Russian forces struggle to make headway in eastern Ukraine

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Russian forces are still trying to punch through Ukraine’s defenses in eastern areas of the country, the Ukrainian General Staff said Wednesday, as Moscow’s invasion struggles to gain momentum almost a year after it began.

Russian artillery, drones and missiles have been relentlessly pounding Ukrainian-held eastern areas for months, indiscriminately hitting civilian targets and wreaking destruction, as the war largely slowed to a grinding stalemate in the winter. Moscow is hungry for some battlefield success after months of setbacks.

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With the one-year anniversary of Russia’s war approaching, followed by improved spring weather, Western officials and analysts say the fighting could be nearing a critical phase when both sides look to launch offensives.

The Kremlin is striving to secure eastern areas it illegally annexed last September — the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions — and where it claims its rule is welcomed. Pro-Moscow separatists have controlled part of Donetsk and neighboring Luhansk province since 2014.

“The enemy, trying to take full control of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, continues to focus his main efforts on conducting offensive operations in the Kupiansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Shakhtarsk areas,” the Ukrainian military reported, referencing towns in the two provinces as well as on the eastern edge of the neighboring Kharkiv region.

Amid the fighting, Ukrainian Red Cross volunteers are evacuating immobile patients from Donetsk hospitals to medical trains operated by Doctors without Borders. The trains take patients to safer regions of Ukraine.

The battles are draining weapons stockpiles on both sides. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned earlier this week that Ukraine is using up ammunition far faster than its allies can provide it.

The UK Ministry of Defense said Wednesday that Russia’s military industrial output “is becoming a critical weakness.”

American defense officials insist Iran is helping the Kremlin sustain bombardments in Ukraine by supplying it with attack drones.

Kyiv’s continued defense of Bakhmut, a mining town that for months has been a key target of Russia’s campaign in the east, has been “strategically sound” because it sapped Moscow’s momentum, a US think tank said.

Kyiv’s defense has “degraded significant Russian forces,” including units from the Wagner Group, a Russian private military contractor, the Institute for the Study of War said late Tuesday.

Some analysts had doubted the wisdom of Ukraine holding out in Bakhmut because it could hurt the chances of its expected spring offensive.

Meanwhile, support among the American public for providing Ukraine weaponry and direct economic assistance has waned, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Forty-eight percent of those interviewed said they favor the US providing weapons to Ukraine. In May last year, 60% of US adults said they were in favor of sending Ukraine weapons.

The war has caused widespread suffering, and the global economy is still feeling the consequences. Emerging economies, especially, have felt the crunch.

Read more:

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Russian troops break through defenses in Ukraine’s Luhansk region: Defense Ministry

Russian parliament to hold extraordinary meetings on Feb 22: RIA

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