Russia demands important progress in Ukraine (2023)

RussiaOn Tuesday he claimed to have made big gains in Ukraine, capturing a village on the northern outskirts of Bakhmut that has been the focus of some of the fiercest fighting since the war began.

Moscow, which is attempting to besiege the city in a major game for the biggest prize in Ukraine since last summer, said it had captured the town of Blahodatne.KyivHe said he managed to repel an attack on a nearby main road.

This comes three days after the head of Russia's Wagner Group said the mercenary force had taken the village in an attack that Kyiv says it repelled.

The accusation came as Britain and the US expressed reluctance to send fighter jets to Kyiv amid fears Russia would dramatically escalate the war by doing so, and Ukraine said it expects to deliver 120 to 140 tanks.

Russia said on Tuesday it had pushed into Ukraine and taken the village of Blahodatne on the northern outskirts of Bakhmut. Photo: Ukrainian infantry fighting vehicles BMP-2 drive in a convoy on an icy road in the Donetsk region on January 30, 2023.

Both the UK and US have expressed reluctance to send warplanes to Kyiv, fearing Russia would do so to dramatically escalate the war. Pictured: An F-16 jet fighter launches a missile (file photo)

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Britain said on Tuesday it would not supply Ukraine with its RAF Typhoon and F-35 fighter jets.because it would take a long time to train the country's pilots,while US President Joe Biden on Monday ruled out sending F-16 fighter jets.

France said on Tuesday it had discussed training Ukrainian fighter pilots to fly French fighter jets, but no decision had been made.Poland has also refused to rule out sending F-16s to its embattled neighbor.

As Kyiv pressed for more western arms, Moscow and Wagner's mercenary group made clear, albeit gradual, advances around Bakhmut, most notably by taking the salt-mining town of Soledar to the north of the city.

If Putin's armies were to force Ukraine to pull out of the city of 75,000, it would be Moscow's first Grand Prix since taking the similarly sized cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk in July.

Blahodatne, which is on one of the main roads to Bakhmut about 3 miles north, was captured with the help of air support, Moscow's Defense Ministry said.

But while Russia claimed to have taken the town, Ukraine said Russian troops failed to cut the road from the town of Chasiv Yar to Bakhmut.

“Russian troops failed to cut off the road used to supply Ukrainian forces. The Ukrainian army in Bakhmut will receive everything it needs," military spokesman Serhiy Cherevaty said in a televised address.

He said Bakhmut remains a major focus of Russian attacks, including artillery strikes and infantry attacks.

Two civilians, a boy and a man in his 70s, were killed in a Russian artillery attack on Tuesday during the battle for Bakhmut, regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said. Four other people were injured in the attack, he said.

Separately, this week a large Russian force launched an attack on the Ukrainian fortress of Vuhledar further south along the same eastern front.

Russian authorities have claimed to be based there, while Kyiv says it has largely repelled the attack so far.

The British Ministry of Defense said the Russian force in the new attack on Vuhledar was at least the size of a brigade, a unit usually numbering several thousand soldiers.

The Russians have advanced hundreds of meters across a river towards Vuhledar and may be making more localized advances there, the ministry said in an unusually detailed daily intelligence update.

He said the attack on Vuhledar is unlikely to result in a significant breakthrough but could serve to divert Ukrainian efforts to defend Bakhmut.

As Kyiv pressed for more western arms, Moscow and Wagner's mercenary group made clear, albeit gradual, advances around Bakhmut, most notably by taking the salt-mining town of Soledar to the north of the city. Photo: Ukrainian soldiers return from the front in Bakhmut, Ukraine, on January 29, 2023.

Despite weeks of intense trench warfare that both sides have likened to a meat grinder, frontlines in eastern Ukraine have been virtually frozen since November, after Kyiv recaptured large swathes of territory in the second half of 2022.

But more recently, momentum has turned to Russia, which has posted meaningful gains for the first time since the middle of last year.

Military experts say Moscow appears determined to move forward in the coming months before Kyiv receives hundreds of Western tanks and armored vehicles newly pledged to counterattack to retake areas it occupied earlier this year.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called Russia's attack on the east an attempt at "revenge" for past losses.

