year’s sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipelines could be among the allies raise difficult questions.
Senior Ukrainian official Mykhailo Podolyak dismissed the report, saying the country had “nothing to do with the Baltic Sea mishap”.
– Battle for Bakhmut –
The Russian army vowed on Tuesday to seize Bakhmut – a salt-mining town with a pre-war population of 80,000.
The intense fighting surrounding the city has been the longest and bloodiest in the more than year-long invasion of Russia that has devastated parts of Ukraine and displaced millions.
Ukraine said it had identified a soldier who went missing in the area and was shot dead in a video that sparked outrage on social media and as UN chief Antonio Guterres traveled to Kiev for talks.
Footage shows what appears to be a detained Ukrainian militant standing in a shallow ditch, smoking and being shot after saying “Honour to Ukraine.”
Russia seems intent on capturing the city at all costs.
“The capture of (Bakhmut) will allow further offensive operations deep into the defense lines of Ukraine’s Armed Forces,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told military officials during a televised meeting on Tuesday.
The Russian mercenary group Wagner has led the attack on Bakhmut, and its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is embroiled in a rift with the Russian military leadership, appeared to mock Shoigu, saying he “didn’t see” him near the battlefield. .
Zelenskyy told CNN that his forces were determined to remain in Bakhmut.
“I had a meeting yesterday with the chief of staff and top military commanders online and offline… and they all (say) we have to stay strong in Bakhmut,” he said.
“Of course we have to think about the life of our military. But we must do what we can while we get weapons and supplies and our army prepares for the counteroffensive.”
– tanks from Poland –
Prigozhin estimated that between “12,000 and 20,000” Ukrainian troops were still defending the city.
He said that while “very fierce fighting goes on day and night,” Ukrainian militants “do not run away.”
Ukraine received a boost on Tuesday when its western neighbor and staunch ally Poland said it would send 10 promised Leopard tanks this week.
Both sides have said the Bakhmut battle cost a significant number of troops, although no figures were given.
Outside the city, a Ukrainian soldier told AFP that Kiev was losing control.
“Bakhmut will fall,” said an exhausted soldier Monday in the town of Chasiv Yar, ten kilometers west of the front line.
Some units have begun to withdraw in “small groups,” he said.
Ukrainian officials say around 4,000 civilians remain in the city, which has been virtually leveled.
“About 38 children remain in Bakhmut, as far as we know,” Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk told regional media on Tuesday.
– Belarus detains sabotage group –
Amid fears that Moscow-allied Belarus, Ukraine’s northern neighbor, could enter the conflict, Minsk on Tuesday accused Kiev’s intelligence services of being behind a partisan plot to damage a Russian military plane in the country last month.
Longtime leader Alexander Lukashenko said 20 people had been arrested in connection with the attack on the plane. Regime opponents said partisans damaged the jet on an airstrip near the capital Minsk last month.
Lukashenko identified the main culprit as a Russian-Ukrainian citizen.
Lukashenko, who a year ago allowed his Russian ally Vladimir Putin to use Belarusian territory as a launch pad for his invasion of Ukraine, said the alleged perpetrator was a “terrorist”.
Source: Crypto News Deutsch