May 18. 2024. 3:50

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Battles rage in eastern Ukraine as Nato urges West to ramp up arms production

Heavy fighting continued in eastern Ukraine as Nato urged its members to ramp up production of ammunition to refill stockpiles badly depleted by supplies to Kyiv’s military, which is using “enormous” amounts of ordnance to keep Russia’s invasion force at bay.

Russia’s defence ministry repeated a claim by the country’s Wagner mercenary group to have captured the small settlement of Krasna Hora near the ruined city of Bakhmut in Donetsk region, but Ukraine denied that it had lost control of the village.

Serhiy Haidai, Ukrainian governor of the partly occupied Luhansk region, said the most intense fighting in the province was taking place around the town of Kreminna and the village of Bilohorivka.

“Today at four in the morning, the Russians attacked Bilohorivka from all sides. Our defence forces repelled this attack. The same situation occurred in the Kreminna direction, where the enemy is attacking with a large number of personnel. After a battle with our defenders, the [Russians] retreated,” he said on Monday.

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“On the Luhansk front, we expect massive, round-the-clock attacks … in the coming days,” added Mr Haidai, who says Russian troops in his region have already launched a new offensive as part of a large-scale push that Kremlin forces are expected to make in the weeks ahead.

Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said “we are seeing the start already” of Russia’s offensive, with Moscow “sending thousands and thousands more troops, accepting a very high rate of casualties, taking big losses, but putting pressure on the Ukrainians.

[ ‘I just want them back’: Ukrainian civilians tell of torture and legal limbo in Russian captivity ]

“The faster we can deliver weapons, ammunition, spare parts, fuel to the Ukrainian front, the more lives we save and the better we support efforts to find a peaceful, negotiated solution to this conflict,” he said, ahead of meetings in Brussels on Tuesday of defence ministers from Nato states and other countries that are sending arms to Kyiv.

“Ministers will also focus on ways to increase our defence industrial capacity and replenish stockpiles. The war in Ukraine is consuming an enormous amount of munitions… The current rate of Ukraine’s ammunition expenditure is many times higher than our current rate of production,” Mr Stoltenberg said.

“For example, the waiting time for large-calibre ammunition has increased from 12 to 28 months. Orders placed today would only be delivered 2½ years later. So we need to ramp up production and invest in our production capacity.”

Ukrainian defence minister Oleksiy Reznikov said his priorities at the Brussels meetings would include pushing for supplies of western warplanes to Kyiv and securing commitments from more allies to send main battle tanks to his country’s military.

Ukrainian tank crews are now training on German-made Leopard tanks in Poland and Germany, and Kyiv has said it expects to receive more than 100 of the vehicles in a “first wave” of supplies, but has not said when they will be delivered. Britain has also pledged 14 Challenger tanks to Ukraine and the US has offered 31 Abrams tanks.

“We provide our allied support not only by giving Ukrainians weapons and humanitarian aid, but also by training Ukrainian soldiers so that they can effectively defend their homeland with western equipment,” Polish president Andrzej Duda said on Monday during a visit to the base where the Ukrainian crews are receiving instruction.

Poland’s national security bureau said that “most of the Ukrainian tank soldiers training in Poland come from frontline units. Several days ago they were fighting on the front in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions”.