- The Russian executive got a foothold in Wuhleder
- Kiev says Russian gains come at a heavy cost
- Delays in Western weapons stalled Ukraine’s progress, the think tank says
KYIV, Ukraine/WASHINGTON, Jan 30 (Reuters) – The United States will not provide Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets in its war against Russia, President Joe Biden said on Monday. East of the country.
Ukraine is planning to enter Western fourth-generation fighter jets like the F-16 after Ukraine secured supplies of key battle tanks last week, an adviser to Ukraine’s defense minister said on Friday. A Ukrainian Air Force spokesman said it takes about half a year for its pilots to train on such fighters.
Asked if the U.S. would provide the jets, Biden told reporters at the White House, “No.”
The brief exchange came shortly after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia had begun retaliating against Ukraine’s resistance to aggression with relentless attacks in the east.
Zelenskiy has warned for weeks that Moscow aims to step up its offensive on Ukraine, after nearly two months of virtual stalemate on a front that stretches across the south and east.
Ukraine won a major boost last week when Germany and the United States announced plans to supply heavy tanks, ending weeks of diplomatic deadlock over the issue.
“The next big hurdle now will be fighter jets,” Yuriy Zak, an adviser to Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, told Reuters on Friday.
While there was no sign of a wider new Russian offensive, Denis Bushilin, the administrator of the Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk province, said Russian troops had gained a foothold in the coal-mining town of Vuhlader, whose ruins have been a Ukrainian stronghold since the start of the war.
Bushilin said Ukrainian forces were continuing to pour reinforcements into three towns north-southwest of Donetsk: Bagmut, Marinka and Vuhledar. Russian state news agency TASS quoted him as saying that Russian forces were advancing there, but “not clearly, which means there is a battle for every meter here.”
Yan Gagin, an adviser to Bushilin, said Wagner’s fighters, a Russian mercenary, had taken partial control of a supply road leading to the city of Pakmut, which had been a key hub in Moscow for months.
A day earlier, Wagner’s leader said his fighters had secured Blahotadne, a village north of Bagmut.
Cave said it had ruled out attacks on Blahotadne and Wuhleder, and that Reuters could not independently verify the circumstances there. But the locations of the reported fighting show clear, albeit gradual, Russian gains.
Zelensky said Russian offensives in the east were unrelenting despite heavy casualties on the Russian side, saying the attacks were payback for Ukraine’s success in pushing back Russian forces from the capital, northeast and south earlier in the conflict.
“I think Russia really wants its big revenge. I think they have (already) started it,” Zelenskiy told reporters in the southern port city of Odessa.
Mykola Salamaka, a Ukrainian colonel and military analyst, told Ukrainian Radio NV that Moscow’s attack on Wuhleder is coming at a heavy cost.
“The city is on a hilly ground and a very strong defensive center has been built there,” he said. “This is a repeat of the situation in Pakmut – wave after wave of Russian troops crushed by Ukrainian armed forces.”
Hundreds of modern tanks and armored vehicles pledged to Ukraine by the West in recent weeks are months away from a counteroffensive to retake the territory.
That leaves Kiev to fight through the winter in what both sides have described as a meat grinder of unrelenting, brutal war.
Moscow’s Wagner mercenaries have sent thousands of criminals recruited from Russian prisons into battle around Baghdad, buying time for Russia’s regular army to reorganize units with hundreds of thousands of reservists.
Zelenskiy is urging the West to quickly deliver promised weapons to continue the offensive in Ukraine.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Western arms suppliers were “more and more directly involved in the conflict with NATO countries – but that does not have the ability to change the course of events and will not.”
The US-based Institute for the Study of War think-tank said last year’s “failure of the West to provide the necessary supplies” was the main reason why Kyiv’s advances have stalled since November.
That allowed Russia to apply pressure on Pakmut and strengthen the front against a future Ukrainian counterattack, its researchers said in a statement, although they said Ukraine could still retake the territory once the promised weapons arrive.
Zelenskiy met Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen in Mykolaiv on Monday, a rare visit by a foreign leader close to the front. Stalled by Russia’s advance in the south, the city was subject to relentless bombardment until Ukraine pushed back the front line in November.
Russia’s invasion, which began on February 24 last year after it claimed it was necessary to protect its neighbor’s relations with the West, has killed tens of thousands of people and driven millions from their homes.
Additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk, Kevin Liffey, Ronald Popeski and Reuters Bureaus; By Peter Graf, Philippa Fletcher and Doina Chiaku; Editing by Gareth Jones, William McLean and Cynthia Osterman
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