Ukraine will send reinforcements to besieged city of Bakhmut, Zelensky says

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The Ukrainian military will send reinforcements to the besieged city of Bakhmut, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in remarks overnight, belying earlier reports that Ukrainian forces might be preparing a retreat. Russia, for its part, is hoping a seizure of the city will mark its first major battlefield gain in more than six months and offer a stepping stone for recapturing the surrounding Donbas region. Follow our live blog for the latest updates on the war in Ukraine. All times are Paris time (GMT+1).

11:15am: Ukraine plans reinforcement of defences in Bakhmut 

Ukrainian troops will keep defending the eastern city of Bakhmut and reinforcements are on their way, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an overnight address, apparently in a bid to outlast Moscow’s assault on the city.

Ukrainian forces had been digging trenches further west and in recent days had seemed to be preparing a withdrawal to preserve their forces and fight elsewhere. 

But Zelensky’s remarks suggest Kyiv has elected to stay and fight on, apparently convinced that Russia’s losses were far greater than those of the Ukrainian troops defending the city.    

Ukraine’s military command on Tuesday reported a record 1,600 Russians killed over the previous 24 hours. Those figures, which could not be independently confirmed, might be behind Ukraine’s renewed push for the city. While the siege of Bakhmut had previously been led by Wagner units formed mainly of released convicts, Ukrainian sources believe Russia is now committing higher value troops to the fight, giving Ukraine more reason to fight on. 

The battle for Bakhmut has also exposed a rift between the Russian military and Wagner mercenaries, whose boss Yevgeny Prigozhin has in recent days accused Russia of withholding ammunition from his men.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday that the capture of Bakhmut was key to launching a further offensive in the wider Donetsk region. “This city is an important defensive hub for Ukrainian troops in Donbas. Capturing it will allow for further offensive operations deep into the defence lines of the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” Shoigu said during a televised meeting of military officials.

6:00am: Ukraine investigates alleged Russian shooting of prisoner of war

Ukraine has launched a criminal investigation into what prosecutors said was Russia’s “brutal and brazen shooting of an unarmed person” depicted in a video seen on social media, the country’s top prosecutor said on Monday.

The 12-second video, which rapidly amassed shares on Twitter, shows an apparently unarmed man in a uniform with a Ukrainian flag insignia on his arm standing and smoking a cigarette in a wooded area.

The man says “Slava Ukraini!” – or, “Glory to Ukraine” – before multiple shots are heard. The man slumps to the ground as bullets appear to hit his body. A voice is heard saying, “Die, Bitch” in Russian.   

4:15am: China says an ‘invisible hand’ is prolonging the conflict in Ukraine

The Ukraine crisis seems to be driven by an invisible hand pushing for the protraction and escalation of the conflict, China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang said on Tuesday, while calling for dialogue to begin as soon as possible.

An “invisible hand” is “using the Ukraine crisis to serve certain geopolitical agendas”, Qin said on the sidelines of an annual parliamentary meeting in Beijing. 

Qin also said Beijing has not provided weapons to either side of the Ukraine conflict, amid loud warnings from US officials of unspecified “consequences” for China if it should send lethal aid to Russia.

In later remarks on Qin’s comments, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the US was to blame for the conflict, saying Washington “does not want this war to end”. 

“Here we can probably disagree with our Chinese comrades. This is, of course, a joke. You know what the joke is: this is not an invisible hand, this is the hand of the United States of America, this is the hand of Washington,” Peskov told reporters.

2:00am: Ukraine has retrieved 307 children from occupied territories

Ukraine has retrieved 307 children from Russia-occupied territories, the country’s human rights ombudsman said on Monday, including an 8-year-old boy who was recently reunited with his grandmother. 

“At the end of February, the office of the Commissioner for Human Rights received a request to help bring back a child who was in the territory temporarily occupied by Russia,” Dmytro Lubinets, the ombudsman, said on the Telegram messaging platform.

Ukraine’s authorities estimate that more than 16,000 children have been deported to Russia since the start of the war. Russia denies the accusations, insisting it has been evacuating people voluntarily from Ukraine.


© France Médias Monde graphic studio

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP & Reuters)

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