Ukrainian troops inside Bakhmut in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine (DW)
Map: Institute for the Study of War
UPDATE 1354 GMT:
A Moscow court has formally arrested Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich on espionage charges.
The court ordered Gershkovich, an American citizen, to be held in pre-trial custody until May 29.
The journalist told the court that he was not guilty. His lawyer was not allowed to attend the hearing.
UPDATE 0908 GMT:
US citizen Evan Gershkovich, a correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, has been arrested by the Russian State security service FSB.
The FSB said Gershkovich was detained in Yekaterinburg on suspicion of espionage. The service claimed that “acting on the instructions of the American side, [he] carried out the collection of information constituting a state secret about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex”.
The correspondent faces a sentence of up to 20 years if convicted.
In #Yekaterinburg, The Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich disappeared, local media reports.
— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) March 30, 2023
Gershkovich has lived in Russia for six years and worked in The Wall Street Journal’s Moscow bureau. His last article for the newspaper, “Russia’s Economy is Starting to Come Undone“, was published on Tuesday.
The next day, security forces reportedly detained a man near the Bukowski Grill restaurant in Yekaterinburg, pulling a sweater over his head. Public relations specialist Yaroslav Shirshikov suggested that the man was Gershkovich. He said the journalist had been working on an article about the attitude of the city’s residents towards the Wagner Group mercenaries and the Russian “special operation” in Ukraine.
Shaun Walker of The Guardian notes that Gershkovich may have been seized as leverage for Russian authorities to get back their intelligence operatives.
He notes the declaration of Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov that, while the arrest was “a matter for the FSB”, he understood Gershkovich had been “caught red-handed”.
Last week in Slovenia was told high-level negotiations underway on an exchange for two deep-cover Russian illegals arrested there. But that they had stalled for unclear reasons. Well, now Russia has another American to trade.
— Shaun Walker (@shaunwalker7) March 30, 2023
UPDATE 0757 GMT:
A court in St. Petersburg, Russia has sentenced amateur archaeologist Oleg Belousov to 5 1/2 years in prison for “spreading fakes about the Russian army” and calling for extremist activities.
Belousov’s “crime” was to post in a group on the Russian social networking site VKontakte: “Putin is traitor Number One, plunderer of the country, and a war criminal”; “Who started these murders? Putler”; and “Russian speaking cities like Kharkov, Mariupol, and others could be destroyed”.
His lawyer said Belousov never made the posts and prosecutors attributed words to him that were from others.
Belousov, who is disabled and is the sole caregiver for his disabled son, told the court:
I’m not a rapist, or a thief, or a nazi. I’m from a family which survived the Siege of Leningrad [from 1941–1944]. My grandfather died during the siege. My grandmother was left with three children. The oldest was a pilot. He died in 1942, defending the skies above Ukraine.
I know what war is, my grandmother, my mother, and my older sister brought me up to dislike aggression and lies. I’m simply a civilian with no militaristic ambitions, against war and the destruction of cities. I lived wishing ill on no one, and worked on rehabilitating my disabled son. I don’t believe my actions constitute crimes. I ask you to acquit.
UPDATE 0747 GMT:
Alexei Moskalyov — the single parent condemned by Russian authorities to two years in a penal colony because of pictures by his 12-year-old daughter — has reportedly been seized in Minsk in Belarus.
Maria Moskalyov depicted Moscow’s bombing of a family standing under a Ukrainian flag and another with the slogan “Glory to Ukraine!”.
Alexei, 54, was placed under house arrest and Maria was taken into a State shelter last month.
After the sentence was announced earlier this month, Russian officials said they could not locate Alexei. He reportedly was tracked down when he turned on his mobile phone in the apartment in which he had taken sanctuary.
The Commission on Juvenile Affairs is demanding that Alexei be deprived of parental rights. A court hearing is scheduled for April 6.
On Wednesday, Alexei’s lawyer posted a letter in which Masha told her father, “Everything will be fine and we will be together. You are my hero.” She ended with the English inscription “I Love You” and “My Hero” inside a heart.
ORIGINAL ENTRY: The Ukraine General Staff said on Wednesday that Russian mercenaries have had “partial success” in the 10-month assault on Bakhmut in the Donetsk region.
But the Ukrainian military emphasized that its forces still hold part of the city in the east of the country.
After finally seizing the eastern part of Bakhmut with relentless “human wave” attacks, the Wagner Group mercenaries have been stalled for weeks at the Bakhmutka River within the city. Ukrainian forces in the western area controlled a “killing zone” hindering a further advance, and Wagner Group head Yevgeny Prigozhin complained about a lack of ammunition.
Ukraine, US, and UK analysts all assessed that Russian conventional forces had shifted their focus to Avdiivka, about 90 km (56 miles) to the south, but were continuing to suffer heavy losses in personnel and armor.
However, on Tuesday Russian military bloggers claimed that Wagner mercenaries had captured the AZOM industral complex in Bakhmut, assertions supported by geolocated images and a visit by a correspondent of the Russian State outlet RIA Novosti. There is also combat footage near the Palace of Culture and central market area.
The US-based Institute for the Study of War assesses that Russian forces have taken about 5% of Bakhmut in the past week and occupy about 65% of the city.
The Ukrainian military said that troops turned back “several” Russian assaults inside Bakhmut on Wednesday, amid more than 60 attacks repelled in 24 hours.
— ISW (@TheStudyofWar) March 30, 2023