Ukraine’s top military leaders are determined to face down the Russian onslaught in Bakhmut, President Voldoymyr Zelenskyy said.
He discussed Bakhmut with the military command, who told him they were unanimously in favour of defending the eastern sector that includes Bakhmut.
“There was a clear position of the entire general staff: Reinforce this sector and inflict maximum possible damage upon the occupier,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address.
Bakhmut has been the site of months of intense fighting with Russia pushing to take control of the area in Ukraine’s Donetsk province.
Although it would provide a stepping stone for Russia to advance on two bigger Donetsk cities, Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, many analysts have repeatedly said it has little strategic value.
“I think it is more of a symbolic value than it is strategic and operational value,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said earlier this month.
Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the commander in chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, however, disagrees.
“The defensive operation in (Bakhmut) is of paramount strategic importance to deterring the enemy. It is key for the stability of the defense of the entire front line,” he said during the meeting with Zelenskyy.
Here are some of the other notable developments concerning the war on Wednesday, March 15:
Reports of white phosphorus being used in eastern Ukraine
Journalists working for the French news agency AFP said they saw white phosphorus munitions fired from Russian positions on an uninhabited area near Chasiv Yar in eastern Ukraine.
They said the projectiles caused explosions that released burning balls of white phosphorus and set fire to vegetation.
The reporters couldn’t say with certainty what was being targeted but said a green truck with a white cross, a symbol of Ukraine’s army, was parked nearby.
There were also civilian homes a couple of hundred meters away.
Using phosphorus weapons against civilians is prohibited, but they can be deployed against military targets under a 1980 convention signed in Geneva.
Ukraine has blamed Russia of using these weapons on several occasions. However, the Russian army has denied this categorically.
Bill Browder tells DW world must ‘cut off the money’ to Russia
More needs to be done to stop Russia’s access to money to fund its war, British investor and prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin, Bill Browder, told DW.
“We need to completely and absolutely stop the flow of money to Russia, and that means stop the purchase of oil and gas,” Browder said.
Browder said there should be an embargo on Russia and measures should be taken against countries that are not cooperating.
“We should say that if you do business with Russia, we’re not going to do business with you.”
Browder said that countries like Turkey, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, which were not “superpower economies,” needed to toe the line.
“Russia needs to lose and to be seen to lose,” Browder told DW.
“If that were to happen, then we have a situation where we can move on to a peaceful future in Europe.”
Putin has successfully used the war in Ukraine to ‘consolidate his power,’ says Russia expert
Angela Stent, an expert on Russia and author of a prize-winning book on President Vladimir Putin, told DW the Russian leader had used the war “to consolidate his power.”
Even though a million people have left Russia, the majority that have stayed likely “either support the war or they’re kind of indifferent to it.”
“So far, he’s succeeded in convincing them, apparently, that, in fact, the West is trying to break up Russia and this is a fight for their existence,” Stent said.
On whether Putin’s game plan was waiting to tire the West, Stent said: “He’s playing a long game.”
“His previous experience has informed him that the West doesn’t hold together forever, that democracies get distracted. They have elections. They have to turn to other things.”
More DW coverage on the war in Ukraine
The United States said one of its military surveillance drones crashed into the Black Sea after being intercepted by Russian fighter jets. The Pentagon said that one of the Russian Su-27 jets struck the drone’s propeller, making it inoperable. Russia views the drone incident as a provocation.
Eva Högl, commissioner for Germany’s armed forces, said Berlin was working too slowly to build up its armed forces . Högl, whose role is to ensure parliamentary control of the armed forces, was making her report in light of the “turning point” announced last year by Chancellor Olaf Scholz in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The commissioner called for additional funding to be earmarked for the armed forces, beyond the €100 billion ($107 billion) already supplied as part of a one-off fund.
lo/rt (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)