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Kyiv denies Russian forces have captured Yahidne

February 26, 2023

Moscow's mercenary Wagner group has been "unsuccessful" in seizing several areas around the eastern city of Bakhmut, Ukraine's military said. Putin repeats claims the West wants to liquidate Russia.

A Ukrainian mortar team fires on a Russian position on February 16, 2023 in Bakhmut
The war of attrition in Bakhmut and the villages around it has dragged on for monthsImage: John Moore/Getty Images

Russian forces have so far failed to capture the village of Yahidne in eastern Ukraine as part of efforts to take the city of Bakhmut, Kyiv said Sunday.

The general staff of the Ukrainian armed forces contradicted the Russian mercenary group, Wagner, which had claimed the capture of the village in the Donetsk region.

Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin said Saturday that his units had taken Yahidne after a similar claim over the nearby village of Berkhivka a day earlier.

It is not possible to independently verify the claims.

Kyiv said Russian troops were continuing their offensive around the town of Bakhmut, in a war of attrition that has been going on for months.

But a military statement spoke of "unsuccessful offensives" by Russia in six areas in Donetsk, including Berkhivka and Yahidne.

Although Russian troops have made progress in encircling Bakhmut in recent weeks, they have yet to take the city.

Bakhmut, which once had a population of 70,000, now has just 5,000 people remaining in extremely dire conditions.

After the war this week moved into its second year, Dara Massicot, a senior policy officer at the Rand Corporation, said Russian troops face two major hurdles that they hadn't foreseen at the start of the campaign.

"One is Ukrainian resistance," Massicot told CNN, adding the Russians "are also unable or unwilling to interdict Western support.  They're adjusting a little bit but I don't think they can overcome those larger issues."

One year of war: DW's Mathias Bölinger in Kharkiv

Here are some of the other notable developments concerning the war in Ukraine on Sunday, February 26:

Putin: West wants to 'liquidate' Russia

President Vladimir Putin told Russian state TV that the West wants to destroy Russia.

"They have one goal: to disband the former Soviet Union and its fundamental part — the Russian Federation," he told Rossiya 1.

Putin also said the West would only admit Russia to the so-called "family of civilized peoples" after breaking the nation into separate parts.

He added that he believed the West was an indirect accomplice to the "crimes" committed by Ukraine by sending weapons to Kyiv.

Putin's reasoning was that as Kyiv had received the weapons from NATO countries without payment, the West was "complicit in the shelling of residential areas."

The Russian leader also said he felt Moscow had no choice but to take into account the nuclear capabilities of NATO as the US-led military alliance was seeking the defeat of Russia.

"In today's conditions, when all the leading NATO countries have declared their main goal as inflicting a strategic defeat on us, so that our people suffer as they say, how can we ignore their nuclear capabilities in these conditions?"

UK: Heavy losses observed in Russian elite unit

Russia's elite forces have likely suffered large casualties during their latest offensive in Donetsk, Britain's Ministry of Defense said Sunday.

A satellite image purports to show a cluster of destroyed Russian military vehicles southeast of the embattled Ukrainian city of Wuhledar.

This image likely shows vehicles of the marines of the 155th Naval Infantry (NI) Brigade.

The ministry said the NI has so far been deployed alongside ground forces and has therefore been tasked with "some of the toughest tactical missions" in the war.

In its latest intelligence update, Britain said NI's capacity has almost certainly been "seriously degraded," which it said was partly down to experienced personnel joining the ranks.

Belarus says it has 1.5 mln potential soldiers

A senior Belarusian official said Saturday that the country has 1.5 million potential military
personnel outside of its armed forces.

"The structures of the organizations, not the Armed Forces, will amount to somewhere up to 1.5 million people in the event of a declaration of martial law and the switch of the economy to a war mode," said State Secretary of the Security Council Alexander Volfovich told state news agency BeITA.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has been a staunch ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Moscow's war on Ukraine.

Lukashenko had ordered the formation of a new volunteer territorial defense force of up to 150,000 people earlier this month. He said his army would fight only if Belarus was attacked.

Ukraine sources new energy reserves, no more planned outages

Ukraine said it has been able to amass power reserves and plans no more outages to ration electricity if there are no new strikes.

"Electricity restrictions will not be introduced, provided there are no strikes by the Russian Federation on infrastructure facilities. Outages will only be used for repairs," Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said on the ministry's Telegram messaging platform.

In October, Russia had begun bombing Ukraine's energy infrastructure, leaving millions without heat and electricity.

"Our power engineers managed to maintain the power system, and for the third week in a row, electricity generation has ensured consumption needs, we have reserves," Halushchenko said.

Ukraine does not produce power generators itself and has imported them over the past few years. The US pledged $10 billion on Friday to aid Kyiv's energy needs.

Russia has no weapons from China: Ukraine intelligence

The deputy director of Ukraine's military intelligence HUR told Germany's Funke Media Group newspapers that Russia currently has no weapons from China.

"According to our information, Russia currently has no weapons and ammunition from China," HUR deputy chief Vadym Skibitsky said in the interview, published Sunday.

Skibitsky added that Russia has been negotiating for arms supplies with countries such as China, Iran, North Korea and former Soviet nations. Moscow was currently negotiating with Iran for the delivery of medium-range missiles.

Skibitsky said Russia was unable to keep up with ammunition, artillery and new weapons, especially missile systems. Ukrainian troops had destroyed 60% of Russian battle tanks and 40% of armored vehicles in the first six months of the war, he said.

He urged the West to deliver fighter jets to Ukraine.

Last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed concern that China was "considering providing lethal support" to Moscow in the Ukraine war. Beijing had denied these claims. 

Volodymyr Zelenskyy: From actor to wartime president

Macron to visit China and urge for end of Ukraine war

French President Emmanuel Macron announced plans to visit China and urge Beijing to pressure Moscow to end the Ukraine war.

China has maintained a neutral position in the war, whilst maintaining close ties with Russia.

China published a 12-point position paper on Friday that called for urgent peace talks and a "political settlement" to end the conflict.

"The fact that China is engaging in peace efforts is a good thing," Macron said on the sidelines of an agricultural show in Paris, in reference to the position paper. He added that peace was only possible if "Russian aggression was halted, troops withdrawn, and the territorial sovereignty of Ukraine and its people was respected."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday also expressed hopes to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Belarusian President Lukashenko, a close ally of Putin, is also set to visit China this month.

Reporters conduct video tour of Zelenskyy's war digs

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has shown TV journalists the temporary accommodation that he said he'd lived in since the beginning of the war. 

"This is where I live," he said in the film by journalist Dmytro Komarov, broadcast on Friday by Ukrainian TV's 1+1 channel.

Zelenskyy also said he was there when the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, 2022. 

A clip of the film was also posted on Twitter by Zelenskyy's domestic political advisor Anton Gerashchenko.

The windows of the makeshift accommodation are covered with thick curtains. Pillows and a flowered bedspread lie on the single bed, and a television, a chair, and a desk can also be seen. 

Zelenskyy shows the camera team his walk-in wardrobe. 

On the rack hang many olive green and camouflage jackets; on the floor are military boots. 

But then he pulls out a suit from the left corner of the wardrobe, telling viewers, "It is a symbol that soon the war will be over, we will win." 

mm, tg/ar (dpa, AFP, AP, Reuters)