Ukrainian forces continued to hold their ground in Bakhmut, the military said on March 8, despite claims by Russian mercenaries that they were holding the eastern part of the city in the Donetsk region, as the European Union was readying plans to supply much needed ammunition to Ukraine.
Ukrainian defenders repelled more than 100 enemy attacks over the past 24 hours, Ukraine’s General Staff said in its daily battlefield report, with Bakhmut and its surroundings the focal point of Russia’s offensive in the east.
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“Unsuccessful [Russian] offensive actions continue in the districts of Orikhovo-Vasylivka, Dubovo-Vasylivka, Bakhmut, Kamyanka, Avdiyivka, and Maryinka in the Donetsk region,” the military said.
The Russian Army, despite significant losses, continues its assault on Bakhmut, it said.
On March 6, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy announced that the military-political leadership of the country decided to continue the defense of Bakhmut .
Ukrainian leaders continue to insist that their troops are holding on in Bakhmut even as the head of the Russian mercenary group Wagner said early on March 8 that his forces, who have been leading the assault on the city, had managed to take its eastern part.
There was no independent confirmation of Prigozhin’s claim.
Both sides are believed to have suffered heavy losses in the battle for the city, which had a prewar population of 70,000, but has now largely been deserted as civilians flee the fighting.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on March 8 that Russian forces, despite incurring serious losses, may still be on the verge of taking Bakhmut.
“They have suffered big losses, but at the same time we cannot rule out that Bakhmut may eventually fall in the coming days,” Stoltenberg said ahead of a European Union defense ministers’ meeting in Stockholm to discuss supplying Ukraine with more ammunition.
The EU defense ministers agreed at the meeting to speed up supplies of artillery rounds and to purchase more shells to aid the Ukrainian war effort. Under a plan proposed by foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, EU member states would receive 1 billion euros ($1.6 billion) in incentives to send ammunition from their own stockpiles to Ukraine, and 1 billion euros more would be allocated to fund the joint purchase of more artillery shells.
“There has been a general agreement on this procedure but there are questions pending. Everything has to be discussed in detail,” Borrell said following the meeting. He said the agreement could be finalized on March 20, when EU foreign and defense ministers are scheduled to meet.
The ministers were joined by their Ukrainian counterpart Oleksiy Reznikov to discuss ways to meet Kyiv’s immediate needs and the European defense industry for the longer term to ensure an uninterrupted flow of ammunition for Kyiv.
Ahead of the meeting, Reznikov had said that 1 billion euros’ worth of ammunition was a long way short of what was needed.
“We need more,” said Reznikov, adding that Ukraine needs 1 million rounds of artillery shells, costing around 4 billion euros.
The Ukrainian military needed 90,000-100,000 artillery shells monthly to “be ready to deter enemies” and start a counteroffensive, he said.
Ukraine is currently facing a critical shortage of 155-millimeter howitzer shells, the staple of the ammunition used in the battle for Bakhmut and other eastern objectives.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres met with Zelenskiy on March 8 in Kyiv to discuss the continuation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative, a deal to ensure that Ukraine can keep shipping grain to global markets, was brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in July 2022 and was extended in November, but it is due to expire on March 18 unless an extension is agreed.
After the talks, Zelenskiy and Guterres called on March 8 for the extension of the deal with Moscow. Zelenskiy said the initiative was necessary for the world.
The visit is the third by Guterres after trips to Ukraine in April and August last year following Russia’s invasion on February 24, 2022.
Guterres spent March 7 in Poland, where leaders there announced that Warsaw would send 10 Leopard 2 tanks this week to Ukraine.
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