Thursday, February 29, 2024

Russia-Ukraine war live: Ukraine ‘buying time’ in Bakhmut – as it happened

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Key events

Good evening, we are closing this blog now. You can see all our Ukraine coverage here

A summary of today’s developments

  • Ukraine and Russia both claimed that hundreds of enemy troops had been killed in the previous 24 hours in the fight for Bakhmut, with Kyiv fending off attacks and a small river that bisects the town now marking the new frontline.

  • Serhiy Cherevatyi, a Ukrainian military spokesperson, said 221 pro-Moscow troops had been killed and more than 300 wounded in Bakhmut.

  • Russia’s defence ministry said that as many as 210 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed in the broader Donetsk part of the frontline.

  • Ukraine’s military repelled more than 92 Russian assaults in five areas over the past day, the general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces claimed.

  • According to the Institute for the Study of War, Russian forces did not make any advances in Bakhmut on Saturday.

  • The Turkish defence minister, Hulusi Akar, said he believed a deal allowing Ukrainian grain to be exported via the Black Sea would be extended from its 18 March deadline.

  • Russia’s foreign ministry said Russian representatives had not yet taken part in negotiations on extending the deal.

  • The National Police of Ukraine reported that Russia had launched 48 attacks against civilians in Donetsk oblast over the past day. The police said 15 cities and towns, including Bakhmut, Kostyantynivka, and Avdiivka, had come under attack.

  • Three civilians were killed in Russian shelling of Kherson in southern Ukraine on Saturday, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said, denouncing what he called “brutal terrorist attacks” by pro-Moscow units.

  • More than 40 missiles had hit the north-eastern city of Kharkiv since the beginning of the year, Zelenskiy said in his nightly address on Saturday.

  • Moldovan police claim to have foiled a plot by Russia-backed groups trained to cause mass unrest during a protest against the government. An undercover agent infiltrated groups of “diversionists,” among them Russian citizens, who had been promised $10,000 to create “mass disorder” to destabilise Moldova, the head of its police force told a news conference.

  • Ukraine’s foreign minister urged Germany in an interview published on Sunday to speed up supplies of ammunition and to start training Ukrainian pilots on western fighter jets. Dmytro Kuleba told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that ammunition shortages were the “number one” problem in Ukraine’s attempt to repel Russia’s invasion.

  • Switzerland is scrapping outdated Rapier surface-to-air missiles that could have been used by Ukraine to shoot down low-flying targets, the Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung reported.

  • Ukraine’s prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, has thanked Canada for its decision to ban imports of Russian aluminium and steel products, and urged other countries to do the same.

  • The Russian foreign ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, has reportedly said there is infighting in the Kremlin’s inner circle, and that the Kremlin has in effect ceded control over the country’s information space.

  • Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox church, has asked Pope Francis and other religious leaders to persuade Ukraine to stop a crackdown against a historically Russia-aligned wing of the church.

  • Most Britons think housing Ukrainian refugees is a good thing, a study shows. Eight in 10 people who took in Ukrainians fleeing the war said they had a positive experience of hosting refugees, while most of the public think the UK should continue to take in people from war zones, according to a study.

Paula Erizanu

Thousands of people gathered in the Moldovan capital Chișinău for a protest organised by a pro-Russia party, where demonstrators criticised the pro-European government for a steep rise in the cost of living.

As Russia has reduced gas supplies to Moldova over the past year, bills have risen up to six-fold in the country of 2.6 million. The energy crisis and the war in neighbouring Ukraine have also contributed to a 30% rise in inflation.

With western economic help, the government has subsidised energy bills but many are still struggling.

“What can we live off?” said Tamara, 70, who took part in the protest.

Ivan Vasile, 85, said his pension was the equivalent of £100 a month. “Can I afford to buy myself cheese? I cannot,” he said. “I eat little more than bread. Before, electricity and gas were cheaper. Democracy is for the rich.”

Moldovan police claim to have foiled a plot by Russia-backed groups trained to cause mass unrest during a protest against the government.

An undercover agent infiltrated groups of “diversionists,” among them Russian citizens, who had been promised $10,000 (£8,300) to create “mass disorder” to destabilise Moldova, the head of its police force told a news conference.

Viorel Cernauteanu said seven people had been detained. Police also said 54 protesters had been arrested and four bomb threats registered.

The protest on Sunday was one in a series held against the new pro-EU government, organised by a group called Movement for the People.

The group is backed by the Russia-friendly Shor party, which holds six seats in Moldova’s legislature and is led by a UK-sanctioned oligarch, according to Sky News.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has tweeted about holding talks with his new Czech counterpart, Petr Pavel:

Had a call with 🇨🇿 President @prezidentpavel. Congratulated him on officially taking office. Outlined the situation at the front & our security needs. We discussed 🇺🇦’s EU integration & agreed to further cooperate. 🇨🇿 support is crucial for 🇺🇦 in fighting against RF’s aggression!

— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) March 12, 2023

Svetlana Boiko, 66, who was injured in recent shelling, outside her destroyed home in Donetsk. Photograph: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

Destroyed Russian tanks and armoured vehicles on display near the St Michael’s Cathedral in Kyiv
Destroyed Russian tanks and armoured vehicles on display near the St Michael’s Cathedral in Kyiv. Photograph: Andrew Kravchenko/AP

Soldiers with the Ukrainian volunteer army drive their MT-LB vehicle from the frontline near Bakhmut
Soldiers with the Ukrainian volunteer army drive their MT-LB vehicle from the frontline near Bakhmut. Photograph: Sergey Shestak/AFP/Getty Images

Summary

Key events today.

  • Ukraine and Russia both claimed that hundreds of enemy troops were killed over the previous 24 hours in the fight for Bakhmut, with Kyiv fending off attacks and a small river that bisects the town now marking the new frontline.

  • Serhiy Cherevatyi, a Ukrainian military spokesperson, said 221 pro-Moscow troops were killed and more than 300 wounded in Bakhmut.

  • Russia’s defence ministry said that up to 210 Ukrainian soldiers were killed in the broader Donetsk part of the frontline.

  • Ukraine’s military repelled more than 92 Russian assaults in five areas over the past day, the general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces claimed.

  • According to the Institute for the Study of War, Russian forces did not make any advances in Bakhmut on Saturday.

  • Turkish defence minister Hulusi Akar said he believes that a deal allowing Ukrainian grain to be exported via the Black Sea will be extended from its current 18 March deadline.

  • But Russia’s foreign ministry said Russian representatives had not yet taken part in negotiations on extending the Black Sea grain deal.

  • The National Police of Ukraine reported Russia had launched 48 attacks against civilians in Donetsk Oblast over the past day. The police said 15 cities and towns, including Bakhmut, Kostyantynivka, and Avdiivka, came under attack.

  • Three civilians were killed in Russian shelling of Kherson in southern Ukraine on Saturday, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said, denouncing what he called “brutal terrorist attacks” by pro-Moscow units.

  • More than 40 missiles have hit the north-eastern city of Kharkiv since the beginning of the year, Zelenskiy said in his nightly address on Saturday.

  • Ukraine’s foreign minister urged Germany in an interview published on Sunday to speed up supplies of ammunition and to start training Ukrainian pilots on western fighter jets. Dmytro Kuleba told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that ammunition shortages were the “number one” problem in Ukraine’s attempt to repel Russia’s invasion.

  • Switzerland is scrapping outdated Rapier surface-to-air missiles that could have been used by Ukraine to shoot down low-flying targets, Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung reported. The Swiss government prohibits countries that purchase Swiss arms from re-exporting them without permission.

  • Ukraine’s prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, has thanked Canada for its decision to ban imports of Russian aluminium and steel products, and urged other countries to do the same.

  • The Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova has reportedly said there is infighting in the Kremlin’s inner circle, and that the Kremlin has in effect ceded control over the country’s information space.

  • Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox church, has asked Pope Francis and other religious leaders to persuade Ukraine to stop a crackdown against a historically Russian-aligned wing of the church.

  • Most Britons think housing Ukrainian refugees is a good thing, a study shows. Eight in 10 people who took in Ukrainians fleeing the war said they had a positive experience of hosting refugees, while most of the public think the UK should continue to take in people from war zones, according to a study.

The National Police of Ukraine said today Russia had launched 48 attacks against civilians in Donetsk Oblast over the past day.

The police said 15 cities and towns, including Bakhmut, Kostyantynivka and Avdiivka, came under attack, the Kyiv Independent reported.

Russia attacked the region with S-300 missiles, aircraft, Grad and Uragan multiple rocket launchers, artillery, mortars and tanks, according to the report.

Donetsk Oblast Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said in his daily briefing that two civilians were killed and four were wounded over the past day.

The fiercest fighting of the war continues to rage near the embattled city of Bakhmut. As Russia slowly makes progress to capture the ruined city, more attacks are being recorded in neighboring settlements, such as Kostyantynivka and Chasiv Yar.

The Swiss president, Alain Berset, has defended the controversial ban on transferring Swiss-made arms to Ukraine, saying :“Swiss weapons must not be used in wars.”

Switzerland , which is not a an EU member, has followed the bloc’s lead on sanctions targeting Moscow, but it has so far shown less flexibility on its military neutrality.

AFP reported:

Despite pressure from Kyiv and its allies, Switzerland has continued to block countries that hold Swiss-made weaponry from re-exporting it to Ukraine. To date, requests from Germany, Spain and Denmark have been rejected under the War Materiel Act, which bars all re-export if the recipient country is in an international armed conflict. Berset told NZZ the policy was based on “commitment to peace, to humanitarian law, to mediation where possible”.

Berset told NZZ the policy was based on “commitment to peace, to humanitarian law, to mediation where possible”. Switzerland’s role as the seat of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Geneva Conventions, as well as of the United Nations’s European headquarters “is reflected in our laws, including those relating to the export of weapons”, he said. Protection of humanitarian and human rights law and the Geneva Conventions “may sound passé to some, but it is more important than ever,” he said, warning it would be “extremely dangerous to throw these fundamental principles overboard now”. “As far as Switzerland is concerned, warfare is not part of the DNA,” Berset said, stressing his nation aimed “to be present wherever we can contribute to mediation and peace”. He said he believed negotiations with Russia were needed to end the war in Ukraine, “the sooner the better”.

