Friday, May 17, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 432

Russia, wary of NATO’s eastward expansion, began a military campaign in Ukraine in February 2022 after the Western-leaning Kiev government turned a deaf ear to Moscow’s calls for its neighbor to maintain its neutrality. In the middle of the mayhem, Moscow and Kiev are trying to hammer out a peaceful solution to the conflict. Follow the latest about the Russia-Ukraine conflict here:

Ukrainian general says Bakhmut “situation is quite complicated”, as fighting rages on

Ukrainian Colonel-General Oleksandr Syrskyi said fighting on the ground is “quite complicated” in Bakhmut, amid a grueling battle for control of the heavily contested eastern Ukrainian city.

Bakhmut has been besieged by Russian forces, largely from the Wagner paramilitary group, for months. But Syrskyi stated Moscow “fails to take control of the city,” according to a readout published on Monday morning.

Syrskyi gave out awards and gifts to soldiers, according to the Ukrainian Defence Ministry.

“The enemy conducted numerous attacks, trying to break through the defense of our positions in several directions,” Syrskyi added.

“Despite significant losses, new assault groups of Wagner, fighters from other private companies, and paratroopers are constantly rushing into the battle. But the enemy fails to take control of the city,” he continued.

His trip came as the head of Wagner, threatened to remove troops unless they receive more munitions, signaling tensions between Yevgeny Prigozhin and the Kremlin.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian army reported the arrival of hundreds of Russian convicts into the city to bolster Wagner’s attempted advance into the city.

Moscow says “all assigned targets were hit” in overnight missile strikes

The Russian Defense Ministry announced “all assigned targets were hit” in a deadly barrage of strikes launched against parts of Ukraine on Monday, injuring dozens of people including children.

“The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation launched a group missile attack with long-range precision weapons, air and sea based, on the military-industrial complex of Ukraine,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that the country’s assault on the embattled city of Bakhmut is ongoing.

Ukrainian officials reported that missile strikes in Pavlograd had injured at least 34 people, including five children.

Additionally, video circulating on social media and shared by a Russian-installed governor of the southeastern Zaporizhzhia region, Vladimir Rogov, appears to show that Russia hit an ammunition depot at a railway station in Pavlograd.

Russian missile strikes in Dnipropetrovsk injure 34, including five children

The number of people wounded in strikes in the Dnipropetrovsk region has risen to 34, according to local officials.

The youngest child injured in the attack is eight years old, according local governor Serhiy Lysak. He added that two women, aged 44 and 55, are in intensive care for their wounds.

The attack was in the Pavlograd district in central eastern Ukraine.

Russia launched a fresh barrage of missiles in parts of eastern Ukraine on Monday.

Ukraine’s Air Defense Forces said it intercepted 15 of 18 Russian cruise missiles fired from the northwestern Russian Arctic and the Caspian Sea regions on Monday.

The Ukrainian military said earlier that the eastern cities of Kramatorsk, Kostiantynivka, and Pavlohrad were targeted in the attacks, along with the Dnipropetrovsk region.

Zelensky thanks New Zealand PM for army training

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins for participating in training the military.

On Telegram, Zelenskyy said “we count on its continuation, as well as on further cooperation on defence and humanitarian issues.”

“We discussed the need for further consolidation of the countries of the Pacific region in supporting Ukraine,” he added.

Ukrainian commander says air defenses shot down 15 of 18 Russian cruise missiles

Ukraine’s Air Defense Forces intercepted 15 of 18 Russian cruise missiles fired from the northwestern Russian Arctic and the Caspian Sea regions on Monday, the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said in a statement.

“At about 2:30 a.m, Russian occupiers attacked Ukraine using strategic aircraft — there were nine Tu-95s from the area of Olenegorsk (Murmansk region) and two Tu-160s from the Caspian Sea,” Valerii Zaluzhnyi stated.

It comes after the Ukrainian military announced Russia launched a fresh round of deadly missile attacks on the country Monday, resulting in an unspecified number of casualties.

Russia launches new missile attacks: Ukraine’s military

Russia has launched a fresh round of deadly missile attacks on Ukraine, according to a Ukrainian military update on Monday.

The military said the eastern cities of Kramatorsk, Kostiantynivka, and Pavlohrad were targeted in the attacks, along with the Dnipropetrovsk region.

