Russia seeks to make gains in Ukraine before the arrival of Western tanks

Russian forces I advanced deeper To Bakhmut In recent days, according to Ukrainian soldiers there, they have moved from house to house and threatened Ukraine’s hold on the eastern city, which Russia has made. Its main direct target.

Ukrainian leaders say the Russian advance has been incremental, with heavy casualties. Ukrainian military and civilian leaders said they would stand up and Fight for the cityWhich Russia is trying to besiege from the north and south.

A deeper Russian penetration into the city leaves Kyiv with a choice between continuing the bloody street fighting or withdrawing to conserve forces. Ukrainian forces hold higher areas to the west of Bakhmut that are easier to defend, and commanders said Bakhmut was of little strategic value.

But Bakhmut has gained symbolic importance in recent months, as Russia seeks to expand its control over the eastern Donbass region. Moscow sent thousands of fighters from Wagner Paramilitary Group, many of them convicted criminals, in an attempt to take back the city. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky

visited the city In December, he named it “Fort Bakhmut”.

He pointed out that Ukraine will stand firm and will seek to bleed the Russian forces.

“The more Russia loses in this battle for Donbass, the less its overall potential,” Zelensky said. We know what the occupiers are planning. We’re facing it.”

As the United States and its allies begin to send Abrams, Panthers, and other tanks to aid Ukraine, these vehicles are poised to change the dynamics of war along the front lines. The Wall Street Journal is examining how the tanks Ukraine will receive from the West will compare with the Russian vehicles. Illustration: Adam Adada

Russian forces seek to seize the advantage in the previous months Kyiv’s western allies pledged tanks They start arriving on the battlefield and on Friday they launch an offensive in eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian forces said on Friday that they had repelled Russian attacks on Voldar and several other villages in the eastern Donetsk region in the past 24 hours. Serhiy Chervaty, a spokesman for the armed forces in eastern Ukraine, said fierce fighting had broken out in Voldar, but Russia had failed to break through Ukrainian defences.

The regional military administration said that Russia launched 148 attacks along the front line with Ukrainian forces in the southern Zaporizhia region over the past day, using tanks, missiles and artillery.

The Russian Defense Ministry said it carried out more offensive maneuvers in the past 24 hours in both Zaporizhia and Vohlidar, where it said it launched strikes on the Ukrainian 72nd Brigade and shot down a Ukrainian Su-25 warplane.

Ukrainian soldier in Bakhmut resting next to an armored medical vehicle.



Meanwhile, the European Union extended on Friday economic sanctions on Russia for the next six months. The decision affects a range of sanctions imposed last year, from financial penalties on Russian banks and its central bank to export and import bans.

There were concerns that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban might push for a weakening of the sanctions package. In recent months, he attacked the EU sanctions, especially Oil import ban on Moscow, saying that it is more expensive for Europe than for Russia. Decisions on sanctions are taken by consensus among the 27 EU member states.

While Hungary has backed away from vetoing renewed economic sanctions, it is pressuring the EU to drop sanctions against several Russian executives blacklisted by the EU, according to several EU diplomats. A decision is scheduled to be taken in March on extending these sanctions.

Mr. Zelensky discussed the situation in Voldar and the city of Bakhmut in a meeting with army commanders on Thursday, he said in his evening address.

After months of setbacks, Russian forces earlier this month breached Ukrainian defenses in the east To capture the town of Solidar. This made it difficult for Ukraine to hold neighboring Bakhmut, which had been at the center of the war for several months. The city is central to Russia’s main objective: to capture the rest of Donetsk and the wider industrial region known as Donbass. But the fight is there at great cost for both sides.

“The more Russia loses in this battle for Donbass, the less its overall potential,” said the Ukrainian president. We know what the occupiers are planning. We’re facing it.”

Ukrainian officials warn that Russia is preparing for a renewed offensive this spring after massing some 300,000 men to support its faltering campaign last fall. For Moscow, there is a window for the tanks that Kyiv’s western allies pledged this week arrives in Ukrainepotentially tilting the battlefield again.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Friday that its forces had launched a series of strikes over the past day on Ukrainian military targets and infrastructure that had impeded the transfer of weapons, including those from countries in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, to the front.

Russian forces fired missiles at Ukraine in a photo released Friday by the Russian Defense Ministry.


Russian Defense Ministry Press Bureau / Zuma Press

Kyiv’s allies are hastening to assemble the equivalent of two battalions Leopard 2 tank From a group of European countries after the commitment of Germany and the United States to provide their tanks. The initial contingent is expected to arrive in Ukraine within three months.

Poland, which has been at the forefront of pushing for increased military support for Ukraine, said on Friday it would send 60 upgraded T-72 tanks – half of them Polish-made PT-91 Twardy tanks – in addition to contributing 14 Leopards. .

The United States also pledged 31 M1 Abrams tankBut those will take longer to get to Ukraine because they are being bought by the defense industry rather than drawn from existing US defense stocks.

Mr. Zelensky urged Western countries to speed up the delivery of tanks and train Ukrainian forces in their use as Russia regains the initiative.

Russian officials said the tanks would not change the dynamics on the battlefield and would only escalate the war.

The German and American tank clauses were not escalatory and were intended to help Ukrainians defend themselves, rather than make them attackers, Stefano Sannino, Secretary General of the EU’s European External Action Service, said during a visit to Japan. Mr. Senino said that the decision to supply them comes in response to the Russian escalation, accusing Moscow of launching indiscriminate attacks on civilians and cities.

The British Ministry of Defense said that the tanks will enable Ukraine to destroy enemy tanks, and will provide greater protection and support for joint operations. Assessing recent Russian claims of progress, the ministry said Russian forces likely carried out local attacks, probing attacks near Voldar in the east and Orekhev in the Zaporizhia region, but Russia made no significant gains.

The ministry said that Russian military sources deliberately spread disinformation in an attempt to suggest that the Russian operation is maintaining momentum.

The bombing caused damage to the center of Bakhmut, where Ukrainian and Russian forces are fighting over the city.


Emmanuel Satoli for The Wall Street Journal

Write to Isabel Coles at [email protected]

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