Kyiv officials said on Monday that Russian forces are launching a series of attacks on Bakhmut and other cities in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region, but that Ukrainian forces have managed to hold back their advance.
In a daily report, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said that Russian forces carried out seven missile strikes, 31 air strikes and 73 attacks from missile launchers in the past day.
It said that the Ukrainian forces succeeded in withstanding the attacks on 14 settlements, including Bakhmut, which has become a hotbed of fierce fighting in the past weeks.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also said that Bakhmut “is steadfast in spite of everything.”
“Although most of the town has been destroyed by Russian strikes, our soldiers are repelling the continuous Russian attempts to advance,” he said in a Sunday night video address.
Zelensky added that Ukrainian forces also succeeded in defending the nearby town of Solidar, “although there is more destruction and things are very difficult.”
Deputy Defense Minister Hana Malyar also described as “difficult” the situation of Ukrainian soldiers near Solidar, which is 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) from Pakhmut, on her Telegram channel on Sunday.
She said that the Russian attacks are not only carried out by the regular army, but also by mercenary forces from the Wagner Group.
Ukraine must hold on to both cities to protect Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, two major cities in Donbass that remain under Kyiv’s control. The fall of these cities would have meant that Russia had effectively captured the entire Donbass region, one of the goals that Moscow publicly set out at the start of its invasion last February.
Here are other relevant developments regarding the war in Ukraine on January 9:
Zelensky says Ukraine is resisting “the toughest attacks” in Solidar
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address that Ukrainian forces were facing “new and even more severe attacks” on Solidar, near the eastern city of Bakhmut, which Moscow has been trying to capture for months.
“I thank all our soldiers who protect Bakhmut,” Zelensky said, referring to “all the fighters of Solidar, who endure new and even tougher attacks from the invaders!”
Solidar is located in the Donetsk region, about 15 kilometers (nine miles) from Bakhmut, a city that had a pre-war population of 70,000 and is now a center of the fighting.
“Thanks to the resilience of our soldiers there, in Solidar, we won time and extra forces for Ukraine,” Zelensky added.
“Everything was completely destroyed,” Zelensky said. “The whole land of Solidar is covered with the corpses of the invaders and disfigured by the blasts,” he added.
Earlier on Monday, Ukraine’s armed forces said they had repulsed an attempt to seize Solidar, but that fighting had resumed.
Russia says more tanks would prolong the war and not change the outcome
Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying that sending tanks to Ukraine would only prolong the suffering of the Ukrainian people and would not change the outcome of the war.
“In principle, these shipments cannot and will not change anything in Ukraine,” Peskov said.
The Russian spokesman said that it is not only about the French AMX-10 RC light tanks, but about all Western arms supplies.
Peskov was referring to France’s decision last week to send light combat tanks to Ukraine. After France’s announcement, Germany and the United States said they would send armored vehicles, albeit of different types, to Ukraine as well.
Germany has no current plans to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine
A spokesman for the German government said it had no plans at present to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.
German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck said over the weekend that decisions about sending more tanks to Ukraine still had to be made.
Government spokesman Stephen Hebbestreit said on Monday that he was not aware of any requests to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine from any NATO partners, but said sending them was not “impossible.”
Berlin said last week it would supply Mardier infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine, but has repeatedly stressed that it will not act alone when it comes to sending the armored vehicles.
Poland poses a possible alliance to supply Ukraine with tanks
Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski told Polish national radio that he was considering forming a broad coalition of countries to provide Ukraine with tanks.
A security adviser to Polish President Andrzej Duda told Radio Zeit that the matter was “in flux” and that the first thing would be to know “what our allies in Western countries are going to do”.
Jakob Komuch told Radio Zet that Poland could be part of the coalition but could not act alone.
He denied reports that Warsaw was ready to deliver Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine as “disinformation”.
Doubts are growing about the alleged Russian strike on Ukrainian forces
Russian claims that 600 Ukrainian soldiers were killed in a missile attack in Kramatorsk have been increasingly questioned by a number of officials.
On Sunday, Moscow said it had targeted the soldiers in retaliation for an attack by Ukraine in the new year that killed dozens of Russian servicemen and sparked protests in Russia.
But the Ukrainian military’s spokesman for the eastern region, Serhiy Chervaty, said the Russian allegations were an attempt to show that Moscow is capable of responding in kind to the Ukrainian attack.
Even pro-Kremlin military bloggers have questioned Moscow’s claims.
The Reuters news agency said that its correspondents did not find clear signs of injuries in the two college dormitories, where Moscow said the dead Ukrainian employees were temporarily housed.
The Russian and Ukrainian armies often exaggerated the losses of the enemies, while underestimating their own. On Monday, the Kremlin reiterated its belief in the Defense Ministry’s claims about the Kramatorsk attack.
rm, tj/rs (Reuters, AP, dpa)
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