Nato chief warns Bakhmut may fall soon; Germany’s Pistorius cautions on ammunition shortages

Nato chief warns Bakhmut may fall soon; Germany’s Pistorius cautions on ammunition shortages
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky (right) and UN Secretary-General António Guterres attend a joint press conference after their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, on 8 March 2023. Guterres arrived in Ukraine to meet top officials and discuss the further implementation of the ‘grain agreement’. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Sergey Dolzhenko)

Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the possible fall of Bakhmut ‘in the coming days’ would not indicate a turning point in Russia’s war against Ukraine.

‘We must continue to provide support to Ukraine,” Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said before a meeting with European Union defence ministers in Sweden.

Ukraine continues to defend Bakhmut, Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar said when asked about the Nato chief’s comments during a press conference. Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov, meanwhile, said that a draft EU proposal to use €1-billion to buy shells won’t be enough, adding his country needs about four times as much.

Key Developments

Ukraine continues to defend Bakhmut, says deputy defence minister 

“So far, Bakhmut is standing,” Malyar, the Ukrainian deputy defence minister, said.

Replying to the comment by Stoltenberg that Bakhmut may fall within days, she said that while the gruelling fighting exhausts Ukraine it also drains forces from Russia.

“For us, it’s very important to exhaust the enemy, so all this makes its own sense,” she said.

Ukraine’s GDP decline slowed in February, says economy minister

The economy shrank by nearly 26% in February from the same period last year, according to preliminary data, said Economy Minister Yulia Svyrydenko on the ministry’s website.

This compares with an estimated 32% decline in January, according to Svyrydenko. Economic activity gradually began to recover and the business mood improved as the energy deficit shrank and power cutoffs became shorter from mid-February. Reconstruction in liberated territories and the relocation of farmers from the front lines to safer areas also helped to offset the economic decline.

UN’s Guterres visits Kyiv as crop-export deal talks continue  

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres visited Ukraine for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday on issues which included grain exports, nuclear security and mitigating the impact of Russia’s war.

“I want to underscore the critical importance of the rollover of the Black Sea Grain Initiative,” Guterres said during a press conference with Zelensky in Kyiv.

The deal allowing the export of grain from some Ukrainian ports is set to expire on 18 March and can be extended if no side seeks to terminate or modify it, though a renewal is yet to be confirmed.




Ukraine to evacuate dozens of children from Bakhmut  

About 40 children would be relocated with a family member, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on television. The evacuation of children had been encouraged in all areas of fighting, but was made obligatory for Bakhmut during a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

They are among fewer than 4,000 civilians still in Bakhmut compared with a population of about 70,000 before the invasion, including about 12,000 children, according to Vereshchuk.

The issue of children in Russia’s war has become particularly charged. Last month, The School of Public Health’s Humanitarian Research Lab at Yale University said at least 6,000 Ukrainian children aged from four months to 17 years had been placed in “political reeducation” camps in Russia and occupied Crimea, with some later adopted or sent to foster families.

Bakhmut could fall to Russia shortly, says Nato chief

Stoltenberg said Russia had suffered major losses in the battle for Bakhmut but was deploying more troops, trying to use quantity as a way of making up for a lack of quality.

“They have suffered big losses but at the same time we cannot rule out that Bakhmut may eventually fall in the coming days,” the Nato secretary-general said, referring to Russia.

“Therefore, it is also important to highlight that this does not necessarily reflect any turning point of the war and just highlights that we should not underestimate Russia and should continue to provide support to Ukraine.”

Mother of Wagner Group founder wins appeal against EU sanctions 

Violetta Prigozhina was targeted in February last year through her association with her son Yevgeny, whose mercenary group has played a key role in President Vladimir Putin’s increasingly all-encompassing war effort. The EU General Court, the bloc’s second-highest tribunal, on Wednesday annulled her inclusion on the list.

Even if Prigozhin “is responsible for actions undermining the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine”, the link between mother and son “is based solely on their family relationship and is therefore not sufficient to justify her inclusion on the contested lists”.

