Ukraine war: Russia claims gains in Donetsk

Kyiv seeking ‘key’ supplies of warplanes and long-range missiles from its allies

Russia said its forces are closing in on two fiercely-contested towns in eastern Ukraine and accused the West of risking an “unpredictable” escalation by supplying arms to Kyiv, where officials said they were focused on securing warplanes and long-range missiles from their allies.

“Military operations are currently progressing successfully in areas around Vugledar and Artemovsk,” Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu told officials in Moscow on Tuesday, using the Russian names for Vuhledar and Bakhmut in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.

“The United States and its partners are trying to drag out this conflict as much as possible. For this reason they have started supplying heavy attack weapons [to Kyiv] and openly urge Ukraine to seize our territories. These steps effectively pull Nato countries into the conflict, and could lead to an unpredictable level of escalation,” he said, pledging that Russia’s forces would “continue to grind up” Western-supplied weapons on the battlefield and in transit to the front.

Moscow claims that its forces have taken several villages close to Vuhledar and Bakhmut in recent weeks, nearly a year into the full-scale invasion of Ukraine that has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions.


Kyiv says the situation on the frontline is extremely hard but under control, and claims that Russia is starting to mass troops and weaponry for a new offensive that is likely to be focused on the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions and may also target the southeastern province of Zaporizhzhia.

“The transfer of Russian army units goes on day and night. [Russian] shelling intensifies, pressure from the Russians intensifies each day,” said Pavlo Kyrylenko, the Ukrainian governor of the partly occupied Donetsk region.

Britain’s defence ministry said on Tuesday that while “Russian leaders will likely continue to demand sweeping advances … it remains unlikely that Russia can build up the forces needed to substantially affect the outcome of the war within the coming weeks”.

After months of resistance Ukraine’s allies have agreed to supply it with Western-made main battle tanks, but Kyiv says they may not arrive before Russia launches an offensive that could begin within weeks.

“The key is the supply of long-range missiles and the opening of supplies of combat aircraft since aircraft are the last type of weapon that needs to be unlocked – we opened all other positions during the last year with our determined efforts,” Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said of Kyiv’s priorities for this month’s Munich Security Conference.

Ukraine’s parliament on Tuesday approved Ihor Klymenko as the country’s new interior minister and Vasyl Maliuk as head of its SBU security service. Mr Klymenko’s predecessor, Denys Monastyrskyi, was killed in a helicopter crash last month with two of his senior deputies and 11 other people.

Parliament also appointed new governors to the region of Dnipropetrovsk and the partly occupied provinces of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, as part of a broad shake-up of national and regional government.

Doubt still hangs over the future of defence minister Oleksiy Reznikov after the parliamentary leader of the ruling Servant of the People party said on Sunday that he would be replaced, before adding on Monday that no change would be made this week.

“Holding the line,” read a tweet on Tuesday from Mr Reznikov, whose solid reputation at home and abroad risks being besmirched by recent corruption scandals in the defence ministry. “Thank you all for your support, as well as constructive criticism. We draw conclusions. We continue the reforms. Even during the war. We are strengthening the defence and working for victory,” he added.

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

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