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Russia making no headway in Bakhmut, Ukraine says

Ukraine’s forces continue to repel Russian forces from Bakhmut and Avdiivka, Kyiv says, despite a Moscow-installed official’s claim that progress is being made.

March 30, 2023
30 March 2023

Russian forces are relentless in their attempts to capture the bombed-out eastern Ukrainian towns of Bakhmut and Avdiivka but were not making progress, Ukraine’s military says, but a pro-Moscow official says the Russians are advancing.

The two towns along with other communities in the industrial Donetsk region were at the epicentre of Russia’s attacks, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said.

“The enemy continues its assault on the city of Bakhmut. However, our defenders courageously hold the city, repel numerous enemy attacks,” the General Staff said on Wednesday, adding that Ukrainian forces had fended off 57 Russian attacks on Bakhmut and other towns.

Britain’s defence ministry said Russian forces had made only “marginal progress” in an attempt to encircle Avdiivka and had lost many armoured vehicles and tanks.

But Denis Pushilin, the Russian-installed leader of the part of Donetsk region under Moscow’s control, said most Ukrainian forces had pulled back from a metals factory in western Bakhmut and Russian forces were making progress.

Reuters was not able to verify the battlefield accounts.

As advanced Western battle tanks began to arrive in Ukraine ahead of an anticipated counteroffensive by its forces, Russia’s RIA news agency reported that Moscow had sent its troops hundreds of new and refurbished tanks.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who visited two northern towns and trenches near the Russian border on Tuesday, spoke in his nightly video address of the international response to Russia’s February 2022 invasion of his country, saying it “reminds the world that Russian aggression could be ended considerably more quickly than is sometimes said”.

Away from the battlefields of the biggest land conflict in Europe since World War II, Russian ally Belarus said its decision to host Russian tactical nuclear weapons was a response to Western sanctions and what it said was a military build-up by NATO member states near its borders.

US President Joe Biden indicated he would be concerned by the decision although the United States said it had not seen any indications that Russia was closer to using tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

Russia had begun exercises with its Yars intercontinental ballistic missile system and several thousand troops, its defence ministry said, in what is likely to be seen as another attempt by Moscow to show off its nuclear strength.

Russia said on Tuesday it had shot down a US-supplied GLSDB guided smart bomb fired by Ukrainian forces, the first time it has claimed to have intercepted one of the weapons that could double Ukraine’s battlefield firing range.

The Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine is another flashpoint. The head of the UN nuclear watchdog is expected to visit the plant on Wednesday.

Rafael Grossi said in an interview with Reuters that his work on forging an agreement to protect Europe’s largest nuclear power station was still alive.

Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of shelling the site.

Russia calls its invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation”. The war has killed thousands of troops on both sides, tens of thousands of civilians and displaced millions.

The United States and other allies of Ukraine have provided it with weapons and money, describing the invasion as an imperial-style land grab by Russia.

On the diplomatic front, Zelenskiy told the Associated Press in an interview that he had extended an invitation to Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit.

Xi has not talked to Zelenskiy since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February last year but China published a 12-point plan for “a political resolution of the Ukraine crisis” last month.

Xi discussed the conflict with his “dear friend”, Russian President Vladimir Putin, while on a state visit to Moscow last week.

China’s proposal includes a call for a de-escalation and eventual ceasefire in Ukraine but the United States has been dismissive, given that China has declined to condemn Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, and Zelenskiy has said he will only consider peace settlements after Russian troops leave Ukrainian territory.

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