Day 423 of the Invasion of Ukraine: Leopard Tanks from Spain have left for Ukraine
Day 423 of the invasion of Ukraine. Summary of key events in the last 24 hours:
- Ukraine is actively preparing new units for the front
- Tanks left Spain for Ukraine
- Fighting for Western Bakhmut, "Wagner" fears a Ukrainian counterattack
- "Financial Times": PMC "Wagner" requested weapons from China. They got rejected
- A Ukrainian hero from Bakhmut dies to save his comrades
Ukraine is actively preparing new units for the front
Ukraine is actively preparing new military units that are about to appear at the front. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced this in a video message. Meanwhile, Russian troops continue their attacks on parts of the key city of Bakhmut. Russia is bombing Kyiv and the Poltava and Vinnytsia regions with drones. Russian aircraft have struck a Ukrainian military warehouse in the Sergeevka region of southern Ukraine, Moscow's forces said. About 600 shells were destroyed And according to the Kyiv command, last night the Ukrainian air defense shot down four of the five Shahed kamikaze drones, with which Russia attacked positions in the southeastern part of Ukraine. Over the past 24 hours, the Ukrainian army has repelled 53 attacks by Russian forces in the regions of Bakhmut, Avdeevka and Marinka, with 3 rocket attacks, 30 air attacks and 50 volley fire attacks. The fiercest are the battles for the key city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region. The Russian Ministry of Defense announced ongoing fighting in the western parts of Bakhmut, which is still controlled by Ukrainian forces.
Western powers continue to support Ukraine
Latvia will provide Ukraine with all its Stinger air defense missiles. It is also planned to strengthen the training of Ukrainian servicemen on Latvian territory, the Ministry of Defense of the country announced.
Portugal will provide five emergency rescue medical armored personnel carriers, announced Defense Minister Helena Carreiras.
Ukrainian tankers will begin training on American Abrams tanks within a few weeks, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced after a meeting of Ukraine's allies at the US Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany.
Another 80 German Leopard tanks will be delivered to Ukraine from the middle of the year, and to support them, the allies agreed today to finance an industrial hub in Poland worth up to 200 million euros a year.
However, Kyiv’s requests for modern fighter jets as well as for early acceptance into NATO were again rejected. Alliance Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg indicated that Kyiv already has Patriot anti-aircraft systems supplied by the United States and Germany.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban refuted Stoltenberg, and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that NATO's desire to "absorb" Ukraine justified Russia's attack on the country:
"Obviously, NATO continues to act along the lines of absorbing and pulling Ukraine into the alliance. President Vladimir Putin also indicated this potential threat long before the start of the special military operation."
Diplomats quoted by AFP say European countries accuse France of blocking an agreement to produce and supply shells for Ukrainian artillery. According to the publication, Paris insists that the planned 1 billion euros be invested only in military factories in Europe, despite doubts that they have the capacity to quickly produce the necessary amount of ammunition, thus putting the interests of French arms manufacturers above the needs of the Ukrainian army.
Tanks left Spain for Ukraine
Six Leopard 2 tanks left the Spanish port of Santander for Ukraine.
Madrid announced earlier that it would provide Kyiv with a total of 10 tanks of the older Leopard model.
In recent weeks, 55 Ukrainians have been training in Spain to work with these tanks as crews and mechanics.
And other NATO countries, including Germany, Poland and Portugal, promised to send a total of 48 German tanks to Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Germany, Poland and Ukraine signed an agreement to establish a Leopard tank repair base.
It will be located in Poland and can start work as early as the end of May.
Fighting for Western Bakhmut, "Wagner" fears a Ukrainian counterattack
Moscow's defense ministry said Russian assault units were fighting in Western Bakhmut, the last part of the besieged Ukrainian city still under the control of Kyiv’s forces, Reuters reported.
Ukrainian and Russian forces have been fighting for months over the eastern Ukrainian city, which is largely left in ruins. The ministry did not give further details about the current development of the battle.
Kyiv said that Russian troops had achieved some success in the fierce battles for Bakhmut, but added that Ukrainian forces were in control of the situation, BTA reported.
"Decisions are made depending on military expediency," Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar wrote on the Telegram social network.
In a video address, President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Kyiv is actively preparing new units that are about to appear at the front. Zelensky and other officials have long promised Ukraine to launch an offensive.
For the Bakhmut assault, Russia relied heavily on the forces of the private military company Wagner, whose commander Yevgeny Prigozhin expressed concern about a possible Ukrainian counterattack.
"Today we are killing those who are trained in Ukraine, but those coming from Germany will be technologically educated," he said in an audio recording distributed to Telegram by his press office. Apparently, he is referring to the Ukrainians who will be trained in Germany on American Abrams tanks provided by the United States.
"The West has provided over 230 tanks and 1,500 other armored vehicles. Even that alone is enough to put up serious resistance."
Prigozhin predicts that Ukraine will strike when the ground dries out after the spring rains, as the mud on Ukrainian fields is currently very difficult for military equipment to pass.
"They will attack. They will come and try to take us down, and we have to resist," he said.
