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Ukraine updates: Kyiv's aerial success, struggles on ground

Published February 29, 2024last updated March 1, 2024

The Ukrainian military has reported successes in the air but continues to struggle on the ground around Avdiivka, as Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses parliament. DW has more.

Servicemen of one of the mobile air defense units of the 5th Slobozhanska Brigade of the National Guard of Ukraine are seen on combat duty
Ukrainian air defenses have had more success shooting down Russian planes, but ground troops are struggling around Avdiivka.Image: Madiyevskyy Vyacheslav/Ukrinform/abaca/picture alliance
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

  • The Ukrainian Air Force claims to have shot down two more Russian fighter planes
  • Russian army continues to apply pressure in "fierce fighting" around Avdiivka
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses parliament 

Here's a look at the latest developments in Russia's war in Ukraine on Thursday, February 29.

Skip next section Scholz says sending Taurus missiles to Kyiv still 'out of the question'
March 1, 2024

Scholz says sending Taurus missiles to Kyiv still 'out of the question'

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told a gathering in the eastern German city of Dresden that sending long-range Taurus missiles to Ukraine was still out of the question.

Scholz has repeatedly stood by his assertion that sending the missiles would make Germany an active participate in the Ukraine war, saying Thursday sending missiles was "out of the question."

The German leader said it was important to avert any potential risk that could escalate tensions between Russia and NATO in Ukraine, saying: "There will be no German soldiers, not even NATO soldiers on Ukrainian soil, because that would otherwise entail this danger... I continue to stand by that," emphasized Scholz. 

Scholz has stalled for months on Ukraine’s desire for Taurus missiles, which have a range of up to 500 kilometers (310 miles) and could in theory be used against targets far into Russian territory.

Why is Germany ruling out Taurus delivery to Ukraine?

Skip next section Czech Republic: 'Intense negotiations' ongoing to purchase ammunition for Ukraine
February 29, 2024

Czech Republic: 'Intense negotiations' ongoing to purchase ammunition for Ukraine

An initiative to procure much-needed artillery ammunition for Ukraine from non-EU countries is proceeding with "intense negotiations," a spokeswoman for Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said on Thursday.

She said the Czech proposal had been well received at a Ukraine summit in Paris earlier this week and that 15 countries had already signaled their intention to take part. The Netherlands and Belgium, for instance, have said they are prepared to contribute €100 million ($108 million) and €200 million to the undertaking, respectively.

At the Munich Security Conference earlier this month, Czech President and former NATO general Petr Pavel said 500,000 155mm shells and 300,000 122mm shells had already been "identified" abroad — although he didn't specify where.

On Thursday, a Czech government spokesperson said the "procurement and delivery process" for these 800,000 shells is being coordinated with the Ukrainian government "to ensure they arrive at the front as soon as possible, in a few weeks or months."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said less than a third of the 1 million artillery shells promised by the European Union have actually arrived in Ukraine.

Skip next section Germany, France aware of Russian 'destabilization' attempts in Moldova
February 29, 2024

Germany, France aware of Russian 'destabilization' attempts in Moldova

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock compared developments in Moldova this week to those that sparked the conflict between Ukraine and Russia 10 years ago.

In 2014, Moscow illegally annexed Crimea after holding a referendum asking citizens if they wanted to join the Russian Federation. Neither the referendum nor the annexation have been internationally recognized. Russia also backed separatists in the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk and has claimed the "protection" of ethnic Russians and Russian-speakers as justification for its full-scale invasion of Ukraine two years ago.

This week, the pro-Russian leaders of the breakaway Moldovan region of Transnistria also requested "protection" from Moscow, passing a resolution to request Russia "implement measures to protect Transnistria in the face of increasing pressure from Moldova."

Baerbock said that "sham referendums and sham proceedings to destabilize another country are a breach of international law," adding that Germany has long been aware of attempts to destabilize the Republic of Moldova from the outside. Baerbock stressed that she wanted to support the country in its right to territorial integrity. 

Baerbock's comments came a few hours after a spokesperson for the French Foreign Ministry said European states would discuss support for Moldova in the face of "increasingly aggressive destabilization" efforts by Russia.

"The situation in Transnistria is being followed with great attention here," said Christophe Lemoine, adding that concrete ideas on de-mining, cyber-defense, weapons production and the defense of countries threatened by Russia, notably Moldova, would be discussed at a meeting provisionally scheduled for March 7 in Paris.

