- Biden Says ‘No’ When Asked About F-16s For Ukraine
- Zelensky says Moscow seeks ‘revenge’.
- England says Russia attacked Wuhleder with at least one squadron
- Russia’s biggest gain this month since mid-2022
KYIV, Jan. 31 (Reuters) – A major Russian force has advanced hundreds of meters this week in a major new offensive on a Ukrainian-held stronghold in southeastern Ukraine, although significant progress there is unlikely, Britain said on Tuesday.
Russian officials said the advance had gained a foothold in the coal-mining town of Wuhleder. Cave acknowledges the fierce fighting there, but says he has so far held off the push while inflicting heavy losses on the attackers.
In an intelligence update that provided rare battlefield details, the British ministry said Russia was attacking the city with at least a brigade-sized force, which typically has full-scale capabilities of several thousand troops.
So far, the Russians may have advanced several hundred meters from the south beyond the Kashlahach River, which has marked the front line for months. The small river flows on the edge of the town of Pavlivka, about two kilometers south of Wuhleder.
“There is a realistic possibility that Russia will continue to make local gains in this sector. However, it is unlikely that Russia will have enough uncommitted troops in the region to make operationally significant progress.”
It said Russian commanders were trying to create a new axis of advance to divert Ukrainian forces from the city of Baghmut, which has been the main focus of Russia’s offensive for months.
Reuters could not independently confirm the situation in the region.
Wuhleder is located at the southern tip of the eastern part of Ukraine, overlooking the railway lines that supply Russian forces at the near southern tip. Ukraine has repelled several Russian attacks on the city since the war began eleven months ago.
The Russian offensive there comes after Moscow has made significant advances around Bagmut in the past two weeks, its biggest gains since Ukraine retook large swaths of territory in the second half of 2022. First place in November.
Military experts say Moscow is determined to make gains in Ukraine in the coming months before Kyiv receives hundreds of newly pledged Western tanks and armored vehicles for a counteroffensive to recapture occupied territory this year.
Pakmut, a city once home to 100,000 people, looks increasingly vulnerable after Russia seized the salt-mining town of Soledar to its north a week ago. Moscow claims to have made significant additional gains in both the northern and southern suburbs of Pakmut; Kyiv says the city itself is not yet in danger of falling, but the fighting there is tough.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described Russia’s offensive in the east as an attempt to “revenge” its earlier losses.
“And I don’t think they will be able to provide their community with a definitive positive outcome to the attack. I have confidence in our military. We will stop and destroy them bit by bit and prepare our big counterattack,” he said. said on Monday.
Russian offensives in recent weeks have come at great cost, initially relying mostly on mercenaries, including thousands of criminals recruited from Russian prisons and sent into battle in human waves without proper training or equipment.
But Russia’s call-up of hundreds of thousands of reservists late last year means Moscow is now able to rebuild regular army units that were depleted or depleted before the war.
A British Ministry of Defense statement said the attack on Wuhledar was led by a unit of Russian naval infantry, which tried unsuccessfully to storm the town in November.
F-16: Biden says no
Since winning a Western commitment to tanks after months of lobbying, Kiev has pressed demands for more weapons, including calls for jet fighters such as US F-16s. Neither side could assert control of the sky over Ukraine.
The West has so far refused to send weapons that could be used to strike deep into Russia, a line countries still do not want to cross. Asked by reporters at the White House on Monday whether Washington would send F-16s, US President Joe Biden replied, “No”.
However, Ukraine remains hopeful. Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov was due to meet President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Tuesday and told reporters in The Hague on Monday that “nothing is excluded by definition” when it comes to military aid.
Macron said any move to send the jets would depend on factors including the need to avoid escalation and a guarantee that the aircraft “will not touch Russian soil”.
Asked by a reporter before Biden spoke, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki did not rule out supplying F-16s to neighboring Ukraine.
In comments posted on his website, Morawiecki said such an exchange would take place “in full coordination” with NATO countries. Poland has long aggressively pushed for Western military support for Ukraine.
Reuters reports by Peter Graff; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel
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