"Financial Times": PMC "Wagner" requested weapons from China. They got rejected
The Russian private military company Wagner requested arms from China in early 2023 but was turned down, the Financial Times reported, citing classified Pentagon documents that were leaked online.
According to the newspaper, the appeal of the "Wagner" fighters to China shows that they were at least partially confident in Beijing's willingness to provide Russia with military support. The leaked information mentions successful examples of the acquisition of weapons from "Wagner" by other allies of Moscow - Belarus and Syria.
According to one of the documents, in early January, Belarus "has already delivered 50% of the promised weapons" and offered to send the "musicians" 300,000 shells for VOG-17 grenade launchers. The mercenaries also acquired six SPG-9 grenade launchers and 180 grenades from Syria.
"Wagner" asked to negotiate with Ankara the purchase of drones, radio-electronic warfare systems and counter-battery systems, but was refused.
A Ukrainian hero from Bakhmut dies to save his comrades
"Senior Lieutenant Pavel Kuzin took his position at the machine gun - the only soldier still able to fight. Everyone else in his squad lay dead or wounded."
So begins the BBC's account of a Ukrainian hero who defended his position in Bakhmut to the last breath in an attempt to provide cover for the wounded soldiers in his unit.
The account gives an inside look from the front, noting how Russians often don't seek cover but face the enemy directly with their bodies - which is why Ukrainians call them "suicide squads".
Suffering from shell shock and with one hand bandaged, 37-year-old Kuzin, fired at waves of Russian soldiers trying to storm his position. They simply walked towards him across the open field without taking cover from the fire.
It was clear that Pavel would not be able to hold the position for long, but he had to buy time for a rescue team to arrive. The last thing he did before he was killed was to ensure that his wounded comrades got to safety.
The Ukrainian military says Bakhmut is now the scene of many "unprecedentedly bloody" battles like this. They have to repel up to 50 attacks on their positions every day. Russia has concentrated huge forces in this area, and their brutal strategy of human wave attacks is helping them advance slowly - but at a very high cost, the BBC reports.
Pavel was in charge of an observation group at forward positions, which consisted of six Ukrainian soldiers. On February 17, shortly after their surveillance began, they came under heavy fire. A tank starts firing on their position.
Unlike the merciless mortars, the tank's aim was chillingly accurate. The shells fell a few meters from their trenches. Two soldiers were wounded and Paul told them to get into a trench. A combat medic came down to tend to their wounds and prepare them for evacuation. Moments later, the wooden shelter was directly hit by a shell.
"There was a bright flash," one of the wounded soldiers with the call sign Gypsy told the BBC. "I was thrown onto the logs with such force that they almost crushed me. I couldn't tell if I was alive or dead. Someone was screaming, the sound seemed to come from 100m away."
It was Paul's voice checking them. The other soldier was half buried under the dirt and logs. Dead.
Gypsy could barely move and Pavel had to pull him up through the split logs that blocked the way. Moving Gypsy just a few meters into the nearby trench was painfully slow. When the shelling stopped briefly, Pavel returned, trying to find others.
Two minesweepers arrived to clear the debris and find the bodies. But another shell hit the trench, killing one of the men and wounding the other. The tank continued to fire.
At that moment, Russian troops began storming their position. Pavel called a support party to evacuate the wounded and rushed back to his Browning machine gun to stop the Russian infantry.
The 206th battalion, in which Pavel served, fought in southern Kherson and northeastern Kharkiv regions. But the fighting over Bahmut was very different from what they had seen before.
"The intensity of the fighting to break through our positions was shocking," says Nikolay Hlabets, the platoon commander. "Sometimes [Russian soldiers] came within 20 meters of us, crawling and moving under the tree line or across an open field. That's where the first firefights at such close range took place."
"They just stood and walked towards our positions without any cover. We destroyed one group after another, but they kept coming."
Hlabets describes them as a suicide squad. Others call them cannon fodder.
Recently, videos were shared on Telegram channels in which newly mobilized Russian soldiers called on President Vladimir Putin and the authorities to stop what they called "illegal orders" to send them "to slaughter", the BBC added.
Last month, conscripted soldiers from Belgorod released a video saying they were sent on an assault mission without proper training. After suffering heavy losses, they declared that they refused to carry out the orders.
It is reported that often these poorly trained soldiers are forced to keep moving forward. The Sturm assault group of the Russian army's 5th brigade said in a video message that they could not leave their position because of blocking troops - units that open fire on their own men who try to retreat.
These wave attacks are similar to World War I tactics where troops would attack the enemy and engage in close combat. And despite the lack of training and experience, sending newly recruited soldiers into such attacks has yielded some results for Russia, albeit at a very high cost.
The Ukrainians expose their positions when they open fire to stop these attacks. This allows the Russian artillery to identify the target and destroy it, as happens with Pavel's post.
Also, soldiers on the front lines are running low on ammunition as they try to fend off multiple wave attacks. Then they become an easy target.
It was past midnight when the entire battalion gathered at the evacuation point to pay their respects to Pavel, who leaves behind a daughter and wife.
"It was a huge loss for our unit. He saved two people but died himself," says his comrade.
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