"And I don't think they can offer any compelling positives on offense of their partnership. I trust our army. We will stop them all step by step, we will destroy them and we will prepare our big counteroffensive," he said on Monday.

Kyiv says Russian attacks in recent weeks have come at a huge cost, initially relying mostly on Wagner's mercenaries, including thousands of convicts recruited from Russian prisons and sent into battle in waves with little training or equipment.

But Russia's call-up of hundreds of thousands of reservists late last year means Moscow is now able to rebuild regular military units that were depleted or depleted early in the war.

Western military experts say Bakhmut himself is not of great strategic importance.

But it is one of the few major cities in Ukraine's eastern Donbass region still under Ukrainian control, and Moscow now says capturing the entire Donbass is one of the main goals of the "military special operation".

A Ukrainian soldier looks through a blasted wall, amid the Russian attack on Ukraine, in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine January 27, 2023. The city has weathered weeks of intense trench warfare that both sides have likened to a meat grinder.

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Since Kyiv got the pledge for Western tanks after months of lobbying, it has moved forward with more weapons orders, including orders for fighter jets like the US F-16. Neither side was able to gain control of the tanks over the Ukrainian skies.

So far, the West has refused to send weapons that could hit Russia deep, a line countries still seem unwilling to cross.

US President Joe Biden responded with a resounding "no" when asked by reporters at the White House on Monday whether Washington would send F-16s.

Nevertheless, Ukraine remains hopeful. Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov was scheduled to meet in Paris on Tuesday with President Emmanuel Macron, who told reporters in The Hague on Monday that "nothing is ruled out" when it comes to military aid.

Macron said any move to send the planes would depend on factors including the need to avoid escalation and guarantees the plane "would not touch Russian soil".

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki also didn't rule out a possible delivery of F-16s to neighboring Ukraine, responding to a reporter's question ahead of Biden's speech.

Morawiecki said in comments on his website that such a transfer would be "in full coordination" with NATO. Poland has long pushed for more aggressive military support to Ukraine.

British Prime Minister's spokesman Rishi Sunak said on Tuesday London did not see the point of having its own planes.

British fighter planes are extremely sophisticated and take months to learn to fly. In view of this, we consider it impractical to send these planes to Ukraine," the spokesman told reporters.

The remains of a distant car are seen under a pile of rubble in Bakhmut, Ukraine, January 28, 2023.

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Meanwhile, Ukraine said on Tuesday it expects to receive between 120 and 140 heavy tanks after its western allies agreed to supply Kyiv.

That number is less than half what Kyiv says it needs, and Ukraine's supreme commander said last year his army will need 300 tanks, along with hundreds of other pieces of equipment, to win the war within months.

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the 120 to 140 modern main battle tanks would consist of three different western models: the German-made Leopard 2, the British Challenger 2 and the Ameircan M1 Abrams.

Kyiv also expects to receive French-made Leclerc tanks.

Kuleba said on Tuesday that so far a dozen countries have agreed to send tanks to help Ukraine fight Vladimir Putin's invaders.

Intelligence agencies suggest the Kremlin is planning another major offensive aimed at seizing Kyiv and toppling the government in the spring, and it may coincide with February 24, which marks the first anniversary of Putin's invasion in 2022 .

"Ukrainian armed forces will receive between 120 and 140 modern Western tanks," Kuleba told reporters, describing the number as "the first wave of contributions."

"These are Leopard 2, Challenger 2, M1 Abrams," Kuleba said, without giving a timeline for the deliveries. "We also rely heavily on the Leclerc," he said, referring to France's main battle tank.

Ukraine's top diplomat also said Kyiv is in talks to accommodate Western warplanes and long-range missiles.

"These aren't climbing weapons," he said. "They are weapons of defense and deterrence of the attacker."

After weeks of diplomatic bickering, the United States and Germany last week announced the delivery of their Abrams and Leopard heavy tanks to Ukraine, a move seen as a step forward in efforts to support Ukraine.

In a speech in December, the Supreme Commander of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Valery Zaluzhny said that by February 23 (in other words, for the Ukrainian army to recapture all areas occupied by Ukraine before the invasion) "breaking down the lines" would take Kyiv 300 tanks as well as 600 to 700 armored personnel carriers and 500 howitzers.

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