April 14. 2024. 5:57

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US says new weapons will help Ukraine mount ‘decisive’ spring offensive

Ukrainian officials denied Russia’s claims that its invasion force had taken more territory in eastern Ukraine, and the United States said the West planned to give Kyiv the weapons needed to achieve “decisive” results in an expected spring offensive.

Heavy fighting continued in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as the European Commission unveiled plans for a 10th package of sanctions against Russia, and Nato said its members were ramping up ammunition production to keep supplies flowing to Kyiv and replenish its own stocks.

The defence ministry in Moscow said on Wednesday that during an offensive by its forces in Luhansk region, “Ukrainian troops retreated in disarray to a distance of up to three kilometres from previous positions. Even the enemy’s more fortified second line of defence could not stop the breakthrough by the Russian military.”

Serhiy Haidai, the Ukrainian governor of the partly occupied Luhansk region, said claims that Russian troops had pushed Kyiv’s forces back to the border of the province “do not correspond to reality – our forces are holding the line”.

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“We see there is an escalation, especially in the direction of Bilohorivka and Kreminna. There is a lot of shelling and aircraft are already involved – the Russians are constantly attacking in waves from different sides,” he added.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the most intense fighting was now taking place around the towns of Bakhmut and Vuhledar in the Donetsk region.

Describing Bakhmut as a “living wall” that holds back Russian forces, he said Ukraine’s people “are standing strong, defending themselves resolutely, and they understand they are a fortress that allows Ukraine to prepare for the de-occupation of all its territories”.

Referring to the February 24th anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of his country, Mr Zelenskiy said “there is a feeling that the new year in Ukraine now starts on the 24th… We want this year to be a year of victory.”

After a meeting of Nato defence ministers in Brussels, US defence secretary Lloyd Austin said recent western pledges of tanks, armoured fighting vehicles, missile systems and other modern weaponry were intended to ensure that Ukraine’s forces “can be decisive on the battlefield in their upcoming offensive”.

“And so with that additional capability, better trained troops, platforms that can perform a lot better in this environment, I think they’ll have a real good chance at making a pretty significant difference on the battlefield and establishing the initiative, and being able to exploit that initiative,” he added.

Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said member states were stepping up production of ordnance in response to Ukraine’s use of “an enormous quantity of allied ammunition” which was “depleting our stockpiles”.

“So the production of, for instance, artillery shells… is now increasing, and that enables us to both replenish our own stocks… but also to continue to provide support to Ukraine,” he explained. “We have seen the big need… and now we see that contracts are signed and production is ramping up.”

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen unveiled proposals to undermine Moscow’s ability to wage war in Ukraine by imposing export bans worth €11 billion, which would “deprive the Russian economy of critical technology and industrial goods”.

The sanctions would hit electronics, specialised vehicles, machine parts, spare parts for trucks and jet engines, and goods for the construction sector that could be used by the Russian military, including antennas and cranes.

Dual-use and advanced technologies are also to be hit, with 47 electrical components that can potentially be used to power Russian drones, missiles and helicopters set to be barred from export to Russia, along with certain rare earth materials and thermal cameras.