KYIV: Ukraine’s military estimated on Thursday that 800 Russian soldiers were killed in the past day, mostly in fighting in the eastern Donetsk region, while Western allies pledged supplies of armoured battle vehicles but not the tanks Ukraine wants.
Giving its regular morning roundup of the fighting, Ukraine’s military said Russian forces were focused on an offensive in the Bakhmut sector and its attacks in the Avdiivka and Kupiansk sectors were unsuccessful.
It said more than 800 Russian soldiers, one aircraft, a helicopter and three tanks were destroyed over the past day.
It also reported an unspecified number of civilian casualties as a result of Russian air, missile and rocket attacks on the largely ruined, Ukrainian-held city of Bakhmut and two other cities in the Donetsk region – Kostiantynivka and Kurakhove.
Russia denies targeting civilians in what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.
Reuters could not independently verify battlefield accounts.
A senior U.S. administration official on Wednesday gave a sobering assessment of fighting in the Donetsk region, especially around Bakhmut.
“The fighting is still quite hot … what we’re seeing in Bakhmut we should expect to see elsewhere along the front that there will be continued fighting in the coming months,” the official said.
In his evening video address, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Ukrainian troops outside Bakhmut were inflicting numerous losses on their adversaries and Russia was building up its forces in the region.
Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar, citing his ministry’s main intelligence directorate, wrote on the Telegram app that significant losses for Russia meant it would likely have to announce a another partial mobilisation in the first quarter of the year.
According to Yegeny Balitsky, the governor of the Russian held Zaporizhzhia region, Ukrainian artillery killed five people and wounded 15 including four emergency workers, Russia’s TASS news agency reported.
ARMOUR ON THE WAY
French President Emmanuel Macron told Zelenskiy France would send light AMX-10 RC armoured combat vehicles to help the war effort, a French official said on Wednesday after the two leaders spoke by telephone.
While the official said these would be the first Western armoured vehicles delivered to Ukraine, Australia has given Kyiv 90 of its Bushmaster vehicles, an armoured unit hardened against landmines and other threats.
President Joe Biden said later on Wednesday that the United States was considering sending Bradley Fighting Vehicles to Ukraine, which is fighting Europe’s biggest land conflict since 1945. Cities have been destroyed, millions of people displaced and tens of thousands killed since Russia’s invasion in February.
The Bradley armoured vehicle, which has a powerful gun, has been a U.S. Army staple to carry troops since the mid-1980s. The U.S. Army has thousands of them, and they would give Ukraine more firepower on the battlefield and strengthen its ability in trench warfare.
Biden’s decision, however, would fall short of sending the Abrams tanks that Ukraine has sought. It has repeatedly asked Western allies for heavier fighting vehicles such as the Abrams and German-made Leopard tanks.
Zelenskiy thanked Macron for the announcement and said it showed the need for other allies to provide heavier weapons.
“This is something that sends a clear signal to all our partners. There is no rational reason why Ukraine has not yet been supplied with Western tanks,” he said.
The United States is preparing another package of weapons, which could be announced in coming days on top of about $21.3 billion in security assistance so far to Ukraine.
The United States has increased the capability of the weapons it has sent including shoulder-fired Stinger anti-aircraft missiles as well as Javelin anti-tank missiles, the HIMARS rocket system and NASAMS surface-to-air missiles.
During a visit by Zelenskiy to Washington last month, the United States pledged to send the sophisticated Patriot missile system to repel Russian missile and drone attacks.
Russia launched its “special military operation” on Feb. 24, citing threats to its security and a need to protect Russian speakers. Ukraine and its allies accuse Russia of an unprovoked war to seize territory.
Major General Kyrylo Budanov, chief of the Military Intelligence of Ukraine, told ABC News that he expected more strikes “deeper and deeper” inside Russia, without saying whether Ukrainian forces would be responsible.
Budanov said he had been “glad to see” the Dec. 26 attack on Russia’s Engels air base, hundreds of miles from the Ukraine’s border.
Asked about attacks on Crimea, the peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014, Budanov said: “Crimea is part of Ukraine, it’s part of our territory. We can use any weapon on our territory.”
In a signal to the West that Russia will not back down over Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a frigate on Wednesday to the Atlantic Ocean armed with new generation hypersonic cruise missiles, which can travel at more than five times the speed of sound.