Ukraine planning a ‘powerful countermeasure’ against Russia; losses from fierce fighting around Bakhmut high

U.S. and NATO ‘directly involved’ in the war, Russian official says

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the West was pumping “deadly weapons into Ukraine to kill Russians” and was “directly involved” in the war by supplying such weapons and by training military personnel, state news agency Tass reported.

Russian Foreign Ministry | Reuters

Russia’s foreign minister has accused the United States and NATO of being “directly involved” in the war in Ukraine and said Moscow is ready to listen to suggestions for a “negotiated solution” to the conflict, but had “never” asked for negotiations.

Speaking at a conference on European security issues, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the West was pumping “deadly weapons into Ukraine to kill Russians” and was “directly involved” in the war by supplying such weapons and by training military personnel, state news agency Tass reported.

Lavrov denied Russia had asked for negotiations with Ukraine to “buy time” in the conflict, which Moscow calls a “special military operation,” in order to regroup its forces and equipment.

“When we are accused of constantly asking for some kind of negotiations in order to gain time in order to gather additional forces for a special military operation, this is both ridiculous and unpleasant, because people lie, lie openly,” Lavrov said, Tass reported.

“We never asked for any negotiations, but we always said that if someone has an interest in a negotiated solution, we are ready to listen.”

As the war drags on and losses mount, Ukraine has hardened its position against negotiations with Russia, and talks following Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24 failed to find mutual agreement on a cease-fire.

It recently said that it will not negotiate with Russia while President Vladimir Putin is in power, or while Russian troops remain on Ukrainian land, and believes it can win the war.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russia has expended ‘significant proportion’ of missiles against Ukraine’s energy grid, UK says

Russia has already expended a large proportion of its suitable missiles against tactical targets in Ukraine, such as its energy network, according to Britain’s Ministry of Defense.

Russia has repeatedly attacked Ukraine’s electricity distribution grid in the last couple of months, primarily with cruise missiles. The ministry said this is “likely the first example of Russia attempting to implement the concept of a Strategic Operation for the Destruction of Critically Important Targets (SODCIT), a key component of the military doctrine it has adopted in recent years.”

Russia saw this strategy of “using long-range missiles to strike an enemy state’s critical national infrastructure, rather than its military forces, [as a way] to demoralise the population and ultimately force the state’s leaders to capitulate,” the ministry said on Twitter Thursday.

Electrical wires damaged after the Ukrainian army regained control from Russian forces in Lyman, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, on Nov. 27, 2022.

Metin Aktas | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The U.K. said while Russia’s strikes continue to cause power shortages “resulting in indiscriminate, widespread humanitarian suffering across Ukraine,” the effectiveness of Russia’s strategy has likely been blunted because it has already expended “a large proportion of its suitable missiles against tactical targets” in Ukraine.

The ministry added that because Russia’s strategy of targeting Ukraine’s power grid has only recently been implicated, the “material and psychological effect of the SODCIT is likely less than if it was deployed in the initial period of a war.”

— Holly Ellyatt

Fierce fighting in Bakhmut leading to high losses for Russia, Ukraine official claims

This photograph, taken on Nov, 28, 2022, shows volunteer medics evacuating a wounded Ukrainian soldier from a mobile hospital in the vicinity of Bakhmut, Donetsk region, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Once known for its vineyards and cavernous salt mines, Bakhmut has now been dubbed “the meat grinder” in light of brutal trench warfare.

Anatolii Stepanov | Afp | Getty Images

Intense fighting around Bakhmut in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine is inflicting high losses on Russian forces, with a Ukrainian official telling CNBC Wednesday that there are “mountains of corpses of Russian invaders” in the area.

“Both regular Russian troops, the newly mobilized as well as mercenaries of the Wagner group, they’re all fighting [around Bakhmut]. And the losses of the enemy of in all of these categories are colossal, and they’re measured in their 1000s, of [soldiers] killed in action,” Sak said.

The so-called “Battle of Bakhmut” has been likened to the Battle of Verdun in World War 1, with scenes of trenches and mass destruction being posted on social media.

Analysts say Russia has made some slow gains around the city but is not as close to encircling it as one pro-Russian official claimed this week. Russia is seen to want to capture Bakhmut and to then advance to Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.

It’s hard to verify how many casualties both Ukraine and Russia have counted in the Battle of Bakhmut but both claim to have killed hundreds of each other’s soldiers.

Ukrainian official Yuriy Sak told CNBC that “there is no question of any Russian encirclement or even semi encirclement” but acknowledged that the front line is “very close” to the city.

“Photos and videos from that area are reminiscent of the landscapes of the First World War burnt trees, trenches, destruction, mountains of corpses of Russian invaders, this is really, really horrendous,” he said.

“The defense of Bakhmut continues and, of course, it’s a difficult fight because the Russians hope to gain an upper hand and move on then to Sloviansk but this is not going to happen,” he added.

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine is preparing a ‘powerful countermeasure’ to Russian forces, says Zelenskyy

Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked European nations to stop buying Russian oil.

Ukrainian Presidential Press Service | via Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said his country’s armed forces are preparing a “countermeasure” to Russia’s advances that will exceed prior ones.

Zelenskyy made the comment during his nightly address to the nation, and following a meeting he held with the general staff of the Armed Forces.

“We are analyzing the intentions of the occupiers and are preparing a countermeasure – an even more powerful countermeasure than it’s been,” he said, speaking Ukrainian.

Zelenskyy did not elaborate on what the countermeasures would look like. But since September, Ukraine has retaken major parts of the country seized by Russian forces earlier this year, including territory in Kharkiv and Kherson.

— Christina Wilkie

EU seeks specialized court to investigate Russia war crimes

A Russian ballistic weapon lies in the middle of a Ukrainian farmer’s field. Russian disruption of Ukrainian commerce is seen taking a staggering 45.1% off Ukraine’s GDP this year, according to the World Bank.

