Russia shields its wealthy cities from war – DW – 03/12/2023

The British Ministry of Defence says the impact of Russia’s war in Ukraine varies dramatically from region to region with the biggest and richest cities relatively unscathed.

Relative to their populations, the two largest cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg have not seen particularly high levels of casualties in terms of soldiers deployed to the front, the ministry said in its daily intelligence report on Sunday.

It added that the low casualty rates were “especially true for the families of the country’s elite.”

“Russian senior officials were photographed making up the front two rows of the audience of President Putin’s state of the nation speech on February 23,” the ministry said. “None of these are known to have children serving in the military.”

Meanwhile, in Russia’s eastern regions, deaths are likely running, as a percentage of the population, at a rate more than 30 times higher than in Moscow.

Ethnic minorities take the “biggest hit,” the report said. “In Astrakhan [in southwest Russia], some 75% of casualties come from the minority Kazakh and Tartar population,” the ministry explained.

Wagner group claims further advances in Bakhmut

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It predicted that, as Russia looks to address its continued deficit of combat personnel, “insulating the better-off and more influential elements of Russian society will highly likely remain a major consideration.”

Here are some of the other notable developments concerning the war on Sunday, March 12:

Ukraine urges Germany to hasten ammo supplies

The Ukrainian foreign minister has urged Germany to speed up its supply of ammunition and to begin training Ukrainian pilots in Western fighter jets.

Dmytro Kuleba told Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper that the main difficulty Ukraine had in repelling Russian invasion forces was a shortage of ammunition, and that bureaucracy in Berlin was partly to blame.

The minister said German weapons manufacturers told him last month at the Munich Security Conference they could deliver, but that they were waiting for the government to sign contracts.

“So the problem lies with the government,” Kuleba was quoted as saying.

Kuleba was clear in saying he did not expect Western allies in the near future to give Ukraine the fighter jets it has been asking for.

However, the minister said Ukrainian pilots should be trained anyway, so they would be ready once that decision was taken.

For Germany to train Ukrainian pilots, it would be a “clear message of its political engagement”, he said.

Russia’s renewed attacks across Ukraine

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Separately, Kuleba said Ukraine would keep defending the town of Bakhmut, which has been the focus of a Russian offensive for the last six months.

“If we withdrew from Bakhmut, what would that change? Russia would take Bakhmut and then continue its offensive against Chasiv Yar, so every town behind Bakhmut could suffer the same fate,” the minister said.

More on the war in Ukraine

Russian lawmakers want to crack down harder on individuals who criticize Russian forces fighting against Ukraine. How will these legal changes impact Russia’s society?

The Russian mercenary group is now in control of most of the front-line town of Bakhmut’s eastern part, according to British intelligence. Meanwhile, Russian shelling killed three civilians in the Kherson region. Catch up on Saturday’s Ukraine updates here.

Before the Russian invasion, more than 70,000 people lived in Bakhmut. Now, a fierce battle is raging for the Donbas city. Not all civilians have left. A picture of life in Bakhmut, below.

Bakhmut: The ‘fortress city’ on Ukraine’s front line

Before the Russian invasion, more than 70,000 people lived in Bakhmut. Now, a fierce battle is raging for the Donbas city. Not all civilians have left. A picture of life in Bakhmut since the start of the Ukraine war.

Image: LIBKOS/AP Photo/picture alliance

This photo, taken in the spring of 2022, shows murals in Bakhmut on the theme of family and children. By May, the front line had advanced to just outside the town, and artillery and air attacks began. Many residential buildings were severely damaged.


Apartment blocks in eastern Bakhmut were the first to be hit by the Russian attacks in the spring of 2022. Today, these neighborhoods look much like the ruined southern port city of Mariupol. Halyna, an evacuee from Bakhmut whose house was destroyed, told journalists: “We feel homeless. We’ve lost everything. There’s nowhere for us to return to.”

Image: Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images

Two teachers hug in front of the ruins of their school in Bakhmut. It was bombed by the Russian army and badly damaged on July 24, 2022. Fortunately, no one was killed or injured in this particular attack.

