Russia’s attempt to take Donbas 'has failed'

·14 min read
FILE - Ukrainian servicemen of the Prince Roman the Great 14th Separate Mechanized Brigade fire a Soviet era Grad multiple rocket launcher at Russian positions in the Kharkiv area, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023. Europe’s biggest armed conflict since World War II is poised to enter a key new phase in the coming weeks. With no suggestion of a negotiated end to the 13 months of fighting between Russia and Ukraine, a counteroffensive by Kyiv’s troops is in the cards. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda, File) - AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda, File
FILE - Ukrainian servicemen of the Prince Roman the Great 14th Separate Mechanized Brigade fire a Soviet era Grad multiple rocket launcher at Russian positions in the Kharkiv area, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023. Europe’s biggest armed conflict since World War II is poised to enter a key new phase in the coming weeks. With no suggestion of a negotiated end to the 13 months of fighting between Russia and Ukraine, a counteroffensive by Kyiv’s troops is in the cards. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda, File) - AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda, File

Russia’s winter offensive to achieve total control over the Donbas “has failed”, eighty days since it started, according to the Ministry of Defence.

The temporary advantage Russia gained from mobilising some 300,000 troops in the autumn has been largely squandered by Russia’s “marginal gains at the cost of tens of thousands of casualties” in the eastern region, said the MoD.  

General Valery Gerasimov, the Chief of the General Staff, who took personal command of the ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine in January, has been leading the offensive in the Donbas which includes the town of Bakhmut, where fighting has been fiercest in recent months.

“After ten years as CGS, there is a realistic possibility that Gerasimov is pushing the limits of how far Russia’s political leadership will tolerate failure,” said the MoD.

In recent weeks, Moscow has switched its focus to Avdiivka in the Donetsk region, hoping to encircle the Ukrainian troops defending it after having so far failed to capture nearby Bakhmut.

However Bakmut remains "one of the enemy's priority targets," said Serhiy Cherevatyi.

On Saturday Ukraine's army said it had killed 162 Russians in Bakhmut over the past day.

"Over the past day, they launched 170 attacks with barrel and rocket artillery in the Bakhmut section of the front. 25 combat clashes took place, during which 162 occupiers were killed, 157 more were injured," Cherevatyi told Ukrinform, a local news agency.

05:11 PM

Today's top stories

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Here are the day's top stories:

  • Russia’s winter offensive to achieve total control over the Donbas “has failed”, eighty days since it started, according to the Ministry of Defence

  • Russia's presidency of the UN Security Council for the month of April is "a slap in the face to the international community",  said Ukraine's Foreign Minister

  • Ukraine's top security agency notified a top Orthodox priest on Saturday that he was suspected of justifying Russia's aggression amid a bitter dispute over a famed Orthodox monastery

  • Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu promised to boost munitions supplies to Russian forces in Ukraine

  • Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova has opposed the grasscourt Grand Slam's decision to lift its ban on Russian and Belarusian players

  • Wall Street Journal urges US president to consider 'diplomatic and political escalation' after its reporter was charged

  • Russian strategic nuclear weapons might be deployed to Belarus along with part of Russia's tactical nuclear arsenal

04:48 PM

Saturday's update on the war from the Ministry of Defence

04:28 PM

Wagner mercenary back from frontline goes on rampage in home village

People living in Novy Burets in central Russia begged police to send Ivan Rossomakhin back to Ukraine, writes James Kilner

An ex-convict Wagner mercenary on leave from his frontline unit terrorised his home village in central Russia, smashed up cars and allegedly killed an old woman.

People living in Novy Burets were so scared of the rampaging Ivan Rossomakhin that they begged police to send him back to Ukraine, probably to die.

“He was walking around the village carrying a pitchfork and an axe shouting: ‘I will kill everybody!’,” Russian media quoted one woman as saying.

Read the full story

04:08 PM

Protesters face off in Kyiv as clergyman's home raided

Protesters faced off outside a historic monastery in the Ukrainian capital on Saturday after the home of a leading clergyman was raided by the security services.

Metropolitan Pavlo of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which has been accused of links with Moscow despite renouncing them, was called in for questioning on charges of inciting religious hatred.

04:00 PM

Watch: Major snowstorms bring Bakhmust offensives to a halt

03:43 PM

Russia Security Council presidency a 'slap in the face'

Russia's presidency of the UN Security Council for the month of April is "a slap in the face to the international community", Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Saturday.

"I urge the current UNSC members to thwart any Russian attempts to abuse its presidency," Kuleba said at the start of Russia's tenure of the body's rotating presidency.

In a statement on Twitter, Kuleba called Russia "an outlaw on the UNSC".

03:04 PM

Mapped: Ukrainian troops regain positions around Bakhmut

02:36 PM

North Korea accuses Ukraine of having nuclear ambitions

North Korea's Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of leader Kim Jong Un, accused Ukraine of calling for nuclear weapons, state media KCNA reported on Saturday, basing her assertion on an online petition in that country that has drawn under 1,000 signatures so far.