Anastasia Vlasova | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The European Union proposed to set up a U.N.-backed court to investigate possible war crimes Russia committed in Ukraine, and to use frozen Russian assets to rebuild the war-torn country.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said in a video message that the EU will work with international partners to get “the broadest international support possible” for the tribunal, while continuing to support the International Criminal Court.

Since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, his military forces have been accused of abuses ranging from killings in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha to deadly attacks on civilian facilities, including the March 16 bombing of a theater in Mariupol that an Associated Press investigation established likely killed close to 600 people.

Investigations of military crimes committed during the war in Ukraine are underway around Europe, and the Hague-based International Criminal Court has already launched a probe.

But because Russia does not accept the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction, the European Commission said it presented to the 27 EU countries two options to hold the Kremlin accountable: either a “special independent international court based on a multilateral treaty or a specialized court integrated in a national justice system with international judges — a hybrid court.”

— Associated Press

Europe wary of Turkish hub to hide gas ‘made in Moscow’

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of Federal Medical-Biological Agency, in Moscow, Russia November 9, 2022.

Sergey Bobylev | Sputnik | Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plan to make Turkey a hub for his country’s gas could allow Moscow to mask its exports with fuel from other sources, but that might not be enough to persuade Europeans to buy, analysts and sources said.

Russia supplied 40% of the European Union gas market until Moscow on Feb. 24 sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine in what it calls a “special military operation”.

Since then, the West has introduced sweeping sanctions, including on Russian oil and gas, cut its purchases of the Russia-sourced fuels and sought alternatives.

After explosions — whose cause is under investigation — damaged the Nord Stream Russian gas pipeline system to Europe under the Baltic Sea, Putin in October proposed setting up a gas hub in Turkey, building on a southern route for exports.

Without being specific, Putin has said a hub could be set up in Turkey relatively quickly, and predicted customers in Europe would want to sign contracts.

So far there have been no public commitments to do so, and analysts say investment as well as time would be needed.

— Reuters

Blinken says Russia will continue attacking Ukraine until its military is defeated

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken holds a press conference during a meeting of the NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs, joined by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Finland, Sweden and Ukraine, as well as the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, at the Palace of the Parliament of Romania in Bucharest, on November 30, 2022.

Andrei Pungovschi | AFP | Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Russia is not seeking a diplomatic resolution to its war with Ukraine, but instead will continue to attack the country over and over, until its own army is defeated.

“Russia’s savage attacks on Ukrainian civilians are the latest demonstration that President Putin currently has no interest in meaningful diplomacy,” Blinken said at a NATO ministers meeting in Bucharest.

“Short of erasing Ukraine’s independence, [Putin] will try to force Ukraine into a frozen conflict, lock in his gains, rest and refit his forces, and then, at some point, re-attack again.”

Blinken’s statement represents one of two competing views within the Biden administration about the path forward in Ukraine.

The opposing view is being championed by the nation’s most senior military advisor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, who shared it in a recent interview on CNBC.

“We’ve seen the Ukrainian military fight the Russian military to a standstill,” Milley said during an appearance on Squawk on the Street on Nov. 10. “What the future holds is not known with any degree of certainty, but we think there are some possibilities here for some diplomatic solutions.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has consistently said that negotiations cannot begin until Russia returns Ukrainian territory it has seized or annexed, including Crimea.

— Christina Wilkie

Situation at the front difficult, Zelenskyy says, and Russia is ‘planning something’

Ukrainian tankmen on the Bakhmut front line in Donetsk, Ukraine, on Nov. 27, 2022. Intense military activity around the city involves warplanes from both sides, artillery systems, tanks and other heavy weapons that are used day and night.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described the situation at the front as difficult, with intense fighting in the east, northeast and south of Ukraine, where he said Russian forces are “planning something.”

“The situation at the front is difficult. Despite extremely large Russian losses, the occupiers are still trying to advance in Donetsk region, gain a foothold in Luhansk region, move into Kharkiv region, they are planning something in the south,” Zelenskyy said on Telegram Tuesday night.

He said Ukraine’s defenses are holding, however, preventing Russia from advancing.

“They said that they would capture Donetsk region – in spring, summer, fall. Winter is already starting this week. They put their regular army there, they lose hundreds of conscripts and mercenaries there every day, they use barricades there.”

He said Russia would lose 100,000 of its soldiers and additional mercenaries while “Ukraine will stand.”

— Holly Ellyatt

As destruction reigns, one ongoing battle in Ukraine is reminiscent of WW1

The sight of trenches, endless mud and mass destruction — with just the stumps of trees emerging from a boggy, churned up landscape — is associated with World War I but one part of Ukraine is witnessing the same kind of destruction and desolation.

For several months now, Russian and Ukrainian forces have been fighting for control of the city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine — in what is essentially a key part of a larger battle for control of the Donbas. The Donbas is a region in eastern Ukraine that contains two pro-Russian, so-called “republics” that Russia says it wants to “liberate.”

Ukrainian soldiers of an artillery unit fire toward Russian positions outside Bakhmut on Nov. 8, 2022.

Bulent Kilic | AFP | Getty Images

Some analysts have posted images comparing the destruction of the area to the “Battle of Verdun” in World War I, a bloody and intense battle between French and German forces that lasted from February to December 1916.

One of the longest and fiercest battles during the war, it is also seen as one of the most costly in terms of life; both France and Germany are estimated to have seen hundreds of thousands of casualties each. In the end, the French forces won the battle but it came to symbolize the immense destructiveness and human cost of war.

Read the whole story here: Trenches, mud and death: One Ukrainian battlefield looks like something out of World War I

— Holly Ellyatt

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