Several initiatives are under way in parliament towards relaxing the re-export rules to make it possible for Swiss-made weaponry to be transferred by third countries to Ukraine. But Berset stressed the government’s “position is clear. It also corresponds to my personal position. Swiss weapons must not be used in wars.” The process towards a final decision, with debates between parliament and the government, followed by a probable referendum under Switzerland’s direct democracy system, is likely to take months.

Switzerland is scrapping outdated Rapier surface-to-air missiles that could have been used by Ukraine to shoot down low-flying targets, the Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung has reported.

A spokesperson for the Swiss Federal Office for Defence Procurement (Armasuisse) said that all Rapier short-range anti-aircraft missile systems would be dismantled.

The Rapier missile was originally developed for the British army and is capable of shooting down highly manoeuvrable targets.

The newspaper reported that the disposal of weapons has caused a backlash from some Swiss politicians, according to the Kyiv Independent.

The Swiss government prohibits countries that purchase Swiss arms from re-exporting them without permission. Swiss neutrality also dictates that the country will not send weapons directly or indirectly to any party to a war.

The Swiss government refused to let Spain transfer Swiss-made anti-aircraft guns to Ukraine in February.

Russia’s defence ministry said on Sunday that its forces continued to conduct military operations in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region.

“In the Donetsk direction … more than 220 Ukrainian servicemen, an infantry fighting vehicle, three armoured fighting vehicles, seven vehiclesand a D-30 howitzer were destroyed during the day,” Reuters quoted the ministry as saying.

It was not able to independently verify the claims.

Both sides say they have inflicted significant losses and the exact numbers are difficult to verify.

Ukraine said on Saturday that more than 500 Russian troops had been killed or wounded in a recent 24-hour period as they battled for control of Bakhmut.

Russian forces and troops from the Wagner group of mercenaries have captured territory in the eastern part of the city and outskirts to the north and south, but have so far failed to encircle it completely.

Moscow says capturing Bakhmut would punch a hole in Ukrainian defences and be a step towards seizing all of the Donbas industrial region, a major target.

Ukraine’s prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, has thanked Canada for its decision to ban imports of Russian aluminium and steel products, and urged other countries to do the same.

He tweeted:

Eliminating russia’s ability to finance the war is one of the steps to 🇺🇦’s victory. Grateful to 🇨🇦 government, @JustinTrudeau, @cafreeland, for banning imports of aluminium & steel from rf. We hope for similar decisions from other countries. We must stop russian war machine.

— Denys Shmyhal (@Denys_Shmyhal) March 12, 2023

Canada announced a ban on imports of Russian aluminium and steel products on Friday with the aim of denying Moscow revenues to fund its war in Ukraine. The imports were worth almost $180m (£150m) in 2021, according to the latest government data.

“Canada, and our partners, have already sanctioned the Russian Central Bank and capped the price of Russian oil and gas,” the country’s deputy prime minister, Chrystia Freeland, said in a statement.

“And now, we are ensuring Putin cannot pay for his war by selling aluminium and steel in Canada, in coordination with action taken by the United States today.”

Saudi Arabia’s oil giant Aramco has reported a record annual net profit of $161bn (£134bn) for 2022, up 46% from the previous year on higher energy prices, increased volumes sold and improved margins for refined products.

The profits, which are around triple those of Exxon’s $56bn, follow similar reports in February from international peers such as BP , Shell and Chevron, which mostly posted record profits last year.

Oil prices swung wildly in 2022, climbing on geopolitical worries about the war in Ukraine, then sliding on weaker demand from China and worries about a global economic contraction, Reuters reports.

Rowena Mason

Rowena Mason

Most Britons think housing Ukrainian refugees is a good thing, a study shows.

Eight in ten people who took in Ukrainians fleeing the war said they had a positive experience of hosting refugees, while most of the public think the UK should continue to take in people from war zones, according to a study.

Detailed polling from More in Common, a civil society organisation, found that 88% of people who took in refugees from Ukraine would do so again, compared with 3% who would not.

It also found that 68% of Britons believe the fact that the UK has taken in more than 150,000 refugees from Ukraine is a good thing and only 17% think it is a bad thing.

The findings come amid controversy over Rishi Sunak’s policy of detaining and deporting refugees who flee to the UK across the Channel in small boats, prompting outrage among human rights campaigners and the UN refugee agency.

Read the report here:

Russia’s foreign ministry said on Sunday that Moscow had not yet taken part in negotiations on extending the Black Sea grain deal.

“There have been no negotiations on this subject, especially with the participation of Russian representatives,” the ministry’s spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, said.

The next round of talks on extending the deal will be held in Geneva on 13 March between Russia’s delegation and the top UN trade official Rebeca Grynspan, she said.

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