Russia Declares Battlefield Gains as Ukraine Seeks Faster Military Aid

KIEV—Russia on Wednesday said it had breached two reinforced Ukrainian defense lines on the Eastern Front.

The Russian Defense Ministry said Ukrainians had withdrawn in the face of Russian attacks in the Luhansk area, but did not give details and Reuters was unable to independently verify this or other battlefield reports. rice field.

“During the attack…Ukrainian forces have randomly retreated to a distance of up to 3 kilometers (2 miles) from previously occupied front lines,” the ministry said on Telegram’s messaging app.

“Even the enemy’s more fortified second line of defense could not hold the Russian breakthrough.”

The ministry did not specify which areas of Luhansk province where the attacks took place.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Kiev forces had repelled a Russian offensive in Luhansk, but added that “the situation in the region remains difficult.”

Luhansk governor Serhiy Hayday said Russia is deploying heavy equipment and mobilizing troops to Luhansk.

“The attacks are coming in waves from different directions,” said Haidai. “(But) those who spread the information that our defense forces have withdrawn across the administrative border (in Luhansk) – this does not correspond to reality.”

Six Russian balloons that may have carried reconnaissance equipment were shot down over Kiev on Wednesday after air raid sirens blared in the capital, the capital’s military junta said.

“The purpose of the balloon may have been to detect and deplete our air defense systems,” he said on the messaging app Telegram. Russia did not immediately comment.

Russian offensive

The Kremlin has stepped up its offensive across southern and eastern Ukraine in recent weeks, and major new attacks are widely expected.

The main Russian effort is centered on the town of Bakhmut in Donetsk Oblast, which borders Luhansk.

Serhiy Cherevatyi, spokesman for Ukraine’s Eastern Army Command, told Ukrainian TV on Wednesday that heavy fighting was taking place in Bakhmut.

Ukrainian forces said they had repulsed Russian attacks in more than 20 settlements, including Vkhredal, a town 150 kilometers (90 miles) southwest of Bakhmut.

Bakhmut’s capture would provide a springboard for Russia’s advances in two large cities, Kramatorsk and Sloviansk in Donetsk, gaining momentum ahead of the one-year anniversary of the invasion on 24 February.

Ukraine is using artillery shells faster than the West can manufacture and says it needs fighter jets and long-range missiles to counter Russian attacks and reclaim lost territories.

ukrainian soldier
A Ukrainian soldier stands on top of a tank outside the frontline town of Bakhmut during a Russian offensive against Ukraine on February 14, 2023 in the Donetsk region of Ukraine. (Yevhenii Zavhorodnii/Reuters)

“Abrasion War”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said alliance members were increasing production of 155mm artillery shells and that they needed to boost that further to support Ukraine. He added that it was “obvious” not to.

“Yes, things are happening, but they have to continue and they have to step up. It’s becoming a war of attrition right now, (this is) a war of logistics,” he said in Brussels. told reporters after a meeting of NATO defense ministers.

The European Union’s head of foreign policy, Josep Borrell, urged countries to join Germany and send “as many tanks as soon as possible”.

“We know that the EU Armed Forces have hundreds of tanks and some of them need to be upgraded, but by spring it will be too late,” Borrell told Germany’s Phoenix broadcaster. , the renovation needs to be done quickly,” he said.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said after a meeting in Brussels that Ukraine was very likely to take the initiative and “use” it on the battlefield this year.

Austin said of all the new systems that NATO will provide to Kiev, it will train its troops. “We are focused on making sure we deliver functionality, not just the platform.”

Britain said it and other European countries would provide Ukraine with military equipment, including spare parts for tanks and artillery shells, through international funds.

Russia owns the southern regions of Kherson and Zaporizhia, including nuclear power plants, almost all of Luhansk, and more than half of Donetsk. Last year Russia declared it had annexed four of her territories, condemned as illegal by most UN member states.

Russia is also aiming to recapture settlements in northeastern Kharkiv that surrendered to Kiev last year, the Russian-installed chief executive said Wednesday.