Ukraine’s political and military leaders agree to keep defending Bakhmut

Poland says it may deliver MiG-29 fighter jets to Kyiv in next six weeks

A Ukrainian soldier firing a French howitzer in the Donetsk province of Ukraine. Photograph: Tyler Hicks/New York Times

Ukraine’s political and military leaders agreed to keep defending the eastern city of Bakhmut as Poland said it may deliver MiG-29 fighter jets to Kyiv in the next six weeks and Russian complaints cast doubts on plans to extend a deal on Ukrainian grain exports.

Shelling killed at least one person and injured three more on Tuesday in Kramatorsk in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, and the Kremlin said it did not recognise the jurisdiction of an international court that is reportedly preparing arrest warrants for Russian officials over war crimes allegedly committed during their state’s invasion of its neighbour.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy met his top military and security officials and several government ministers to discuss the situation in Bakhmut, where both warring sides are suffering heavy losses as they try to seize the road and rail hub and blunt their adversary’s plans for a major spring offensive.

“Having reviewed the course of the defence operation in the Bakhmut sector all members of the staff expressed a common position on the further holding and defence of the city of Bakhmut,” Mr Zelenskiy’s office said. “The parties also analysed the supply of weapons and ammunition to the defence units on the front line. They also discussed the pace and volume of delivery of equipment and weapons from Ukraine’s partners and their distribution among the groups of troops.”


Ukraine is now slowly taking delivery of Western-made tanks from allies, and is also pushing for faster provision of other armoured vehicles, missile systems and ammunition.

Nato states have told Ukraine not to expect to be given Western warplanes any time soon, but Poland and Slovakia have expressed readiness to transfer their Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets to Kyiv’s air force. “That could happen in the coming four to six weeks,” Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Tuesday after he was asked when Warsaw might deliver the jets. He did not say how many warplanes Poland might send to Ukraine.

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The Kremlin says no amount of Western military aid to Ukraine will prevent Moscow’s eventual victory in what it calls an operation to remove “neo-Nazis” from power in Kyiv and to prevent the country ever joining Nato or posing a threat to Russia’s security.

Russian president Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that “for us this is not a geopolitical task, but a task of the survival of Russian statehood, creating conditions for the future development of the country and our children”.

He said the conflict and collapse in relations with the West had allowed Russia to “increase our economic sovereignty many times over. After all, what did our enemy count on? That we would collapse in two or three weeks or a month,” he said.

Ukraine and Western states accuse Moscow’s troops of committing atrocities during an invasion that has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions, and the International Criminal Court is reportedly preparing war crimes cases against Russia and arrest warrants for an unknown number of its officials. “We do not recognise this court, we do not recognise the jurisdiction of this court,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Moscow said it could only agree to a 60-day extension of a deal to allow grain exports via Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, due to what it called the failure of Western states to implement an agreement on easing restrictions on Russian agricultural exports. The pact – which was brokered by the United Nations and Turkey last July – expires on Saturday, and Kyiv says its terms stipulate that extensions must be for 120 days.

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

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