Brutal Donbas battle resembles first World War, Ukraine says

Russia jails Kremlin critic for 8½ years for criticising Putin’s military

Ukrainian officials have compared intense fighting in the eastern Donetsk region to battles from the first World War, as Britain said Russia was trying to acquire hundreds of ballistic missiles from Iran nearly 10 months into its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

In Moscow, meanwhile, a court sentenced prominent Kremlin critic Ilya Yashin to 8½ years in jail on Friday for publicly condemning Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in a verdict that was swiftly condemned by international rights groups.

Donetsk governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said the “entire frontline” in his region was being shelled and that five civilians had been killed in artillery fire over the previous 24 hours, when the fiercest fighting took place around the towns of Bakhmut and Avdiivka.

He said Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, was right to compare scenes near Bakhmut to “paintings from the first World War, with the gloom and the mounds of enemy corpses that they don’t even take from the battlefield”.


“It’s like that… The enemy has changed tactics a bit and now storms [Ukrainian lines] in separate units, even with small groups. For example, a group of 10 people attacks without any armoured support… As a rule, they don’t make it back,” Mr Kyrylenko said.

“Their bodies are literally piling up in certain parts of the front, where they attack and can’t break through our defences. And the enemy just leaves these bodies or parts of bodies there… And it’s not just the regular Russian armed forces but also private military companies like Wagner,” he added.

Wagner, Russia’s most notorious mercenary group, has been recruiting convicts from prison to bolster Russia’s ranks in Ukraine alongside men who were drafted under a Kremlin order in September to mobilise 300,000 reservists.

The reserves had little immediate impact on Russia’s fortunes in Ukraine, where its forces have been bogged down or in retreat for much of the summer and autumn, with Bakhmut being the only area where Moscow’s troops have made small advances.

In what Kyiv calls the Kremlin’s revenge for its battlefield failures, Russia has launched several waves of strikes on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure – damaging much of the power grid and causing widespread blackouts – using cruise missiles and drones allegedly supplied by Iran.

“Russia is now attempting to obtain more weapons [from Tehran], including hundreds of ballistic missiles,” British ambassador to the United Nations Barbara Woodward said on Friday.

“In return, Russia is offering Iran an unprecedented level of military and technical support. We’re concerned that Russia intends to provide Iran with more advanced military components, which will allow Iran to strengthen their weapons capability,” she added.

A Moscow court jailed prominent opposition figure Ilya Yashin for 8½ years for “spreading false information” about the Russian military – a law introduced after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February.

“With this hysterical sentence the authorities want to intimidate us all, but in fact it shows their weakness,” Mr Yashin said in a statement.

“We told the truth about war crimes and called for the bloodshed to stop.”

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe