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Russia vows to conquer Bakhmut and more

KIEV: Russia vowed on Tuesday to take the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, the epicenter of bitter fighting for months, as a precursor to offensives deeper into eastern Ukraine.

The intense fighting in the east comes as Ukraine said it had identified a soldier filmed being shot in a video that sparked outrage on social media, and as UN chief Antonio Guterres headed to Ukraine for talks in Kiev travelled.

The battle for the salt-mining town, which had a population of 80,000 before the war, was the longest and bloodiest of the more than year-long invasion of Moscow that has devastated parts of Ukraine and displaced millions.

Ukraine vowed on Monday to strengthen its defenses in Bakhmut, but a Ukrainian soldier near the town also told AFP that the armed forces are preparing for a fall against the Russians and that some units have started withdrawing.

“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.

In Kiev, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the army was determined to defend Bakhmut despite an alleged retreat under pressure from Russian forces that have been trying to capture Bakhmut for months.

“I told the chief of staff to find the right people to help the boys in Bakhmut,” Zelenskyy said late Monday evening in his address to the nation.

“Bachmut will fall”

Ukraine’s presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak told AFP there was “consensus” within the military on the need to “continue defending the city.”

Both sides have said that the Battle of Bakhmut cost a significant number of troops, but neither gave figures.

Russia’s Wagner mercenary group led the attack on Bakhmut. 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.

A US-based institute said over the weekend that Ukrainian forces “are likely to conduct a limited tactical withdrawal from Bakhmut.”

Ukrainian officials say around 4,000 civilians remain in the city, which has been virtually leveled.

Belarus detains sabotage group

“About 38 children remain in Bakhmut, as far as we know,” Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk told regional media on Tuesday.

In Moscow-ally Belarus, longtime leader Alexander Lukashenko accused Ukrainian intelligence agencies of a conspiracy in which he said more than 20 people had been arrested in connection with an attack on a Russian military plane.

Regime opponents said last month partisans damaged a Russian plane on an airstrip near the capital Minsk.

“More than 20 accomplices who are in Belarus have been arrested. The rest are in hiding,” Lukashenko said, identifying the main culprit as a joint Russian and Ukrainian citizen.

He confirmed that the A-50 plane was attacked, but claimed it “did not sustain any significant damage.”

Lukashenko has been in power since 1994 and a year ago allowed his Russian ally Vladimir Putin to use Belarusian territory as a launch pad for his invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine also said on Tuesday that it had identified a soldier who was filmed being shot dead, in a video that circulated widely on social media, sparking outrage.

Killing video goes viral

Footage shows what appears to be a detained Ukrainian militant standing in a shallow ditch, smoking and being shot after saying “Honour to Ukraine.”

The sentence of the alleged Ukrainian soldier is trending on social media. Senior officials in Kiev blamed Russian forces and called for justice.

“According to preliminary data, the deceased is a soldier of the 30th separate mechanized brigade – Tymofiy Mykolayovych Shadura,” said the Ukrainian military.

The soldier had been missing since February 3.

AFP could not independently verify where or when the footage was filmed, or whether — as Ukrainian officials and social media users have suggested — it showed a Ukrainian prisoner of war.

On Monday, Zelenskyy said the video showed Russian forces “brutally killing” a Ukrainian soldier. “We will find the killers,” he swore.

Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, traveled to Ukraine to meet Zelenskyy on his third trip since the Russian invasion, a UN spokesman said.

Source: Crypto News Deutsch

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