A Ukrainian counter-attack on Russian tanks trying to advance near Vuhledar in eastern Ukraine
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Wednesday’s Coverage: US — Russia Unlikely To Advance in 2023
Map: Institute for the Study of War
UPDATE 1932 GMT:
The head of Russia’s Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, is falsely claiming that his mercenaries are in the center of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine.
But the video he posted of his fighters has been geolocated to a position 1.2 km (0.75 miles) from the city center — the same location where the mercenaries have been for weeks.
The clip shows uniformed men placing a Wagner banner atop a heavily damaged building. One man is dancing and holding a guitar.
Prigozhin said, “The lads are mucking about, shooting home video. They brought this from Bakhmut this morning, practically the centre of the city.”
UPDATE 1400 GMT:
As expected, China and Russia have blocked a statement by the G20 nations in Delhi condemning the Ukraine war.
Last week 18 of 20 G20 members agreed on condemnation. However, objections from China and Russia prevented any communiqué. Instead, India issued a chair’s statement.
The outcome was repeated on Thursday. Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, said there were “divergences” on the issue of the war in Ukraine “which we could not reconcile as various parties held differing views”.
UPDATE 1258 GMT:
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has used the G20 summit in Delhi to give three messages to Russian Foreign Minister in a 10-minute encounter.
Blinken emphasized Washington’s support for Ukrainian defence “as long as it takes”. He called for Moscow to reverse its decision to suspend participation in the New START nuclear treaty and to release detained US citizen Paul Whelan.
A US official said:
We always remain hopeful that the Russians will reverse their decision and be prepared to engage in a diplomatic process that can lead to a just and durable peace, but I wouldn’t say that coming out of this encounter there was any expectation that things will change in the near-term.
Lavrov did not mention the meeting. However, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said,
Blinken asked for contact with Lavrov. On the go, as part of the second session of the G20, Sergey Viktorovich (Lavrov) talked. There were no negotiations.
UPDATE 1253 GMT:
Russian State media says Ukrainian forces have entered Russia’s Bryansk region, forcing Vladimir Putin to cancel a trip to Stavropol in the North Caucasus in the southwest of the country.
Bryansk Governor Alexander Bogomaz said the Ukrainians “entered two villages, there is a battle going on” in the area north of Ukraine. Tass said “saboteurs attacked both Lyubechan and Sushany”.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed the cancellation of Putin’s trip “due to the situation in the Bryansk region”.
UPDATE 0900 GMT:
The toll from Russia’s missile strike destroying an apartment block in Zaporizhzhia city (see 0639 GMT) has risen to three dead and seven wounded, including a pregnant woman.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said, “The terrorist state wants to turn every day for our people into a day of terror. But evil will not reign in our land. We will drive all the occupiers out and they will definitely be held accountable for everything.”
First Lady Olena Zelenska tweeted:
Zaporizhzhia bravely resists ru-aggressor. In retaliation, it attacks civilians. A high-rise building was deliberately hit last night. 3 floors are completely destroyed, people died. We continue to search under the rubble. My condolences to the victims. We will not forgive this. pic.twitter.com/b0t2WCKuLG
— Олена Зеленська (@ZelenskaUA) March 2, 2023
UPDATE 0804 GMT:
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner Group mercenaries, has asked the Russian Parliament to exempt him from punishment over “discrediting” Moscow’s invasion.
Prigozhin appealed to the speaker of the Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin, for immunity over his “constructive criticism” of Russia’s top military officials.
The Wagner Group head had suggested the amendment to the law against “discrediting the military”, saying it was necessary to punish public criticism of his “volunteers”.
But Prigozhin, engaged in a battle for influence with the Russian Defense Ministry and military commanders, has accused the “monstrous bureaucracy” of undermining his mercenaries as they fight in eastern Ukraine. He has even said some commanders and officials are traitors.
EA on Australia’s The World: Ukraine War — Yevgeny Prigozhin and the Battle Inside Moscow
UPDATE 0750 GMT:
Russia’s Investigative Committee has opened a criminal case against Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, a founding member of the band Pussy Riot, for “insulting religious sensibilities”.
Human rights lawyer Pavel Chikov said a series of police searches were carried out because of Tolokonnikova’s posts on social media.
Tolokonnikova, who lives in the US, was designated a “foreign agent” by Russian authorities in 2021. She was among the original members of Pussy Riot sentenced to two years in prison over a 2012 performance in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral, which criticized the Russian Orthodox Church for its close ties to President Vladimir Putin.
UPDATE 0734 GMT:
The US, European Union, and UK are pressing the United Arab Emirates to stop exporting critical electronic components to Russia, saying these can be used to build weapons.
“Sources familiar with the talks” say Western diplomats have been visiting the UAE to “clarify a wide range of their trade restrictions” to cut off supplies to Russia. Among the emissaries are James O’Brien, head of the US office of sanctions co-ordination; EU sanctions envoy David O’Sullivan; and David Reed, director of the UK’s sanctions directorate,
“Our main request [to the UAE] is that they stop re-exports [and] acknowledge that they are problematic,” one Western official said. “The discussion is ongoing.”
O’Brien explains, “Part of the message for the private sector — in any of these countries — is that they’re playing roulette. Anyone who’s trading in these goods, they now are subject to sanctions because some of the goods they ship are showing up on the battlefield.”
Western countries are requiring UAE authorities to disclose the list of goods that have already been delivered to Russia.
The Free Russia Foundation says the export of electronic components from the UAE to Russia in 2022 increased more than seven times to reach almost $283 million. Abu Dhabi exported 15 times more microchips, from $1.6 million to $24.3 million, to Russia in a year.
