The Macomb Daily

Russia pushes advance on Bakhmut, bolsters defenses in southern region

- By Samya Kullab and Yuras Karmanau

Fierce battles raged outside Bakhmut as Russian forces pushed their advance on the eastern city with heavy shelling and infantry attacks, Ukraine’s presidenti­al office said Monday, with at least five civilians killed and as many wounded in action across the war-torn country in the last 24 hours.

The presidenti­al office said the situation in Bakhmut’s northern suburb of Paraskovii­vka is “difficult” as Russian forces continued to pummel the area with “intense shelling and stormingac­tions.”Thenearbyt­ownofVuhle­dar is also under heavy bombardmen­t.

Ukrainian soldiers began training on Leopard 2 battle tanks, Germany’s Defense Ministry spokeswoma­n Nadine Krueger said in Berlin. Germany pledged to deliver 14 of the tanks to Ukraine by the end of March.

Secretary-General Jens Stoltenber­g againurged­Ukraine’sWesternal­liesto ramp up their military support. Asked Monday when he expects Russia’s socalled spring offensive to begin, Stoltenber­g said that “the reality is that we have seen the start already.”

“For me, this just highlights the importance of timing. It’s urgent to provide Ukraine with more weapons,” he told reporters in Brussels. Stoltenber­g said that NATO sees “no sign whatsoever that President Putin is preparing for peace” and that arming Ukraine more quickly could save lives by bringing a quicker end to the conflict.

Russian forces shelled a dozen cities and villages in the Donetsk region in the last 24 hours including in Druzhkivka where a missile hit a hospital and in Pokrovsk where shelling damaged seven houses and a kindergart­en.

“The shelling intensifie­s, and the Russians accumulate more forces for an attack on peaceful cities,” Donetsk Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said. “We’re seeing a very tough battle in which the Russians aren’t sparing neither themselves, nor us.”

In the neighborin­g Luhansk region, Russian troops pulled back after several days of intense fighting near the key city of Kreminna, although they’re not “running out of steam,” Luhansk Gov. Serhii Haidai told Ukrainian television.

In the partially occupied southern region of Kherson, artillery fire hit more than 20 cities and villages over the past 24 hours including the regional capital of the same name which was recaptured by Ukrainian forces in November. Two men were killed in one of the villages when their car ran over a landmine.

In the neighborin­g Dnipropetr­ovsk region, Russian shelling of the city of Nikopol killed one person and wounded two others. The shelling also damaged a residentia­l building, a water treatment facility and a college.

Meanwhile, the U.K. Defense Ministry said Russian forces are bolstering defensive fortificat­ions on the edge of the battlefron­t in southern Ukraine to protect their flank, despite their focus on the Donbas region.

“This is demonstrat­ed by continued constructi­on of defensive fortificat­ions in Zaporizhzh­ia and Luhansk oblasts and deployment of personnel,” the Ministry said in a briefing Monday.

The U.S. embassy in Moscow issued another warning to U.S. citizens not to travel to Russia for fear of harassment or detention, urged them to leave immediatel­y if they have to travel there.

The warning cited “the potential for harassment and the singling out of U.S. citizens for detention by Russian government security officials, the arbitrary enforcemen­t of local law, limited flights into and out of Russia, the Embassy’s limited ability to assist U.S. citizens in Russia, and the possibilit­y of terrorism.”

The embassy also noted that Russian authoritie­s may sweep up U.S. citizens who also hold Russian citizenshi­p in a possible renewed mobilizati­on of reservists. “Russia may refuse to acknowledg­e dual nationals’ U.S. citizenshi­p, deny their access to U.S. consular assistance, subject them to mobilizati­on, prevent their departure from Russia, and/or conscript them,” the warning said.

Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last February, the embassy has regularly issued advisories for U.S. citizens not to travel to Russia and leave if they already have.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied Monday that a second round of mobilizati­on is looming.

Although many people have fled the Donetsk province where the bulk of the fighting is concentrat­ed, those who opted to stay depend on sporadic aid deliveries of food and water.

In the city of Sviatohirs­k, in northern Donetsk, the few residents who remain rely on volunteers with the organizati­on World Central Kitchen for food and supplies to cope with freezing temperatur­es. Sviatohirs­k was liberated by Ukrainian forces in September.

On Sunday, the area was blanketed with snow, concealing the massive destructio­n from repeated bombardmen­ts and heavy fighting.

Standing by the ruins of the city council building, resident Valeriy Andrievski­y said the building used to be “beautiful.”

“God forbid our forces retreat and we stay (behind enemy lines). God forbid. I will not survive this one more time,” he said.

Walking near the ruins of her home, 80-year-old Tamara Yevdokimov­a said she had been “tortured” by Russian forces.

“I haven’t been able to hear for five months ... They (Russians) have knocked my teeth out. What can I do?” she said. In her yard were the burned out remnants of a Russian tank.

People who left the front lines in search of safety continue are still struggling to adapt to a new life elsewhere. In Kyiv, dozens of people from Donbas, Kherson and Kharkiv regions are being helped by Center of Hope and Recovery, an organizati­on that provides temporary homes and meals.

“These are people who have left in the past what they have earned for years, and this is a very traumatic experience,” said head of the center Anna Harkun. They receive psychologi­cal and medical help, while volunteers help them find work and permanent lodging, she added.

Russian rockets destroyed the home of 80-year-old Anatoly Zakharenko in village Terny in Donetsk. His wife, daughter, and disabled granddaugh­ter were all evacuated and are being helped in the city.

Missing his hometown, he wrote a poem to ease the pain of displaceme­nt. “I will return to you, believe me,” he said, reading it aloud.

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