Ukraine ground commander in Bakhmut amid Russian siege; Wagner boss says Moscow defence ministry barred envoy

Ukraine ground commander in Bakhmut amid Russian siege; Wagner boss says Moscow defence ministry barred envoy
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (centre) inspects restoration works on infrastructure in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine. Shoigu visited Mariupol to inspect Russian reconstruction efforts, the Russian Defence Ministry said. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Russian Defence Ministry Handout)

Ukraine’s armed forces said Russian troops continue to pursue an attempt to cut off the besieged eastern city of Bakhmut as Kyiv’s top ground commander visited the area. Kremlin forces are on the offensive along five axes in Ukraine’s east, including near Bakhmut.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu made a rare visit to troops in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, according to a video released by his ministry. Shoigu “paid special attention to the creation of necessary conditions for the safe accommodation of personnel in field conditions”, the ministry said.

Key developments

Ukraine’s ground commander visits Bakhmut troops again  

Oleksandr Syrskyi, the commander in charge of Ukraine’s ground forces, made a new visit to troops defending Bakhmut and its outskirts on Monday, according to the Ukrainian Defence Ministry.

The intensity of fighting in Bakhmut was at the maximum level as reinforcements from Russia’s Wagner group arrived, according to Syrskyi.

Estonia calls for EU to halve its oil price cap

The European Union should halve the $60 price cap on Russian oil this month and further squeeze Moscow’s ability to fund the war in Ukraine, said Estonia’s foreign minister.

“We have to put the Russian crude oil price cap so that it will not allow the Russia state to receive extra benefit,” Urmas Reinsalu said in an interview in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv.

EU states have committed in principle to aim to keep the cap at 5% below average market prices. However, any changes to the threshold are set by the Group of Seven nations, who are due to meet later this month to discuss the matter.




Russia’s budget deficit rises

Russia’s budget deficit jumped in the first two months of the year, but spending showed signs of growing at a slower pace amid the invasion of Ukraine.

Russia’s crude exports from Pacific ports slide

Russia’s seaborne crude exports fell back sharply from the previous weeks’ highs, with Moscow unable to maintain record flows from the country’s Pacific ports. Flows from Baltic and Black Sea ports, where cargoes are being sold at a 25% discount to those shipped from the Pacific, were unchanged from the previous week.

Ukraine’s leading sunflower oil exporter to delist in Warsaw

The founder of Ukraine’s leading producer and exporter of sunflower oil, Kernel Holding, is seeking to delist the company from the Warsaw Stock Exchange after a year of war devastated its operations. Andrii Verevskyi plans a tender offer to acquire the remaining 62% stake in the Ukrainian company, whose shares have been traded in Warsaw since 2007, according to Trigon Dom Maklerski SA, which is arranging the transaction.

Wagner’s Prigozhin says defence ministry barred his envoy 

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner Russian mercenary group, accused the military of blocking access to his representative after he made new complaints about a shortage of ammunition.

Prigozhin said the Russian military headquarters in Ukraine annulled the pass of his envoy and prevented him from entering their premises on Monday, according to a statement posted by his press service.

The mercenary chief over the weekend blamed “ordinary bureaucracy or betrayal” for the ammunition shortage among his forces fighting in Bakhmut. He wrote a letter to the military campaign’s top commander urgently requesting more supplies.

Ukraine picks new head of anti-corruption bureau

The Ukrainian government voted to appoint Semen Kryvonos as head of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau. Kryvonos (40) previously served as head of the state inspection on architecture and bridge construction.

By making this appointment, Ukraine had now fulfilled all the recommendations required for EU membership talks, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on Monday. Shmyhal said he hoped this would allow Ukraine to start accession discussions this year.

German, UK air forces carry out joint mission for first time

Germany’s Luftwaffe and the UK’s Royal Air Force would jointly patrol Nato’s east flank over Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, starting on Monday, before Germany hands over control of the Nato Air Policing Baltics mission to the UK in April, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported, citing the defence ministry in Berlin.

It was the first time Germany and the UK deployed mixed air squads in a so-called fully integrated operation, according to the report. Germany has had five Eurofighters and 150 soldiers stationed at Estonia’s Ämari airbase since August, when it took over the lead of the mission, DPA said.

German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius starts a two-day trip to visit troops in Lithuania on Monday.



Estonia’s Kallas fends off challenge from far right 

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas’s Reform party took 31.6% of the vote, according to the Estonian Electoral Commission with more than 95% of the vote counted late on Sunday.

The prime minister, who has become popular at home and abroad for her unwavering support for Ukraine, outperformed polls and appeared to be in a strong position to form a coalition majority.

Kallas’s victory provides a strong mandate for her pledge to maintain Estonia’s transatlantic course as a committed member of the European Union and Nato.

Ukraine says Russia on the offensive along five axes in the east

Kremlin forces were on the offensive along five axes in the east, including near Bakhmut, the Ukrainian General Staff said over the weekend. Bakhmut’s deputy mayor said Russian attacks were preventing Ukrainian troops from reaching residents who wanted to evacuate.

Kremlin troops “appear to have secured a sufficient positional advantage to conduct a turning movement against parts of Bakhmut but have not yet forced Ukrainian forces to withdraw and will not likely be able to encircle the city soon”, said analysts at the US-based Institute for the Study of War.

The head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, appeared in a video on Sunday saying that if his forces withdrew from the city, the “entire frontline will collapse”. On Friday, Prigozhin claimed Bakhmut was “practically surrounded” by Russian forces, including his troops, and that Kyiv would be best advised to give up. DM


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