Kim said this kind of petition could be a political plot by President Volodymyr Zelensky's office, but did not provide any evidence for the assertion.

02:10 PM

Kicking out every Russian troop unlikely this year, says Milley

Expelling every Russian troop from Ukraine is unlikely to happen this year, said Mark Milley, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“Zelensky has publicly stated many times that the Ukrainian objective is to kick every Russian out of Russian occupied Ukraine," Milley told Defense One magazine.

"And that is a significant military task. Very, very difficult military task. You're looking at a couple hundred thousand Russians who are still in Russian-occupied Ukraine."

“I don't think it's likely to be done in the near term for this year,” Gen. Mark Milley said Friday in an interview with Defense One.

01:43 PM

Ukraine asks court to put Orthodox leader under house arrest

Ukraine's top security agency notified a top Orthodox priest on Saturday that he was suspected of justifying Russia's aggression amid a bitter dispute over a famed Orthodox monastery.

Metropolitan Pavel, the abbot of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra monastery, Ukraine’s most revered Orthodox site, has strongly resisted the authorities' order to vacate the complex. Earlier in the week, he cursed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, threatening him with damnation.

Metropolitan Pavlo, the director of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, the ancient cave monastery that has played a crucial role in both Ukrainian and Russian history, sits in a court in Kyiv, on April 1, 2023. - The government announced it would terminate the lease allowing the monks to occupy part of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra for free on March 29, 2023, but said the eviction process could take weeks. Despite the church officially breaking ties with the Russian Patriarchate after the invasion of Ukraine last year, Kyiv believes it is still de facto dependent on Moscow. (Photo by Sergii VOLSKYI / AFP) (Photo by SERGII VOLSKYI/AFP via Getty Images) - SERGII VOLSKYI/AFP via Getty Images
Metropolitan Pavlo, the director of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, the ancient cave monastery that has played a crucial role in both Ukrainian and Russian history, sits in a court in Kyiv, on April 1, 2023. - The government announced it would terminate the lease allowing the monks to occupy part of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra for free on March 29, 2023, but said the eviction process could take weeks. Despite the church officially breaking ties with the Russian Patriarchate after the invasion of Ukraine last year, Kyiv believes it is still de facto dependent on Moscow. (Photo by Sergii VOLSKYI / AFP) (Photo by SERGII VOLSKYI/AFP via Getty Images) - SERGII VOLSKYI/AFP via Getty Images

01:21 PM

Pictured: The Bucha Massacre by the Ukrainian artist Anton Logov

01:10 PM

Watch: Bucha families rebuild homes

01:01 PM

Russia's Shoigu promises increased munitions supplies in visit to Ukraine headquarters

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu promised to boost munitions supplies to Russian forces in Ukraine during a visit to the headquarters of Moscow's troops fighting in the country, according to footage published by the Defence Ministry on Saturday.

In video published by the ministry on Telegram, Mr Shoigu is shown presiding over a meeting with senior military officers, including General Valery Gerasimov, Russia's most senior soldier.

He tells colleagues that Russia would take steps to boost the supply of munitions to troops at the front. He says: "the volume of supplies of the most demanded ammunition has been determined. Necessary measures are being taken to increase them".

12:46 PM

In pictures: Ukrainian soldiers at an aerodrome in Hostomel, Ukraine

A Ukrainian soldier of a mobile air defence unit demonstrates his skills at the Antonov airport in Hostomel, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, April 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) - AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky
A Ukrainian soldier of a mobile air defence unit demonstrates his skills at the Antonov airport in Hostomel, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, April 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) - AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky
A Ukrainian serviceman checks a machine gun in front of a destroyed Ukrainian Antonov An-225 "Mriya", the largest cargo aircraft in the world, at an aerodrome in in Hostomel, during a donation ceremony of some ten off-road vehicles mounted with machine guns, from volunteers project HEROCAR for mobile fire groups of air defense to resist drones attacks, on April 1, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP) (Photo by SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images) - SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images
A Ukrainian serviceman checks a machine gun in front of a destroyed Ukrainian Antonov An-225 "Mriya", the largest cargo aircraft in the world, at an aerodrome in in Hostomel, during a donation ceremony of some ten off-road vehicles mounted with machine guns, from volunteers project HEROCAR for mobile fire groups of air defense to resist drones attacks, on April 1, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP) (Photo by SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images) - SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images
Airport workers look at the gutted remains of the Antonov An-225, the world's biggest cargo aircraft, destroyed during fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces, at the Antonov airport in Hostomel, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, April 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) - AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky
Airport workers look at the gutted remains of the Antonov An-225, the world's biggest cargo aircraft, destroyed during fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces, at the Antonov airport in Hostomel, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, April 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) - AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky

12:18 PM

Jens Stoltenberg congratulates Finland on becoming a Nato member

12:08 PM

Kyiv says Russian UN Security Council presidency is 'symbolic blow'

A top Ukrainian official on Saturday criticised the 'symbolic blow' of Russia assuming the rotating presidency of the United Nations Security Council.