Also on Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron doubled down on his suggestion on Monday that a deployment of Western troops to Ukraine should not be ruled out — remarks which attracted strong rebuttals from allied leaders.

"These are sufficiently serious issues; every one of the words that I say on this issue is weighed, thought through and measured," Macron told reporters, but he declined to comment further.

Skip next section Putin lauds Russian gains and threatens West in annual speech
February 29, 2024

Putin lauds Russian gains and threatens West in annual speech

Russian President Vladimir Putin lauded Russian gains in Ukraine and issued a warning to Kyiv's Western allies in his annual State of the Nation address on Thursday.

As what he calls the "special military operation" enters its third year, Putin referred to Russian advances around Avdiivka, praised Russian industry for shifting to a war footing and claimed that a majority of the Russian population supported the military action in Ukraine.

Referring to the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO, Putin said Russia's western military district would need to be strengthened and said European leaders should remember the fates of the Nazi Wehrmacht in the 20th century and Napoleon's Grande Army in the 19th century before threatening Russia in the 21st century.

Putin's 19th such annual speech, which was nationally televised and even screened in some cinemas, came less than three weeks before a presidential election he is sure to win.

Putin warns of nuclear war if NATO troops sent to Ukraine

Skip next section Russia targeting further Ukrainian towns and villages
February 29, 2024

Russia targeting further Ukrainian towns and villages

After Ukrainian troops withdrew from the ruined town of Avdiivka on February 17, Russian forces have been pushing to capture further settlements in Ukraine's partly occupied eastern Donetsk region.

As the war enters its third year, the Russian army has been deploying overwhelming amounts of artillery and manpower in an effort to seize Tonenke, Orlivka, Semenivka, Berdychi and Krasnohorivka — villages that form a new Ukrainian line just west of Avdiivka.

Russian progress is slow and costly, but officials say the Ukrainian army is having trouble stabilizing its positions as military supplies from Western allies falter.

The new Ukrainian commander-in-chief, Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, traveled to the front to get an overview of the situation and accused several commanders of misjudgments that put the Ukrainian units in a tight spot.

Syrskyi said Russian units had been pushed out of Orlivka again and that additional reserves and ammunition had been allocated to "improve the situation" amid fierce fighting.

According to both Ukrainian and Russian reports, 19 Russian soldiers were killed and 12 injured near Olenivka south of Donetsk city on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, in the southeastern Zaporizhzhia region, Russian forces are trying to retake the towns of Verbove and Robotyne, which Ukraine recaptured during last year's otherwise underwhelming summer counteroffensive.

In the southern Kherson region, Ukrainian special forces confirmed they suffered heavy losses at an undisclosed location. Russian reports suggest an attempted Ukrainian amphibious landing involving five motorboats near the Tendra headland was thwarted.

Ukrainian authorities said on Thursday that eight more civilians, including a six-year-old girl, had been killed and at least 12 injured in the south-east of the county in the past 24 hours.

Skip next section Ukraine shoots down 2 more Russian planes, bringing recent tally to 12
February 29, 2024

Ukraine shoots down 2 more Russian planes, bringing recent tally to 12

The Ukrainian Air Force said on Thursday that it had shot down two more Russian Sukhoi Su-34 fighter jets, meaning a dozen Russian aircraft, including a specialist A-50 reconnaissance aircraft, have been downed in the last two weeks.

"The enemy has increased its air presence in the east and our top military leadership reacted accordingly," Air Force spokesman Yurii Ihnat said on national television.

Ukrainian Air Force commander Mykola Oleshchuk said, "Given such losses of fighter and special aircraft, the Russians should have a think and stop their aviation meat grinders at least for some time."

Explanations for the upturn in downed aircraft include an increase in Russian aerial activity over the frontlines, but also potentially more advanced positioning of Ukrainian air defense systems.

"Ukraine is being more aggressive, risking Patriot launchers closer to the frontlines in order to engage Russian jets," Justin Bronk, a senior research fellow at the London-based think-tank RUSI, told the BBC.

Ukraine claims to have shot down over 340 Russian planes and 325 helicopters since the start of the full-scale invasion in February 2022. These figures cannot be independently verified and Moscow does not comment.

mf/sms (AFP, Reuters, AP, DPA)