Zelensky’s top aide and US security adviser discuss Bakhmut  

Zelensky’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, spoke by phone with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. Yermak briefed Sullivan on decisions approved by President Volodymyr Zelensky and the top military command about operations near Bakhmut, Zelensky’s office said by email.

Yermak and Sullivan discussed international efforts to provide Ukraine with weapons and financial support, punishment for Russian crimes against Ukrainians and environmental damage caused by the Russian invasion.

Germany’s Pistorius warns of ammunition shortages 

The EU proposal for sending ammunition to Ukraine “is important and necessary, but one can’t avoid the fact that over the next few weeks and months we’ll have to grapple with shortages”, German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said in Stockholm.

Pistorius said that “right now we need to find stocks jointly and to deliver whatever we can — to supply within the context of our own defence capabilities and the capacities of the alliance”. He added there was also a need to “see how quickly industry can scale up production”.

Draft EU proposal on ammunition is too little, says Ukraine  

Ukraine urgently needs artillery ammunition in large quantities, and a draft EU proposal to use €1-billion to buy shells won’t suffice, Ukraine’s Reznikov said. “We need one million rounds and approximately that would cost €4-billion,” Reznikov told reporters before a meeting of his EU counterparts in Sweden. “We need more.”

The EU’s Josep Borrell said: “We have the resources that we have.” He added: “If member states are ready to provide more, then we will have it. But today let’s be realistic and pragmatic. Don’t discuss about the infinity, discuss about the thing that can be adopted today.”




We must ramp up ammunition production in Europe, says Sweden

“What is crucial is that Ukrainians direly need ammunition and we have to ramp up production within Europe,” Swedish Defence Minister Pal Jonson told reporters in Stockholm. “The primary objective is to procure from the European industrial base, but if there are other deliveries from other states I don’t think we should exclude that possibility.”

The European Commission, the EU’s executive body, last week circulated a three-track plan, proposing to immediately transfer ammunition to Ukraine, particularly 155mm artillery rounds, from existing stocks or pending orders. It also called for aggregating orders to European industry and pledged to propose measures to cut back on red tape or other bottlenecks hindering the industry from ramping up output.

Wagner troops have taken eastern part of Bakhmut, says Prigozhin

Yevgeny Prigozhin’s claim on Bakhmut couldn’t immediately be verified, but Russian forces have been slowly advancing in and around the city, which has seen some of the heaviest fighting of the war.

According to the Institute for the Study of War, “Russian forces have likely captured the eastern part of Bakhmut east of the Bakhmutka River following a controlled Ukrainian withdrawal from eastern Bakhmut as of March 7.” Zelensky this week ordered commanders to continue the defence of the city despite the Russian advances.

Germany reacts cautiously to Nord Stream report 

Germany’s Pistorius reacted cautiously to a New York Times report that said new intelligence reviewed by US officials suggested a pro-Ukrainian group carried out last year’s attack on the Nord Stream gas pipelines. The newspaper did not identify the officials by name and said they declined to disclose the nature of the intelligence or how it was obtained.

“It’s always interesting to read such investigative reporting and I have taken note with great interest but we have to wait and see what is actually confirmed,” Pistorius told Germany’s Deutschlandfunk radio. “I don’t think commenting on hypotheticals is appropriate,” he added. “Much more important is that we do everything possible to better protect underwater critical infrastructure.” DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Neil Parker says:

    When one considers the heroic defence of Bakhmut and the many Ukrainians who have lost their lives fighting for their country, one can have nothing but utter contempt for Messrs Trump , McCarthy and co for their mealie-mouthed isolationist remarks. I would go further. The genesis of this war lies in Mr Trump’s disastrous undermining of US/European security arrangements against the advice of his top advisers such as John Bolton. And in his obsession with digging up dirt on Hunter Biden. To the extent of cheering on Mr Cowboy Putin as “savvy” and “genius” when he invaded Ukraine. Well Mr Trump , the sad news is that your cowboy friend never made it to Kiev, never got to dig the dirt you wanted. Mr Bolton has described you accurately enough – I will not repeat here.

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