Wagner boss says Russia won’t capture Bakhmut soon, West says no planes for now

Key Developments on February 14:

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Kremlin-controlled Wagner Group, whose mercenaries have been trying to capture Bakhmut along with the regular Russian army, says the battle for the city is far from over.

“Bakhmut will not be taken tomorrow because of strong resistance and grinding,” he said on February 14, describing the battle for the city as a “meat grinder.”

“We won’t be celebrating anytime soon,” he added.

Bakhmut and the surrounding areas remain Russia’s main focus as Moscow seeks to open the main road leading to two other cities to the east – Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.

On February 12, Russia claimed it had taken control of Krasna Hora, a village about five kilometers north of Bakhmut, but Ukraine denied this the next day.

However, the UK Ministry of Defense said in its daily intelligence update that Russia’s Wagner mercenaries had “almost certainly” made other small gains near the northern outskirts of Bakhmut over the past three days, including into the Krasna Hora.

According to Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, the fight over Bakhmut is currently the fiercest. He said on February 14 that fighting around the eastern city was the most extensive in terms of casualties and Ukrainian forces continued to repel attacks.

“I would call it a war of attrition. The Russians are suffering enormous casualties,” he said.

Ukrainian officials describe the situation in the city as very dire.

The governor of Donetsk region Pavlo Kyrylenko said on national television that “in Bakhmut not a single square meter is safe or not within range of enemy fire or drones”.

Allies to help Ukraine in spring counter-offensive, US says

On February 14, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin declared the Ukraine Defense Contact Group’s commitment to support Ukraine’s ongoing struggle for freedom.

The group’s goal is to help Kiev hold its position and advance its spring counteroffensive, he said.

“With unity and urgency, we will return to Ukraine the support we promised,” Austin said in his opening remarks ahead of the group’s meeting in Brussels.

“We will put capabilities in the hands of trained Ukrainian armed forces so they can be integrated together on the battlefield.”

The Ukraine Contact Group, made up of more than 40 countries, has already pledged about $50 billion in “deadly aid” to Ukraine since the all-out invasion of Russia began last February, Austin added.

He also listed the countries that have started preparations or have committed to deploying Leopard 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine.

According to the US Secretary of Defense, the list includes Germany, Poland, Canada, Portugal, Spain, Denmark and the Netherlands.

On the same day, the Norwegian Ministry of Defense announced that the country would donate eight Leopard 2 main battle tanks and up to four support vehicles to Ukraine. Norway, along with other allies, will also contribute to the training of Ukrainian tank crews in Poland.

Ukraine has been advocating modern western-style tanks for months. Modern Western tanks are said to be superior to the Soviet tanks that Ukraine and Russia are currently using on the battlefield.

Austin told reporters that there was “nothing to report” on the delivery of fighter jets to Ukraine, which Kiev had been asking for months.

Austin said the US “supports Ukraine’s struggle for freedom for the long term” and will continue to address the country’s most pressing needs.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, meanwhile, said supplying Ukraine with western warplanes was “not the most important issue” but added that it was an “ongoing discussion”.

“There is now an urgent need to deliver what has always been promised,” said Stoltenberg.

Last week President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that “several” European leaders had expressed their willingness to provide Ukraine with fighter jets and other necessary weapons. However, only Poland has done so publicly.

The West has been reluctant to transfer planes to Ukraine for fear of escalating tensions with Russia — particularly shortly after modern tanks were given the go-ahead for Ukraine.


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