In early February, the US warned the UAE and Turkey that their economic and financial ties with Russia are hindering pressure on Moscow to end its invasion of Ukraine.
UPDATE 0646 GMT:
Russia has officially informed the US of its suspension of the New START agreement to limit strategic nuclear weapons.
Vladimir Putin announced the suspension in his 105-minute address to the Russian Parliament on February 20.
“I think it is fair to say that what we have learned from that diplomatic note did not tell us anything we didn’t already know from the public statements that have emanated from Moscow,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Wednesday.
He called the Russian action “unfortunate” and “irresponsible”: “Russia is not better off in a world where the two largest nuclear powers are no longer engaged in bilateral arms control.”
UPDATE 0639 GMT:
At least two people have been killed in a Russian missile strike on a five-story apartment block in Zaporizhzhia city in southern Ukraine.
Rescuers are searching for survivors under the rubble of the “almost completely destroyed” building.
The regional military administration says Russia apparently used an S-300 missile.
Russian invaders launched a missile attack on a residential building in #Zaporizhzhia. People are under the rubble. pic.twitter.com/AF7SceWU1p
— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) March 2, 2023
UPDATE 0616 GMT:
A team of international lawyers has concluded
that Russian torture centers in Kherson city in southern Ukraine were not “random”. Instead, they were planned and directly financed by the Russian State in a “calculated plan to terrorize, subjugate, and eliminate Ukrainian resistance and to destroy Ukrainian identity”.
The Mobile Justice Team investigated 20 torture chambers in Kherson, liberated in November after eight months of occupation. Evidence has been taken from more than 1,000 survivors as more than 400 people have vanished from Kherson.
The Team concluded that they were part of .
The head of the investigation, UK lawyer Wayne Jordash, said:
The mass torture chambers, financed by the Russian state, are not random but rather part of a carefully thought-out and financed blueprint with a clear objective to eliminate Ukrainian national and cultural identity.
The centers were run by the Russian State security service FSB, the Russian prison service, and local collaborators. It was designed to subjugate, re-educate, or kill Ukrainian civic leaders; activists; journalists; civil servants; teachers; and those who criticized the invasion. Some detainees were stopped randomly on the street and seized over “pro-Ukrainian” material on their phones.
The detainees, male and female, were beaten, given electric shocks, and waterboarded. They were forced to learn and recite pro-Russian slogans, poems, and songs.
ORIGINAL ENTRY: Ukrainian officials and troops have describe how Russian forces lost at least 130 tanks and armored personnel carriers in their failed attempt to seize Vuhledar in the southern Donetsk region in east Ukraine last month.
The sources and witnesses described an “epic” three-week battle — the largest tank confrontation of the Russian invasion so far — on a plain near the town.
As the Russians advanced in columns, the Ukrainian maneuvered to fire from a distance or from concealed positions. Anti-tank teams hid in tree lines along fields, armed with US infrared-guided Javelins and Ukrainian laser-guided Stugna-P missiles. Behind them were artillery batteries and howitzers. While the dirt road was free of mines, the adjoining fields were sown with them. US-made HIMARS rockets were summoned to destroy one stationary Russian column.
“We studied the roads they used, then hid and waited” to said, said a Ukrainian sergeant.
Witnesses have described the Russians losing at least 30 tanks in one disastrous foray. The elite 155th naval infantry, consisting of about 500 troops, was annihilated.
Drone footage showed the armored vehicles blown up on mines, artillery, or anti-tank missiles. Their carcasses are scattered on farmland around Vuhledar.
Analysts say the Russians entered the battle with a lack of experienced tank commanders and with many newly-mobilized, poorly-trained soldiers. One captured soldier was a medic who had been reassigned to operate a tank.
The invaders lost so much armor that they switched by last week to only infantry attacks.
On Monday, the Telegram channel of the Grey Zone, an outlet for the Wagner Group mercenaries, posted that “relatives of the dead are inclined almost to murder and blood revenge against the general” in charge of the failed offensive.
Will Russia Soon Capture Bakhmut?
After the crushing defeat, Russia is again concentrating on its nine-month assault on Bakhmut, almost 150 km (91 miles) northeast of Vuhledar.
The salt mining city of Bakhmut, with a pre-invasion population of about 70,000, lost most of its strategic value after a Ukrainian counter-offensive liberated the northeast of the country last autumn. But the Kremlin, with its last major advance in July, is seeking a symbolic victory to project strength and rally support inside Russia.
Ukraine’s military posted on Wednesday, “The enemy continues to advance. The assault on the city of Bakhmut continues.”
Ukrainian volunteers running civilian evacuations in Donbas say they've stopped going to Bakhmut as there's now a direct threat of Russian ATGMs along the remaining roads into the city. Hard to see how it can hold out much longer.
— Neil Hauer (@NeilPHauer) March 1, 2023
A Ukrainian regional official said about 4,500 civilians remain Bakhmut. They “cannot be evacuated because they live in places that are no longer accessible”.
A military spokesperson explained:
If we see that the threat to our personnel and our operational situation is greater than the need to hold the territory, we do it [withdraw], but we do it in an organized manner, without panic….
I can say that there is no such decision now.
The Ukraine Government’s economic advisor Alexander Rodnyansky added that forces had fortified the Donetsk region west of Bakhmut so “if we were to pull back, that wouldn’t necessarily mean that the Russians would be able to advance very quickly afterward.”
Scott Lucas – Once a professional liar, always a professional liar
Thank you for such a thoughtful and analytic comment.