Russian forces launched an offensive in eastern Ukraine on Friday, seeking to seize an advantage in the previous months Kyiv’s western allies pledged tanks You start to get to the battlefield.
Ukrainian forces said on Friday that they had repelled Russian attacks on Voldar and several other villages in the eastern Donetsk region in the past 24 hours. Serhiy Chervaty, a spokesman for the armed forces in eastern Ukraine, said fierce fighting had broken out in Voldar, but Russia had failed to break through Ukrainian defences.
The regional military administration said that Russia launched 148 attacks along the front line with Ukrainian forces in the southern Zaporizhia region over the past day, using tanks, missiles and artillery.
The Russian Defense Ministry said it carried out more offensive maneuvers in the past 24 hours in both Zaporizhia and Vohlidar, where it said it launched strikes on the Ukrainian 72nd Brigade and shot down a Ukrainian Su-25 warplane.
Meanwhile, the European Union extended on Friday economic sanctions on Russia for the next six months. The decision affects a range of sanctions imposed last year, from financial penalties on Russian banks and its central bank to export and import bans.
There were concerns that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban might push for a weakening of the sanctions package. In recent months, he has attacked EU sanctions, especially the EU’s oil import ban on Moscow, saying they are more costly for Europe than for Russia. Decisions on sanctions are taken by consensus among the 27 EU member states.
While Hungary has backed away from vetoing renewed economic sanctions, it is pressuring the EU to drop sanctions against several Russian executives blacklisted by the EU, according to several EU diplomats. A decision is scheduled to be taken in March on extending these sanctions.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky discussed the situation in Vohlidar and Bakhmut city In a meeting with army chiefs on Thursday, he said in his evening address.
After months of setbacks, Russian forces earlier this month breached Ukrainian defenses in the east To capture the town of Solidar. This made it difficult for Ukraine to hold neighboring Bakhmut, which had been at the center of the war for several months. The city is central to Russia’s main objective: to capture the rest of Donetsk and the wider industrial region known as Donbass. But the fight is there at great cost for both sides.
“The more Russia loses in this battle for Donbass, the less its overall potential,” said the Ukrainian president. We know what the occupiers are planning. We’re facing it.”
Ukrainian officials warn that Russia is preparing for a renewed offensive this spring after massing some 300,000 men to support its faltering campaign last fall. For Moscow, there is a window before the tanks pledged by Kyiv’s western allies this week arrive in Ukraine, which could turn the battlefield once again.
On Friday, the Russian Defense Ministry said that its forces launched a series of strikes over the past day on Ukrainian military targets and infrastructure that impeded the transfer of weapons, including those from NATO countries, to the front.
Kyiv’s allies are rushing to assemble two battalions of Leopard 2 tanks from a group of European countries after Germany and the United States. Committed to providing their own tanks. The initial contingent is expected to arrive in Ukraine within three months.
Poland, which has been at the forefront of pushing for increased military support for Ukraine, said on Friday it would send 60 upgraded T-72 tanks – half of them Polish-made PT-91 Twardy tanks – in addition to contributing 14 Leopards. .
The United States also pledged 31 M1 Abrams tankBut those will take longer to get to Ukraine because they are being bought by the defense industry rather than drawn from existing US defense stocks.
Mr. Zelensky urged Western countries to speed up the delivery of tanks and train Ukrainian forces in their use as Russia regains the initiative.
Russian officials said the tanks would not change the dynamics on the battlefield and would only escalate the war.
The German and American tank clauses were not escalatory and were intended to help Ukrainians defend themselves, rather than make them attackers, Stefano Sannino, Secretary General of the EU’s European External Action Service, said during a visit to Japan. Mr. Senino said that the decision to supply them comes in response to the Russian escalation, accusing Moscow of launching indiscriminate attacks on civilians and cities.
The British Ministry of Defense said that the tanks will enable Ukraine to destroy enemy tanks, and will provide greater protection and support for joint operations.
In assessing recent Russian claims of progress, the UK Ministry of Defense said Russian forces likely carried out local attacks, probing near Voldar in the east and Orekhev in the Zaporizhia region, but that Russia had not made significant gains.
The ministry said that Russian military sources deliberately spread disinformation in an attempt to suggest that the Russian operation is maintaining momentum.
— Lawrence Norman and Thomas Grove contributed to this article.
Write to Isabel Coles at [email protected]
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