March 5. 2024. 12:41

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Battle for Bakhmut rages ’round the clock’; US readies new arms aid

Ukrainian forces clinging to the eastern city of Bakhmut dug new trenches in an attempt to hold back Russian attackers, as the United States said new military aid for Ukraine would be discussed at a meeting with Germany’s leader on Friday (3 March).

Russian forces have been attacking Bakhmut in Donetsk province for months, sometimes in waves and the site has become one of the bloodiest battles of the war.

“Fighting is going on in Bakhmut round the clock…The situation is critical,” Volodymyr Nazarenko, a deputy commander in the National Guard of Ukraine, told Ukrainian NV Radio.

“They take no account of their losses in trying to take the city by assault. The task of our forces in Bakhmut is to inflict as many losses on the enemy as possible. Every metre of Ukrainian land costs hundreds of lives to the enemy.”

In the past 24 hours Ukrainian forces have repelled more than 170 attacks in the five principal sectors of the front line, Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said on YouTube on Thursday night.

Zhdanov described Russians trying to encircle Bakhmut from the north, east and south and he said that on western approaches to the city “this is probably the only part of the Bakhmut sector where our forces, rather than the Russian occupiers, have the initiative.”

Russia, which lost territory in the second half of 2022, says taking Bakhmut would be a step towards seizing the rest of the surrounding industrial region known as the Donbas. Ukraine says the city has limited strategic value but wants to exhaust Russian forces.

Ukrainian forces repelled attacks on Bakhmut and on two settlements just to the west – Khromove and Ivanivske, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in a statement on Thursday night.

Russian shelling hit Bakhmut and several nearby towns – including Chasiv Yar, the biggest town to the west – and two towns south of Bakhmut, it said.

In nearby towns and villages, new trenches had been dug on the roadside 20-40 metres apart, a sign that Ukrainian forces were strengthening defensive positions.

“We need as much ammunition as possible. There are many more Russians here than we have ammunition to destroy them,” Nazarenko said. “The number of enemy soldiers is not what matters. What matters is technology.”

In central Zaporizhzhia region and in Kherson region on the southern front, Russian forces shelled more than 40 towns and villages, the Ukrainian military statement said.

Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield reports.

Concerns about China

Washington will announce a new $400 million military aid package for the Kyiv government, and is expected to be a major topic between US President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz when they meet at the White House, officials said.

The aid is expected to comprise mainly ammunition including Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) for HIMARS launchers, ammunition for Bradley Fighting Vehicles, as well as armoured vehicle launched bridges, two US officials and a person familiar with the package said.

The United States has provided nearly $32 billion in weaponry to Ukraine to defend itself against Russia, which invaded its pro-Western neighbour on 24 February last year.

Biden and Scholz could also touch on concerns that China may provide lethal aid to Russia, a senior administration official said.

The Biden administration is sounding out close allies about the possibility of imposing new sanctions on China if Beijing provides military support to Russia, US officials and other sources said. China has denied considering such assistance, and US officials have not publicly provided evidence for their assertion.

Asked by reporters whether potential sanctions against China would be a topic for Biden and Scholz, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said “the issue of a third party support to Russia could come up.”

Scholz urges China not to arm Russia as US explores sanctions

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Thursday (2 March) urged China not to send weapons to help Russia’s war in Ukraine and instead asked Beijing to exert pressure on Moscow to pull back its forces.

International chill

The year-long conflict has killed thousands, displaced millions, pulverised Ukrainian cities, shaken the global economy and created a Cold War chill in international relations.

Russia says its “special military operation” aims to degrade the Ukrainian military and remove what it says is a threat to its own security. Ukraine and its allies accuse Moscow of an unprovoked war to grab territory.

Just before Russia’s invasion, Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin met to seal a “no limits” partnership between their countries that has caused anxiety in the West.

At the G20 foreign ministers meeting, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to end the war and urged Moscow to reverse its suspension of the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) on nuclear weapons, a senior US official said.

It was the first in person encounter between the top diplomats since the invasion. The Russian foreign ministry said Lavrov and Blinken spoke “on the move” for less than 10 minutes.

blinken talked to lavrov at g20 meeting in new delhi..the highest level in person talks between russia/us in months

his 3 main points:
-us will support ukraine ‘as long as it takes’
-russia should reverse suspension on new start
-russia should release paul whelan

— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) March 2, 2023

Russia accused the West of blackmail and threats and said it had China’s support for its position as the meeting ended without a joint statement.

Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong said she raised Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with China’s foreign minister Qin Gang on the sidelines the meeting in New Delhi and told reporters afterward that all countries want to see China “do the right thing” and not supply weapons to Russia.