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UKRAINE UPDATE: 15 MAY 2023

Kyiv’s forces retake more positions near Bakhmut; Zelensky meets European leaders

Kyiv’s forces retake more positions near Bakhmut; Zelensky meets European leaders
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz address a press conference after their meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin on 14 May 2023. It was the first time Zelensky had visited Germany since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Clemens Bilan)

President Volodymyr Zelensky travelled to Berlin on Sunday, where he met with Chancellor Olaf Scholz and other leaders, a day after a visit to Rome that included an audience with Pope Francis. He was expected to travel to Paris late on Sunday and meet President Emmanuel Macron on Monday.

Germany on Saturday announced it was preparing a record military aid package for Ukraine of almost $3-billion. On Sunday, Chancellor Olaf Scholz reiterated a pledge to continue to support the government in Kyiv for as long as needed.

Ukraine fired on targets in the occupied Luhansk region on Friday using Storm Shadow missiles provided by the UK, Russia’s defence ministry said. Russia said on Sunday that two of its commanders had been killed in action in the Donetsk region. Ukraine said on Sunday it had captured “over 10 enemy positions” in Bakhmut.

Key developments

Zelensky due in Paris late on Sunday, will meet with Macron on Monday

Volodymyr Zelensky was due to travel to Paris late on Sunday and was expected to meet on Monday with President Emmanuel Macron. That follows a weekend during which Ukraine’s president met the leaders of Germany and Italy, as well as Pope Francis.

Zelensky travelled to Aachen, Germany, on Sunday afternoon to accept the Charlemagne Prize for work done in the service of European unification that has been awarded to him and the people of Ukraine.

Ukraine reports new progress near Bakhmut

Kyiv’s forces recaptured more than 10 Russian positions south and north of Bakhmut on Sunday, Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar said on Telegram.

Ukrainian units also secured a large part of a forest near Ivanivske, a town on the western outskirts of the city, while taking a number of Russian soldiers prisoner, she said.

“One metre is worth 10km in terms of difficulty of accomplishing tasks,” Maliar said, describing how complicated it is for Ukrainians to advance near the strategic city.

Zelensky greets exiled Belarusian leader

Zelensky shook hands with exiled Belarus opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya while in Aachen, Germany, for the Charlemagne Prize ceremony. It’s believed to be the first time he has met her since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Tsikhanouskaya, last year’s winner, was shown being introduced to Zelensky for a handshake by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, while flanked by Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and European Parliament President Roberta Metsola.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko hasn’t been seen in public since 9 May amid media speculation about his poor health. He skipped an important annual patriotic ceremony on Sunday.

 

 

 

Russia says two commanders killed in Ukraine’s east

Russia’s defence ministry made a rare admission of combat deaths, saying two of its commanders had been killed in action in eastern Ukraine as the battle for control continued around Bakhmut, the Donetsk city that’s been largely laid to waste.

In a daily update of what Russia calls its “special military operation”, the ministry said its Fourth Motorised Rifle Brigade had repelled two attacks by Ukrainian forces around Krasnoye, west of Bakhmut, but that its commander, Colonel Vyacheslav Makarov, was injured on the battlefield during the third attack, and died while being evacuated.

His deputy, Colonel Yevgeny Brovko, who was commanding on a different, unspecified part of the front line, was killed after sustaining “multiple shrapnel wounds”, the ministry said.

Scholz pledges continued aid to Ukraine at Berlin meeting

Chancellor Olaf Scholz made a personal pledge to Zelensky that Germany would continue to support Kyiv with military and other assistance for as long as needed.

Scholz hosted Zelensky in Berlin for the first time since Russia’s invasion and said the Ukrainian leader’s visit was “a strong signal”. It came a day after the German government announced its biggest package yet of materiel for Ukraine, of nearly $3-billion.

Russia strikes home city of Ukraine’s Eurovision finalist 

Russia struck Ternopil while the band Tvorchi, which hails from the western Ukrainian city, was preparing to perform at the Eurovision Song Contest finals in Liverpool on Saturday night, Andriy Yermak, Zelensky’s chief of staff, said on Telegram.

The strike was one of several overnight. Russian troops attacked Ukraine with Shahed drones, as well as fired Kalibr missiles from ships in the Black Sea and cruise missiles from strategic bombers, General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said on Facebook.

Air defences downed three missiles and 25 drones, according to the statement. Some missiles and their debris hit the Ternopil region as well as Mykolayiv in the country’s south. At least 30 civilians were wounded in the attacks, according to the General Staff. Russian missiles also hit Kharkiv in the northeast, the region’s governor said.

Zelensky says he urged pope ‘to condemn Russian crimes’

Zelensky said on Twitter that he urged Pope Francis, in their private meeting at the Vatican on Saturday, “to condemn Russian crimes in Ukraine. Because there can be no equality between the victim and the aggressor.

“I also talked about our peace formula as the only effective algorithm for achieving a just peace. I proposed joining its implementation,” Zelensky said.

A Vatican statement after the meeting didn’t mention peace efforts, noting that the two men had discussed the “humanitarian and political situation in Ukraine caused by the ongoing war”.

 

 

 

Russian newspaper says two jets, two helicopters crash in Bryansk 

Two Russian military jets — an Su-24 and an Su-35 — and two Mi-8 helicopters crashed on Saturday in the Bryansk region not far from Ukraine’s northeast border, with their crews killed, the Kommersant newspaper reported.

Earlier, Russian media reported that one plane and one helicopter had crashed, with the circumstances still under investigation.

In its report, which cited “preliminary data”, Kommersant said the jets had been headed to Ukraine’s Chernihiv region on a bombing mission with the helicopters trailing them to pick up crew members if they were shot down by enemy fire.

Russia says Ukraine used UK Storm Shadow missiles to strike Luhansk

Ukraine’s forces used Storm Shadow missiles provided by the UK to strike occupied Luhansk, Russia’s defence ministry said in an update on what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Russia said the targets included a polymer factory and a meat plant, without offering evidence. There was no immediate comment from Ukraine’s military. Images on social media showed large plumes of smoke rising in the city that’s far behind the front lines in eastern Ukraine.

The UK confirmed last week that it was donating the weapons to Ukraine, saying the move was a “calibrated and proportionate response to Russia’s escalations”. The missiles have a firing range in excess of 250km. It was unclear when the Storm Shadows would be ready for deployment.

Read more: UK sends long-range Storm Shadow cruise missiles to Ukraine

Germany announces €2.7bn military aid package for Ukraine  

Germany was preparing another military support package for Ukraine worth more than €2.7-billion, the country’s defence ministry said, confirming an earlier report from Der Spiegel.

The record large package is intended to continue to support Kyiv in its defence against Russia and will include material from the areas of artillery, air defence, and armoured combat vehicles including main battle tanks.

“We are once again showing that Germany is serious about its support,” said German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius. “Germany will provide all the help it can, as long as it takes,” he added. DM

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