- The Russian official claimed a foothold at Vuhledar
- Kyiv says the Russian gains come at a heavy cost
- A think tank says Western arms delays have halted Ukraine’s progress
Kyiv, Ukraine/WASHINGTON, Jan 30 (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden said on Monday that the United States will not provide the F-16 fighter jets that Ukraine has sought in its war against Russia, as Russian forces claimed a series of incremental gains. In the war. east of the country.
An adviser to Ukraine’s defense minister said on Friday that Ukraine intends to push for the purchase of fourth-generation Western fighter jets such as the F-16 after securing supplies of main battle tanks last week. A Ukrainian Air Force spokesman said it would take about half a year for pilots to train on such combat aircraft.
Asked if the United States would provide the planes, Biden told reporters at the White House, “No.”
This brief exchange came shortly after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Russia had begun to avenge Ukraine’s resistance to its invasion with relentless attacks in the east.
Zelensky has warned for weeks that Moscow aims to step up its offensive against Ukraine after nearly two months of virtual stalemate along the front line that stretches across the south and east.
Ukraine got a big boost last week when Germany and the United States announced plans to introduce heavy tanks, ending weeks of diplomatic deadlock over the issue.
“The next big hurdle will now be combat aircraft,” Yuri Sak, an adviser to Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, told Reuters on Friday.
While there was no sign of a new, broader Russian offensive, Denis Pushlin, who is in charge of Russian-held parts of Ukraine’s eastern province of Donetsk, said Russian forces had gained a foothold in Vohlidar, a coal-mining town whose ruins were once a Ukrainian stronghold. Since the beginning of the war.
Pushlin said Ukrainian forces continue to dump reinforcements on Bakhmut, Marinka and Vohlidar, three towns running north-south west of Donetsk city. The official Russian news agency TASS quoted him as saying that Russian forces are making progress there, but “it is not clear, that is, there is a battle for literally every meter.”
Jan Gagin, Pushlin’s adviser, said fighters from Russia’s Wagner mercenary force had partially taken control of a supply route leading to the city of Bakhmut, which had been Moscow’s main focus for months.
A day earlier, Wagner’s chief said his fighters had secured the village of Blahodatni, north of Bakhmut.
Kyiv said it had repulsed the attacks on Blahodatny and Vohlidar. Reuters was unable to independently verify conditions there. But the reported locations of the fighting indicated clear, albeit gradual, Russian gains.
Russian attacks in the east have been relentless despite heavy losses on the Russian side, Zelensky said, describing the attacks as revenge for Ukraine’s success in driving Russian forces out of the capital, northeast and south earlier in the conflict.
“I think Russia really wants its big revenge. I think they have already started it,” Zelensky told reporters in the southern port city of Odessa.
Mykola Salamakha, a Ukrainian military colonel and analyst, told Radio Ukraine that Moscow’s attack in Voldar was very costly.
“The town is located on heights and a very strong defensive post has been established there,” he said. “This is a repeat of the situation in Bakhmut – wave after wave of Russian troops crushed by the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”
The hundreds of modern tanks and armored vehicles that Western countries have pledged to provide Ukraine in recent weeks for a counter-offensive to reclaim territory are months away from being delivered.
This leaves Kyiv to fight through the winter in what both sides describe as a meat grinder of a relentless war of attrition.
Wagner’s mercenary force in Moscow sent thousands of conscripts conscripted from Russian prisons into battle around Bakhmut, buying time for the Russian army to reconstitute units with hundreds of thousands of reservists.
Zelensky is urging the West to quickly deliver its promised weapons so that Ukraine can launch an offensive.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Western countries providing arms lead to “NATO countries increasingly getting involved in the conflict – but they do not have the ability to change the course of events and will not.”
The US-based Institute for the Study of War said “the failure of the West to provide the necessary hardware” last year was the main reason why Kyiv’s advance had stalled since November.
This allowed Russia to put pressure on Bakhmut and fortify the front against a future Ukrainian counterattack, the Russia researchers said in a report, though they said Ukraine could still regain territory once the promised weapons arrived.
Zelensky met Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen on Monday in Mykolaiv, a rare visit by a foreign leader close to the front. The city, where Russia’s advance in the south had stalled, was under relentless bombing until Ukraine pushed the front line back in November.
The Russian invasion, which it launched on February 24 of last year, claiming that it was necessary to protect itself from its neighbor’s relations with the West, led to tens of thousands of deaths and the displacement of millions from their homes.
Additional reporting by Pavel Politiuk, Kevin Levy and Ronald Popesky, Reuters offices. Written by Peter Graf, Philippa Fletcher, and Doina Chiacco; Editing by Gareth Jones, William Maclean and Cynthia Osterman
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