- City of Bakhmut under attack again – Ukrainian army
- Zelenskiy consults with top Defense officials
- The US is preparing a $2.2 billion arms package for Ukraine
KYIV, Feb. 1 (Reuters) – Russian forces are making increasing gains in their bid to seize territory in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk province, focusing on the town of Bakhmut north of the regional capital.
After finally persuading NATO countries to provide modern main battle tanks, the government of President Volodymyr Zelensky is now lobbying hard with some of Ukraine’s neighbors and Western allies to provide fighter jets.
After a meeting with Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu said in Paris that “there was no taboo” on supplying Kiev with fighter jets.
The United States and Britain have so far rejected the idea, but reiterated their willingness to continue military support to Ukraine that Russian forces invaded in February 2022 in what Moscow called a “special military operation” to protect Russian security and protect Russian speakers. The invasion has killed thousands of civilians, uprooted millions and left cities in ruins.
More recently, Russia has characterized the conflict as confronting what it says is an aggressive and expansionist US-led NATO military alliance.
View 2 more stories
The West has so far refused to send weapons that could be used to strike deep into Russia, fearing a wider conflict, though Moscow has condemned recent Western promises of weapons as provocations.
The United States, which has provided Ukraine with about $27.2 billion in military aid since Russia’s invasion, is preparing a $2.2 billion package of additional aid. That is expected to offer longer-range Kiev missiles and other munitions and weapons for the first time, two US officials told Reuters about the matter on Tuesday.
RUSSIA TARGE BAKHMUT AREA
Ukrainian defenders in Bakhmut again came under fire, as did Klishchiivka and Kurdyumivka, villages on the southern entrance to the city, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in a statement Tuesday night.
Bakhmut suffered relentless bombardment for months, as Russian forces resorted to the same destructive tactics they used to take two towns further north – Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk – in June and July.
Russian troops made no progress on Tuesday in efforts to advance on Avdiivka, the second focal point of Russian attacks in the Donetsk region, the Kiev military general staff said.
Russian forces also attempted to advance near Lyman, a town further north in the Donetsk region that was recaptured by Ukrainian forces in October, the army said.
Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said on YouTube that Russian troops in the area were regrouping and bringing conscripts into what he called a “transporter of death.”
“We are doing as much damage as possible and they are forced to deploy fresh troops to continue the constant attacks on our forces,” he said.
“Conscripts can’t keep up with the pace of previous attacks… Their physical abilities are not up to the task and their motivation is a lot weaker.”
Russia reached further west in Donetsk by firing on the town of Vuhledar and half a dozen other towns and villages, the Ukrainian army said. Vuhledar is about 148 km (90 mi) southeast of the main fighting in and around Bakhmut.
The British Ministry of Defense said the Russian force in the new Vuhledar attack was at least the size of a brigade, a unit usually made up of several thousand troops.
In the neighboring Luhansk region, a planned Ukrainian advance had been delayed and an attack to liberate the town of Svatovo had been postponed due to bad weather, the military commander in the sector, Yuri Federenko, told Espreso TV.
Wagner mercenaries and “special forces dressed in Ukrainian uniforms” who spoke Ukrainian were active in the area, he said.
Reuters could not immediately verify the situation there or other battlefield reports.
In Washington, the United States said Russia is violating the New START nuclear arms control treaty between the two countries. US President Joe Biden’s administration is eager to preserve the treaty, but ties with Moscow are the worst in decades following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“Russia’s refusal to facilitate inspection activities prevents the United States from exercising important rights under the treaty and threatens the viability of US-Russian nuclear arms control,” a State Department spokesman said.
Also in Washington, former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a staunch supporter of military aid to Ukraine, met with Republican lawmakers. The Republicans took over the House of Representatives from the Democrats early this year and some hardline members among them have called for an end to US (military) aid to Ukraine, which is worth tens of billions of dollars.
“My mission is to show that Ukraine will win — and that there is no reason to delay in continuing to support Ukrainians to win this year,” Johnson said in a statement.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will discuss Russia’s war in Ukraine with Chinese officials during a Feb. 5-6 trip to China, the White House said Tuesday.
A week after appearing to open the door for Russia and Belarus to compete in the 2024 Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it is sticking to sanctions imposed on the countries over the Russian invasion from Ukraine.
Reporting by Reuters agencies; writing by Grant McCool and Stephen Coates; Edited by Cynthia Osterman and Simon Cameron-Moore
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Principles of Trust.