The Russians also carried out “27 air strikes and fired 45 MLRS (multiple launch rocket system) shells at Ukrainian troops’ positions and inhabited areas, resulting in deaths and injuries among the civilian population,” the update added.

The statement did not specify the number of civilians that had been killed or injured and where.

Earlier Monday, Kyiv officials reported that Russian missile attacks on the capital appeared to have been repelled by Ukraine’s air defenses.

“Based on initial reports, all enemy missiles and drones were destroyed in Kyiv airspace by our air defense forces,” Serhiy Popko, head of the Kyiv city military administration, said in a statement.

“Currently, there have been no casualties reported among the civilian population or damage to residential buildings or infrastructure,” Popko stated, adding the information was “being verified.”

Ukrainians under occupation should accept Russian passports for their safety: Official

Ukraine’s human rights commissioner advised Ukrainians living under Russian occupation to accept Russian passports for their safety.

“I would advise you to accept a Russian passport and make the decision for yourself to survive. This is the most important thing,” Dmytro Lubinets said in an interview with Ukrainian media.

“We understand that this happens under pressure, under physical pressure. So, take your passport, survive, and wait for us to liberate this territory,” he added.

Lubinets said citizens who obtain a Russian passport “will be able to officially abandon this passport and return to normal life” once Ukraine takes back its territories.

According to Lubinets, a decree signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin that allows the deportation of residents of the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine who have not obtained Russian citizenship, “is not aimed at deporting Ukrainians,” but at “legalizing forced passportization that takes place on the territories under Russian occupation.”

“In reality, I believe that all Ukrainian citizens who refuse a Russian passport will simply be arrested,” Lubinets continued, adding, “And this will form a separate category of civilian hostages that the Russian Federation will hold captive, either imprisoned on its territory or on the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine.”

Pope says Vatican is involved in effort to end war in Ukraine

Pope Francis told journalists Sunday that the Vatican is part of a mission to end the war in Ukraine.

Francis made the remarks during a news conference after a three-day trip to the Hungarian capital.

“The mission is in the course now, but it is not yet public. When it is public, I will reveal it,” Pope Francis said.

During his trip to Budapest, the Pope met with a representative from the pro-Kremlin Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Hilarion. When the Pope was asked if that meeting and the meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán could accelerate peace, he stated, “I believe that peace is always made by opening channels; peace can never be made by closure.”

A reporter asked if the Pope was willing to help facilitate the return of Ukrainian children taken to Russia.

“The Holy See is willing to act because it is right; it just is,” he added.

Last week, the Pope met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, who requested his help with the kids’ return.

Ukrainian fighters describe close-contact battles and heavy Russian shelling in Bakhmut

Fighting in the long-contested eastern city of Bakhmut is “very intense,” Ukrainian military press officer Mykyta Shandyba said Sunday on national TV.

“The Russian military is trying to take the city by May 9. They are currently failing,” Shandyba stated, adding, “They are using artillery, mortars and tank shelling to destroy the city. Often, battles with them are close-contact battles. Destroying the enemy with small arms and grenades, not artillery.”

The military spokesperson said Russian forces are constantly shelling Ukrainian positions:

“There are no pauses — the enemy is firing nonstop. First, the enemy artillery works, and then they try to break through our defense. When they fail, they start firing from artillery again,” he added.

A Ukrainian fighter in Bakhmut named Yurii Syrotiuk — call-sign “Mamai” — told national TV that Russian fighters seem pressed to conclude the battle quickly.

“The enemy is in a rush; the enemy is trying to put pressure, trying to attack the areas of high-rise buildings in Bakhmut,” he noted.

Syrotiuk claimed Moscow’s troops are running out of supplies and faith in their mission, so they have turned more destructive, demolishing homes and buildings.

Russia’s fighters cannot attack along the entire width of the front line in Bakhmut, so battles focus on narrow areas, he continued. Syrotiuk claimed his team had managed to advance almost half a mile in one sector.

Ukraine’s troops struggle to carry out logistical operations under the cover of dark, hoping to avoid shelling on the roads in and out of town, Shandyba continued.

The most danger comes from a key supply route between the towns of Chasiv Yar and Khromove, where Ukrainian military officials have previously described constant Russian shelling.

“Only armored vehicles can get to Bakhmut. So it is complicated,” Shandyba said.

