Russia continues campaign for Donetsk; Ukraine wants fighter jets By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Javelin anti-tank missiles are displayed on a production line as U.S. President Joe Biden tours the Lockheed Martin weapons factory in Troy, Alabama, U.S., May 3, 2022. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

By Tom Balmforth and Dan Peleschuk

Kyiv (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 convincing NATO countries to supply modern battle tanks, the government of President Volodymyr Zelensky is now lobbying hard for some of Ukraine’s neighbors and Western allies to supply fighter jets.

In Paris after a meeting with Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu said there was “no taboo” about supplying Kiev with fighter jets.

The United States and Britain have so far rejected the idea, but reiterated their willingness to continue military support for Ukraine, which Russian forces invaded in February 2022 in what Moscow called a “special military operation” to protect Russian security and Russian speakers. language. The invasion killed thousands of civilians, displaced millions and reduced cities to rubble.

Recently, Russia has characterized the conflict as one with what it says is an aggressive and expansionist NATO military alliance led by the US.

The West has so far refused to send weapons that could be used to strike deep inside Russia for fear of starting a wider conflict, although Moscow has denounced recent Western promises of weapons as provocations.

The United States, which has provided Ukraine with about $27.2 billion in military aid since the Russian invasion, is preparing an additional $2.2 billion aid package. It is expected to offer Kiev longer-range missiles and other munitions and weapons for the first time, two US officials briefed on the matter told Reuters on Tuesday.


Ukrainian defenders in Bakhmut came under renewed fire, as well as Klishchiivka and Kurdyumivka, villages on the southern approaches to the city, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in a statement on Tuesday evening.

Bakhmut endured months of relentless bombardment, as Russian forces resorted to the same destructive tactics they used to capture two towns further north – Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk – in June and July.

Russian forces made no progress on Tuesday in their attempts to advance towards Avdiivka, another focal point of Russian attacks in the Donetsk region, Kiev’s military headquarters said.

Russian forces also tried to advance near Lyman, a town further north in the Donetsk region that was recaptured by Ukrainian forces in October, the military said.

Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said on YouTube that Russian forces in the area were regrouping and bringing conscripts into what he called a “conveyor belt of death.”

“We inflict as much damage as possible and they are forced to bring in new forces to continue their constant attacks on our troops,” he said.

“Conscripts cannot keep up with the pace of previous attacks… Their physical abilities are not up to the task, and their motivation is much weaker.”

Russia reached further west into Donetsk, shelling the town of Vuhledar and half a dozen other towns and villages, the Ukrainian military said. Vuhledar is about 148 km (90 mi) southeast of the main battles in and around Bakhmut.

The British Ministry of Defense said the Russian forces in the new attack on Vuhledar were at least the size of a brigade, a unit that usually consists of several thousand soldiers.

In the neighboring Luhansk region, the planned Ukrainian advance has been slowed and the attack to liberate the city of Svatovo has been delayed due to bad weather, the military commander in the sector, Yuriy Federenko, told Espreso TV.

Wagner’s mercenaries and Ukrainian-speaking “special forces dressed in Ukrainian uniforms” were active in the area, he said.

Reuters could not immediately verify the situation there or other reports from the battlefield.


In Washington, the United States said Russia was violating the New START nuclear arms control treaty between the two countries. US President Joe Biden’s administration has been keen to preserve the deal, but ties with Moscow are at their worst in decades because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Russia’s refusal to allow 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 providing military aid to Ukraine, met with Republican lawmakers. Republicans took over the House of Representatives from Democrats earlier this year, and some hardline members among them have called for an end to tens of billions of dollars in US military and other aid to Ukraine.

“My mission is to show that Ukraine will win – and that there is no conceivable reason to delay further support for the 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 visit to China on February 5-6, the White House said on Tuesday.

A week after appearing to open the door for Russia and Belarus to compete at the 2024 Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it stood by sanctions imposed on those countries over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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