Image: Diego Herrera Carcedo/AA/picture alliance

Many historically significant buildings in Bakhmut have been damaged and destroyed since the start of the war. They include the Palace of Culture, the 19th-century former home of the businessman Polyakov, and the former girls’ high school. More modern buildings, which were once seen as Bakhmut’s “calling card,” have also been destroyed.

Image: Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images

Oleksandr Havrys is making final preparations to evacuate his wife and two children from Bakhmut to Kyiv. On March 7, 2023, fewer than 4,000 people were left in the city. Before the war, it had a population of 73,000.

Image: Metin Aktas/AA/picture alliance

More than 90% of the inhabitants have left Bakhmut and the surrounding area. Those who remain are mostly sick, or live alone. For months, only a few shops and a pharmacy were open, if there was a pause in the firing. Humanitarian aid was brought in by charities and volunteers.


Staying despite everything

Olha, who is pregnant, outside an air-raid bunker in Bakhmut with her husband Vlad, on January 28, 2023. They are among the few civilians who have remained in the city despite the fierce fighting. These days, you need a special pass in order to get to Bakhmut.

Image: Raphael Lafargue/abaca/picture alliance

Valentyna Bondarenko, a 79-year-old pensioner, looks out of her apartment window in Bakhmut in August 2022. Many residents of the town have endured months in cellars and emergency shelters because of the endless shelling and constant danger.

Image: Daniel Carde/Zumapress/picture alliance

“We’re used to all sorts of whistling noises and explosions,” Nina from Bakhmut (pictured, right) told DW. She says her daughters have gone “to Europe,” but her and her husband want to stay as long as the Ukrainian army is in the city. They would, however, leave if the situation deteriorates, she says: “So as not to get in the way of the military when the enemy is hiding behind the houses.”

Image: Oleksandra Indukhova/DW

Lining up for humanitarian aid

In the fall, the humanitarian situation in the city deteriorated further. Russian troops launched an offensive on August 1, and the power grid was damaged by bombings and attacks. Food supplies became hard to obtain, and the cell phone network collapsed. Volunteer aid workers also came under fire.

Image: Diego Herrera Carcedo/AA/picture alliance

The key battles for Bakhmut are being fought by artillery units. The Ukrainian military estimates that almost the full range of artillery and mortars are in action in the area. Bakhmut is being ferociously attacked by units of the private Russian army known as the Wagner Group. The Ukrainian military continues to resist all attacks.

Image: Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images

Ukrainian flag from Bakhmut in the US Congress

On December 20, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy paid a visit to Ukrainian soldiers defending Bakhmut. From there, he brought back a Ukrainian flag, which he presented two days later to Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, on a visit to the US Congress. The flag has been signed by soldiers on the front line defending Ukraine’s sovereignty.

Image: Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo/picture alliance

Treating the wounded in Bakhmut

The main tasks of military medics on the front line include stabilizing the wounded, preventing deaths from shock and loss of blood, and securing the transportation of serious cases to military hospitals in the safer hinterland.

Image: Evgeniy Maloletka/AP Photo/picture alliance

80% of the city is in ruins

A picture from the final days of December 2022. Smoke rises from the ruins of private houses on the outskirts of Bakhmut. According to local authorities, as of March 2023, more than 80% of the city’s housing stock has been destroyed by fighting.

Image: Libkos/AP/picture alliance

Satellite image of the destruction

A satellite image from January 4, 2023, published by the space technology company Maxar, shows the extent of the destruction near Bakhmut. “In recent months, the city has been at the center of intense fighting between Russian and Ukrainian troops, and the pictures show extensive damage to buildings and infrastructure,” it commented.

Image: Maxar Technologies/picture alliance/AP

This photo, taken by an Associated Press news agency drone on February 13, also illustrates the destruction in the city. Whole rows of houses and apartment buildings have been gutted, with only the outer walls and damaged facades still standing. The roofs, ceilings and floors have collapsed, exposing the interiors to the snow.

Image: AP Photo/picture alliance

A Ukrainian soldier walks past graffiti on a wall in the city center that reads “Bakhmut loves Ukraine.” The country’s political and military leaders have decided to maintain their defense of the city. However, NATO does not rule out the possibility that Bakhmut may fall — though this would not necessarily change the course of the war.

Image: Libkos/AP Photo/picture alliance

rc/fb (dpa, Reuters, AFP, AP)

2023-03-12 14:12:25