Ukraine claims Bachmut gains despite Russian denials The Moscow

Ukraine claims Bachmut gains despite Russian denials – The Moscow Times

Ukraine said on Friday that its forces had retaken parts of territory around the embattled town of Bakhmut, even as President Volodymr Zelenskyy insists his army needed more time before launching the expected spring offensive.

Kiev’s claimed gains near the epicenter of the war’s fiercest battle have been refuted by Moscow, but come as expectations mount about the expected, risky counterstrike.

China said it will send a special envoy to visit Ukraine, Russia and European nations next week as Beijing continues efforts to position itself as a peacemaker.

Beijing plans to send its senior diplomat Li Hui to Ukraine, Poland, France, Germany and Russia to “communicate with all parties on the political solution to the Ukraine crisis.”

From Ukraine to the Middle East, Beijing has in recent months attempted to position itself as a facilitator with a leading role in resolving global crises.

But while China claims it is a neutral party in the Ukraine war, it has been criticized for refusing to blame Moscow for the invasion.

“Big losses” in the Bachmut fight

On the battlefield, Ukraine said its forces had advanced two kilometers (about a mile) near Bakhmut – the scene of the longest and bloodiest battle since the more than year-long invasion of Moscow.

Bakhmut once had a population of around 70,000 people. It was destroyed as Russian forces made increasing advances in recent months and took about 80% of the city.

“The enemy has suffered major manpower losses,” Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said in a statement on social media.

“We didn’t lose a single position in Bakhmut this week.”

Russia denied that Ukraine had made any breakthroughs in the hotspot city, saying reports of its loss of territory around the city “didn’t correspond to reality”.

But the head of the Wagner private military group that led Moscow’s attack on Bakhmut, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said Kiev had carried out “successful counterattacks”.

The social media accounts of several Russian war correspondents also raised alarm late in the night. Some of them said that the long-awaited counter-offensive in Kiev had begun.

However, Zelenskyy said in an interview published on Thursday that Kyiv needed more time before going on the offensive.

“Mentally we are ready…” noted the Ukrainian leader. “Not everything has arrived at the equipment yet.

“With (what we have) we can move forward and be successful. But we would lose a lot of people. I think that’s unacceptable. So we have to wait. We need a little more time,” he said.

Prigozhin, whose feud with Russia’s conventional army has flared up in recent days, hailed Ukraine’s achievements and urged his rival, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, to visit Bakhmut.

“The enemy has launched a series of successful counterattacks,” Prigozhin wrote to Shoigu on social media, urging him to “independently assess the current situation.”

Talks on renewal of the Grains Agreement

The message came after the outspoken Wagner boss launched unprecedented attacks on Russia’s military leadership. He accused Shoigu of being partly responsible for Russia’s massive casualties and said Russian soldiers fled “criminal” orders in Bakhmut.

Prigozhin has admitted for days that some Ukrainian units have successfully broken through in some areas.

However, the Russian army denied claims by Prigozhin and pro-Moscow bloggers that Kiev had made some breakthroughs.

“The individual statements on Telegram about a ‘breakthrough’ at several points on the front line do not correspond to reality,” the defense ministry said in a statement.

With the fate of Bakhmut at stake, Turkey said on Friday talks on extending a deal allowing grain exports from Ukraine across the Black Sea following the Russian invasion were close to agreement.

“We are on track to reach an agreement to extend the grain deal,” Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said in a statement.

The Black Sea Grains Initiative, in force since July after diplomacy from the United Nations and Turkey, allows Ukraine to export grain through ports, helping to alleviate shortages and resulting price spikes caused by Russia’s invasion of the granary nation became.