New Russian offensive underway in Ukraine – NATO
Transatlantic military alliance, NATO
has announced that Russia had launched a major new offensive in Ukraine, days before the first anniversary of its invasion.
The Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, which
Ukrainian defenders in the eastern city, have held out for months, were defending new ground attacks under heavy shelling, NATO said.
Ukrainian forces repelled Russian attacks in one settlement of the Kharkiv region, about five settlements in the Luhansk region and six in the Donetsk region, including in Bakhmut, over the past 24 hours, Ukraine’s military said early on Tuesday, February 14.
Positions in Bakhmut have been fortified and only people with military roles were being allowed in, while any civilians who wanted to leave would have to brave the incoming fire, a Ukranian deputy battalion commander said on Monday February 13.
“There is not a single square metre in Bakhmut that is safe or that is not in range of enemy fire or drones,” Pavlo Kyrylenko, governor of the Donetsk region, told the Ukrainian national broadcaster late on Monday.
Bakhmut is a main objective for Russian President Vladimir Putin, and its capture would give Russia a new foothold in the Donetsk region and a rare victory after months of setbacks.
The Donetsk and Luhansk regions make up the Donbas, Ukraine’s industrial heartland, now partially occupied by Russia which wants full control.
“We see how they are sending more troops, more weapons, more capabilities,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels, saying it was the start of a new offensive.
The Russian assault on Bakhmut has been spearheaded by mercenaries of the Wagner group, who in the past three days, have made small gains in the northern outskirts of Bakhmut, the British defence ministry said on Tuesday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russian forces were trying to surround Bakhmut.
“Thank you to every one of our soldiers who are preventing the occupiers from encircling Bakhmut … and who are holding our key positions at the front,” Zelenskiy said in an evening address.
The U.N. human rights office said on Monday it had recorded 7,199 civilian deaths and 11,756 wounded since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion, mostly from shelling and missile and air strikes. However, it believed the actual figure was far higher.
Russia launched what it calls its “special military operation” to “denazify” Ukraine and protect Russian speakers. Western leaders say it was nothing more than a land grab.