"It's not just a shame. It is another symbolic blow to the rules-based system of international relations," Andriy Yermak, the Ukrainian president's chief of staff, wrote in English on Twitter.

On Saturday Russia took over the presidency of the UN's top security body, which rotates every month. The last time Moscow held the post was in February 2022, when its troops launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

11:56 AM

Kyiv orders 100 armoured vehicles from Poland

Ukraine has ordered 100 Rosomak multi-purpose armoured vehicles, which are made in Poland under a Finnish licence, Poland's prime minister said on Saturday.

"I bring an order placed yesterday by [Ukrainian] Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal for 100 Rosomaks that will be fabricated here," Mateusz Morawiecki said during a visit to the Rosomak manufacturing site in the southern Polish town of Siemianowice Slaskie.

The order will be financed through funds that Poland has received from the European Union and US funds that Ukraine has received, he said, without providing details or the overall cost of the contract.

11:42 AM

Watch: Russian TV hosts discuss arrest of WSJ journalist

11:25 AM

Germany's military gaps cannot be fully bridged by 2030, says defence minister

Germany's military cannot completely fill its existing gaps by 2030, Defence Minister Boris Pistorius was quoted as saying, as Berlin seeks to revamp its armed forces after Russia's invasion of Ukraine following decades of neglect.

"We all know that the existing gaps cannot be completely closed by 2030... It will take years. Everyone is aware of that," Pistorius said in an interview with Welt am Sonntag newspaper published on Saturday.

Already worn down by decades of underinvestment since the end of the Cold War, the Bundeswehr is in even worse shape than a year ago given weapons and munitions donated to Ukraine have mostly not yet been replaced, say experts.

11:12 AM

Russia’s presidency of UN Security Council is worst April Fool's joke ever, says Ukraine


Ukraine’s foreign minister has called Russia’s presidency of the UN Security Council this month "the worst joke ever for April Fool's Day".

The council works on a rotation basis which allows each of the council’s 15 members to take up the presidency for a month. The last time Russia headed it was in February, the month it invaded Ukraine.

This is "stark reminder that something is wrong with the way international security architecture is functioning", said Dmytro Kuleba.

10:56 AM

Joe Biden won’t expel Russian journalists after US reporter detained

Wall Street Journal urges US president to consider 'diplomatic and political escalation' in response to Evan Gershkovich's espionage charge, writes Roland Oliphant

No one who knows Evan Gershkovich believes he is a spy.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) has yet to present its evidence, but at this stage it seems completely clear that he has been fitted up for simply doing his job: asking people questions, and writing down what they say.

Under expanded war-time national security laws, that might be enough for the FSB to come up with a narrowly legal pretext for holding him, however absurd.

It is already being speculated that the true purpose is to gain a hostage - someone the Russians can use as a bargaining chip to secure the release of some of their own citizens held in the West.

Read the full story

10:38 AM

Zelensky, on Bucha anniversary, vows to defeat 'Russian evil'

President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed Friday to defeat Russia, speaking alongside European leaders in Bucha one year after Moscow's troops withdrew from the Ukrainian town that has become synonymous with war crimes allegations.

AFP journalists on April 2 last year discovered the bodies of at least 20 people in civilian clothing, some with their hands tied behind their backs, lying in a street of the suburb.

"The battle for the foundation of the free world is taking place on Ukrainian land. We will definitely win. Russian evil will fall, right here in Ukraine," Mr Zelensky said in the town.

10:27 AM

Kvitova says Russians, Belarusians should not be allowed back at Wimbledon

Twice Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova opposed the grasscourt Grand Slam's decision to lift its ban on Russian and Belarusian players ahead of this year's tournament, saying she felt for Ukrainians amid Moscow's ongoing invasion of their country.

Wimbledon, the only Grand Slam to bar players from Russia and its ally Belarus, said on Friday it would allow them to compete as "neutral" athletes, reversing the ban it imposed after Moscow invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

Kvitova, a Czech who won Wimbledon titles in 2011 and 2014, said players from Russia and Belarus should also be banned from the Paris Olympics next year.

MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - MARCH 31: Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic serves against Sorana Cirstea of Romania in the semi-finals of the women's singles at the Miami Open at the Hard Rock Stadium on March 31, 2023 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Frey/Getty Images) - Mike Frey/Getty Images
MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - MARCH 31: Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic serves against Sorana Cirstea of Romania in the semi-finals of the women's singles at the Miami Open at the Hard Rock Stadium on March 31, 2023 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Frey/Getty Images) - Mike Frey/Getty Images

10:06 AM

Russia might put strategic nukes in Belarus, leader says

Russian strategic nuclear weapons might be deployed to Belarus along with part of Russia's tactical nuclear arsenal, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Friday, ramping up his rhetoric amid tensions with the West over the Kremlin's war in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced last week that his country plans to deploy tactical, comparatively short-range and small-yield nuclear weapons in Belarus.

The strategic nuclear weapons such as missile-borne warheads that Lukashenko mentioned during his state-of-the nation address would pose an even greater threat, if Moscow moves them to the territory of its neighbor and ally.