Ukraine claimed on Tuesday to have taken back 20 km2 from Russian forces around the devastated city of Bakhmout, the epicenter of fighting for months in the east of its territory, where it has put Russia in difficulty.
Kiev, which repelled a deluge of Russian missiles overnight, has also received support from London to obtain F-16 allies, these Western fighter planes that it has been calling for in vain for months to counter Russia.
London wants to build an “international coalition” to help Ukraine obtain F-16 fighter jets, Downing Street said on Tuesday after a meeting between British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his Dutch counterpart, Mark Rutte, on the occasion of a Council of Europe summit in Iceland.
It is about “providing Ukraine with combat air capabilities […], ranging from training to delivering F-16 aircraft,” Britain added. The day before, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he was “very optimistic” about this issue on which Westerners have been dithering for months, after talks with Mr. Sunak.
These announcements come in the midst of the battle for Bakhmout, a major issue in recent weeks when the Ukrainian army is regaining ground in the north and south, opening up the city that the Russians now control more than 90%.
“In recent days, our troops have liberated about 20 square kilometers north and south” of Bakhmout, said Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Ganna Maliar.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, however, stressed on Monday that it was not yet the long-awaited counter-offensive that kyiv has been preparing for months, for which his army “needs more time”.
The Russian troops continue for their part to advance within this city, “Completely destroying the city with the help of artillery”, added Ganna Maliar.
Wagner’s chief Yevgeny Prigozhin confirmed this in an audio recording: “Today Wagner’s units advanced 200 meters and occupied an area of 113,000 m2. Only 1.46 square kilometers remain under enemy control in Bakhmout. »
Missiles shot down
Overnight, Ukraine said it repelled another barrage of fire by shooting down six Russian Kinjal hypersonic missiles — which Moscow denied — and 12 other missiles, including Kalibr cruise missiles, S-400 anti-aircraft missiles and Iskander ballistic missiles. but also Iranian-made drones.
On the contrary, Moscow assured that it had “hit all the targets”, including “deployment points of the Ukrainian armed forces” and Western ammunition and weapons depots.
During the night, AFP journalists saw Ukrainian air defense in kyiv in action, lighting up the night sky.
The Russian army also claimed to have destroyed an American Patriot system in kyiv and intercepted seven British long-range Storm Shadow missiles, the delivery of which was announced last week by London.
According to the capital’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, three people were injured in the attack, which happened hours before Chinese envoy Li Hui was expected to arrive in Kiev for a two-day visit.
Special Representative for Eurasian Affairs, former Chinese Ambassador to Moscow, Li Hui is supposed to discuss the “political settlement” of the Ukrainian conflict. He must also go to Poland, France, Germany and Russia.
China, a close partner of Russia, has never publicly condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine. She only offered a 12-point plan to end the war, viewed with skepticism by Westerners.
A peace mission led by six African leaders must leave “as soon as possible” in Ukraine and Russia, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Tuesday, adding that Kiev and Moscow had “agreed to receive it”.
Europeans at the top
This Russian attack also comes the day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky returned to Kiev after a European tour that took him to Italy, the Vatican, Germany, France and the United Kingdom.
“Back home with […] new and powerful weapons for the front,” Mr. Zelensky announced in a video message, after securing new aid pledges, including long-range attack drones and anti-aircraft missiles.
On the diplomatic front, the 46 member states of the Council of Europe meet at a summit in Iceland to show their unity against Moscow.
The meeting, only the fourth for the pan-European organization in nearly 75 years of existence, aims to multiply the means to hold Russia criminally responsible for the destruction and crimes caused by its invasion of Ukraine.
The Council of Europe thus created on Tuesday an “international register of damage caused by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine”, announced French President Emmanuel Macron at the opening of the summit.
He also called on the Council of Europe to help set up around a hundred “mental health centres” in Ukraine to deal with the traumas of war.
Another big topic, the extension of the Ukrainian grain export deal was still uncertain on Tuesday, with the Kremlin saying there were “many questions” to be resolved.
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