Syrotiuk also addressed a claim from Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the private military company that has played a key role in Bakhmut, who says his mercenaries are running out of ammunition.

The Ukrainian fighter said Wagner forces seem to have an “unlimited number” of shells, but “their artillery is firing every minute, every few seconds.”

“The do not choose targets, they just cover the squares,” he added.

Despite the constant barrage, Syrotiuk claims Prigozhin’s fighters are now having a hard time penetrating high-rise buildings occupied by Ukraine’s forces.

Zelensky and Macron discuss military aid, NATO membership and battlefield developments

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his French counterpart held a phone call Sunday, discussing what Emmanuel Macron’s readout called France’s “commitment to provide all necessary assistance to Ukraine in order to restore its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

The Ukrainian readout said Zelensky shared details about the situation on the conflict’s front lines and how it might develop in May and June, as anticipation builds for Kyiv’s counteroffensive.

Zelensky also laid out the highest priority aid his military needs to defeat Moscow’s forces, according to the readout.

The world leaders discussed the upcoming NATO Summit in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, where Zelensky stated he anticipates members will make security guarantees for his country, and where he also hopes to begin the process of formally inviting Ukraine to join the alliance. The NATO Summit in Lithuania will take place in mid-July.

Zelensky’s readout said he thanked “France for its comprehensive and effective support for Ukraine in the face of ongoing full-scale Russian aggression.”

Russia replaces its top logistics commander as Ukrainian counteroffensive looms

The Russian Ministry of Defense has replaced its deputy defense minister for logistics, making a change in military leadership just as Russian forces gear up for a Ukrainian counteroffensive.

The ministry announced the move in a Telegram post Sunday, saying Aleksey Kuzmenkov — a colonel-general who has held a variety of leadership roles in Russia’s military — has been appointed to the position, which was previously held by Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev.

Moscow did not immediately provide a reason for Mizintsev being replaced. The move comes as Ukrainian officials signal their spring counteroffensive could be launched imminently.

Russia’s outgoing logistics commander developed a reputation for brutality and an ominous nickname among Western officials for his role in the siege of Mariupol, the site of some of the invasion’s most notorious strikes and alleged atrocities.

Moscow’s logistical chains will likely play a key role in its attempted defense of occupied Ukrainian territory, with Kyiv’s forces seeking to disrupt supply lines with long-range fire.

The Russian military has struggled to keep frontline forces consistently supplied with both weapons and other equipment, and recent reports have indicated that officials are bringing older tanks out of storage.

Despite that, and its heavy consumption of shells and rockets, analysts say Russia has so far been able to keep munitions flowing to the front.

The incoming logistics chief graduated from the Volsk Higher Military School of Logistics in 1992, according to Russian officials.

Over the years, Kuzmenkov served in Russia’s armed forces as head of logistics headquarters, as a commander for logistics in the Southern Military District, and in a deputy director position for the Russian National Guard.

Head of Wagner mercenary group threatens to withdraw from Bakhmut if he doesn’t receive more ammunition

The head of the Russian private military company Wagner has threatened to withdraw his mercenaries from the embattled eastern city of Bakhmut if they don’t receive more munitions to continue the fight.

Those responsible for weapons procurement in Russia “stopped giving us ammunition,” Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed in an interview with the Russian pro-Kremlin blogger Semyon Pegov, who blogs under the alias WarGonzo.

The pointed warnings for Russian defense officials, including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, come as Bakhmut remains heavily contested.

“I am appealing to Sergei Shoigu with a request to issue ammunition immediately. Now if this is refused … I deem it necessary to inform the commander-in-chief about the existing problems, and to make a decision regarding the feasibility of continuing to station units in the settlement of Bakhmut, given the current shortage of ammunition,” Prigozhin said.

The mercenary leader has a track record of misleading statements and did not provide evidence for his statements.

“Do we go on with our assaults or not? Do we stay or go?” Prigozhin continued, vowing that his fighters will defend Bakhmut “until the very last round of ammunition,” but saying their supplies have dwindled to a matter of days, not weeks.

Prigozhin, whose forces have played a key role in Russian assaults on Ukrainian territory including Bakhmut, has often clashed with Putin’s generals and other defense officials in Moscow.

He has complained for well over a month of receiving insufficient support from the Kremlin in the grueling fight for the eastern city.

Prigozhin, who often speaks sarcastically, in the interview suggested his rifts with Moscow have not healed.

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