Russia makes big push toward Bakhmut and Avdiivka; Germany set to double Kyiv military aid

Russia makes big push toward Bakhmut and Avdiivka; Germany set to double Kyiv military aid
A Ukrainian soldier equips and prepares a drone and ammunition before leaving for a combat position on 12 November 2023 in the Bakhmut district of Ukraine. (Photo: Kostya Liberov / Libkos via Getty Images)

Kremlin forces have stepped up the intensity of attacks near Bakhmut over the past week, Ukrainian military spokesman Volodymyr Fityo said on local TV. The Donetsk city was the centre of a bitter, months-long battle for control.

Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, said Russia was trying to recapture territory lost around Bakhmut during Ukraine’s summer and autumn offensive. “Enemy attacks are being repelled,” he wrote on Sunday. Separately, Kremlin troops were stepping up air strikes around Avdiivka, also in Donetsk, Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, who leads Kyiv’s forces in the area, said on Telegram. Some 30 strikes had been launched in a day, he said.

Ukraine’s military intelligence took responsibility for an explosion on Saturday night in the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol that killed three officers of the Russian National Guard, calling it a “revenge action”. Russia on Saturday opened a criminal case into possible terrorism after the detonation of an “improvised explosive device” caused a freight train to derail southeast of Moscow, sending 19 cars off the tracks.

A senior Ukrainian military officer with deep ties to the country’s intelligence services played a central role in sabotaging the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in 2022, The Washington Post and Germany’s Der Spiegel reported, citing officials in Ukraine and elsewhere who weren’t identified.

Latest developments

Germany set to double its Ukraine military aid under Scholz plan 

Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s governing coalition has agreed to double German military aid for Ukraine next year to €8-billion, people familiar with the matter said.

If approved by the parliament in Berlin where Scholz’s parties hold a majority, the boost would lift Germany’s defence spending beyond the 2% of gross domestic product target pledged by all North Atlantic Treaty Organization members, according to the people.

Legislators of Scholz’s Social Democrats, the Free Democrats and the Green party agreed on the increase in negotiations over the proposed 2024 federal budget this week, said the people, who asked not to be identified since the plan isn’t public yet. A Defence Ministry spokesperson declined to comment.

Scholz has pledged a significant expansion of military capabilities even after a special fund for defence spending is exhausted as Germany builds out its role as Nato’s European hub. Germany is Ukraine’s biggest military backer in Europe and is second globally only to the US.

The budget committee of the Bundestag, or lower house of parliament, is expected to approve the additional €4-billion next week, which would increase German defence spending to 2.1% of GDP in 2024.

Read more: Scholz promises long-term boost to German military spending 

Germany has channelled more than €17-billion in military aid to Ukraine, according to data tracked by the Kiel Institute for the World Economy. That includes Leopard 2 main battle tanks, Marder armoured infantry fighting vehicles, Iris-T and Patriot anti-missile systems, Gepard anti-aircraft guns and multiple-rocket launchers.

Russia opens terror probe into train derailment

An “improvised explosive device” was behind Saturday’s freight train derailment southeast of Moscow in which 19 cars were thrown off the tracks, according to Russian authorities.

A criminal case had been opened into possible terrorism, the state investigation committee said on Telegram. Investigators were on the scene.

Moscow Railway said earlier in a social media post that the derailment in the Ryazan region happened after “illegal interference of unauthorised persons”, without providing more detail.

The rail operator is a unit of state-owned Russian Railways. It serves most regions in central Russia and connects the capital and nearby cities with several regions on the border with the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine.

Some 300 workers were dealing with the aftermath of the accident, including restoring the railbed, the railway said. The derailed cars, 15 of which were said to be damaged, are being gradually lifted off the tracks.

The railway didn’t say what was being transported. Images posted on social media showed what appeared to be a white substance spilling from some of the cars.

Ukraine hasn’t commented on the incident.

Separately, a gunpowder factory in Russia’s Tambov region about 400km southeast of Moscow caught fire overnight, with no reason given so far. DM


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