Russians tighten noose on Ukrainian Bakhmut, Putin warns of Western espionage

KIEV—Russian forces launched a multi-week operation on Tuesday to encircle and capture the city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine. The commander of the Ukrainian Ground Forces described the situation as “very tense”.

The capture of Bakhmut, the site of some of the bloodiest battles of the war, would pave the way for Russia to capture the last remaining urban center in the Donetsk region. The Donetsk region is one of his four allegations that Moscow annexed it in a “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday instructed the FSB Security Service to step up security in four regions. Putin also directed Ukraine and the West to counter growing espionage and sabotage against Russia.

He said the Russian regional governor said a drone had crashed near a natural gas supply station in an apparently failed attack near the town of Kolomna, just 110 kilometers (68 miles) southeast of Moscow on Tuesday. told later.

Ukraine has not publicly claimed responsibility for the attacks inside Russia. If that was behind the Kolomna incident, it would be the closest attempted drone strike to the Russian capital since the conflict began more than a year ago.

Russia’s defense ministry earlier accused Ukraine of attempting two drone strikes overnight against two regions in southern Russia, but said no damage was done.

Around Bakhmut, Russian forces, including mercenary fighters from the Wagner Group, are trying to cut off the Ukrainian garrison’s supply lines and force them to surrender or withdraw.

Ukrainian General Oleksandr Shirsky said in a statement: “Despite heavy losses, the enemy threw in Wagner’s best-prepared assault force. They tried to break through our defenses and encircle the city. There is,” he claimed.

Russian state news agency RIA has released a video clip showing a Russian Su-25 fighter roaring over Bakhmut. “We’re glad they’re ours,” said the man in the clip, who identified himself as a Wagner fighter, adding that the jets helped them “psychologically.”

The Ukrainian military said Russia was shelling settlements around Bakhmut, which had a population of about 70,000 before the war.

Replenished with hundreds of thousands of conscripts, Russia has stepped up its offensive along the Eastern Front, but the offensive has come at a high price, Ukraine claims.

Putin urges caution

In Moscow, Putin told officials of the FSB (Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation) to stop “sabotage groups” from invading Russia from Ukraine, to strengthen the protection of critical infrastructure, and to ensure that he was not a terrorist or a radical. Western efforts to revive what he called sects must be stopped, he said. Russian cells.

“Western intelligence services have traditionally always been active in Russia and are now throwing additional personnel, technology and other resources at us,” Putin said.

“We have to respond accordingly,” he added.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reiterated Moscow’s position that it is open to peace talks, but Kiev and its western allies have been forced to move to Donetsk, Luhansk and Kherson following the referendum last September. , Zaporizhia must accept Russia’s annexation of four regions of Ukraine in Kiev and the West said it was illegal.

“The Constitution of the Russian Federation exists and cannot be ignored. Russia can never compromise on this and these are important realities,” Peskov told reporters.