Ukraine updates: Fighting around Bakhmut ‘extremely tense’

Russian forces have intensified their attack around the Ukrainian town, Kyiv said. Meanwhile, the top US diplomat is visiting Central Asia in a bid to boost Washington’s influence in the region. DW rounds up the latest.

Oleksandr Syrskyi, the commander of Ukrainian ground forces, said on Tuesday that the situation around the eastern town of Bakhmut was “extremely tense.”

“Despite significant losses, the enemy threw in the most prepared assault units of Wagner, who are trying to break through the defenses of our troops and surround the city,” Syrskyi was quoted as saying on Ukraine’s Media Military Center Telegram messaging platform.

Russia’s mercenary Wagner Group has played a significant role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The small mining city of Bakhmut has been the scene of fierce fighting in recent weeks.

Capturing it would open the way for Russia to control urban centers in the eastern Ukrainian Donetsk region, and would represent the first major win for Moscow in months.

Ukraine’s general staff said Russia intensified its forces in Bakhmut and was shelling settlements around the city.

“The enemy is constantly destroying everything that can be used to protect our positions for fortification and defence. Our soldiers defending the area around Bakhmut are true heroes,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his evening video address.

Here are some of the other notable developments concerning the war in Ukraine on Tuesday, February 28:

Blinken on Central Asia trip

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Kazakhstan for a Central Asia trip following the first anniversary of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

During a meeting with his Kazakh counterpart, Blinken vowed US support for the country’s independence.

“As you know well, the United States strongly supports Kazakhstan’s sovereignty, its independence, its territorial integrity,” Blinken said.

“Sometimes we just say those words and they actually have no meaning. And of course, in this particular time, they have even more resonance than usual,” he added, referring to Russia’s assault on Ukraine.

Blinken later held talks with President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and was set to fly to Uzbekistan afterward.

In Astana, the top US diplomat is due to meet the ministers of all five former Soviet republics in Central Asia, including Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

The five countries abstained or did not vote last week to back a UN General Assembly resolution calling on Russia to withdraw its forces from Ukraine.

Wrecked Russian tank to be exhibited in the Netherlands

German police said on Tuesday that the destroyed Russian tank that had been on display in front of the Russian Embassy in Berlin had been removed.

The T-72 tank was displayed in front of the embassy in the German capital’s city center to serve as a memorial against the war on the first anniversary of Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The organizers of the project said it would be exhibited in the Netherlands next.

According to the organizers, the tank was destroyed when it hit a mine during a Russian attack on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, in March.

The vehicle is on loan from the Military History Museum of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, which also supported its transport.

Peskov says ‘a bit early’ to tell if Putin will run for reelection

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russian President Vladimir Putin has not yet said if he would run for the country’s next presidential election, scheduled for 2024.

“We have not yet heard him say anything about whether he will run or not. That means it is still a bit early,” Peskov told Moscow daily Izvestia in comments published on Tuesday.

Pekov added that Putin was currently very busy and not in the mood to campaign.

Putin served as Russia’s president from 2000 to 2008, and since 2012. He was prime minister from 1999 to 2000 and from 2008 to 2012.

Ukraine spy chief says ‘no signs’ China arming Russia

Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine’s military intelligence chief, said in an interview that he saw no signs that China and Russia were in discussions about arms supplies. “As of now, I do not think that China will agree to the transfer of weapons to Russia,” Budanov told Voice of America (VOA). “I do not see any signs that such things are even being discussed.”

Earlier this month, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington had information that suggested China was considering providing Russia with “lethal support.”

Several media outlets have since reported, citing unidentified senior US officials, that Beijing was deciding whether to supply Moscow with drones and munitions as Russia suffers heavy losses in its war in Ukraine.

“I am the head of intelligence and I rely, with all due respect, not on the opinions of individual people, but only on facts. I do not see such facts,” Budanov said.

The military intelligence chief added that “almost the only country that actually transfers more or less serious weapons [to Russia] is Iran.”

Budanov dismissal of the claims came after Beijing called for a cease-fire as part of a peace plan it proposed.

China’s proposal has been largely met with skepticism, but Kyiv has sought to improve its ties with Beijing, Moscow’s key ally.

More DW coverage

Ukraine’s joining of the EU is conditional on anti-corruption and de-oligarchizing reforms. But though the war has dented the wealth of the leading oligarchs, they remain rich and still want to wield influence.

The war in Ukraine has forced many people onto the front lines. But while soldiers defend their country on the battlefield, Ukraine’s best handball team HC Motor Zaporizhzhia is representing the nation in Germany.

fb/nm (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters, Interfax)

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