Chris Lange, FISM News
Kyiv’s military said that Russian rockets and artillery slammed into a residential district in the city of Bakhmut on Thursday, killing three men and two women and wounding nine others. Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin said that the attack is being investigated as a war crime.
The head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, meanwhile, predicted that the long-besieged city in Ukraine’s Donetsk region could take weeks if not months to fall, according to reporting by Reuters. Elsewhere, Russian forces kept up increased strikes in regions throughout Ukraine Friday.
The grim reports came as world leaders gathered in Munich, Germany to kick off a three-day security conference with a renewed sense of urgency to deliver more ammunition and weapons to Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will be the opening speaker at the summit, which is expected to be attended by more than 100 world leaders and diplomats, including U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, according to reports by Newsweek and The Guardian.
Ukraine’s partners and allies are facing intense pressure to step up ammunition production to address dwindling stockpiles and speed up weapons deliveries to Kyiv in the face of what appears to be the first salvos of an anticipated new Russian offensive.
Several media outlets reported that NATO leaders who met in Brussels on Tuesday discussed the possibility of providing Ukraine with long-requested calls for fighter jets.
NATO TO SUPPLY MOLDOVA WITH ‘NON-LETHAL’ AID
NATO Deputy Secretary-General Mircea Geoana announced on Thursday that the alliance has agreed to provide Moldova with a new “non-lethal” aid package after the former Soviet republic accused Russia of plotting a coup attempt.
Geona said that the “package of collaboration” will focus on “non-lethal assistance,” including support in shoring up Moldovan resilience, communications, and combating misinformation.
Ukrainian and Moldovan intelligence communities reportedly intercepted communications that pointed to a Kremlin plan to topple Moldova’s government. Moldova’s national intelligence agency said in December that Russia aims to create a land corridor through southern Ukraine to Moldova’s Kremlin-backed breakaway region of Transnistria.
RUSSIA ACCUSES US OF INCITING ATTACKS ON RUSSIAN TERRITORIES
The Kremlin on Friday accused the U.S. of inciting Ukrainian attacks on Russian territory following remarks made by a top U.S. official that Crimea should be demilitarized.
The U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland said during an online press briefing Thursday that the United States believes that Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, should be demilitarized. Nuland told reporters that Russian military installations, including in Crimea, “are legitimate targets” and that “Ukraine is hitting them and we are supporting that.”
“No matter what the Ukrainians decide about Crimea in terms of where they choose to fight etcetera, Ukraine is not going to be safe unless Crimea is at a minimum, at a minimum, demilitarized,” Nuland told the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters on Friday that Nuland’s remarks show that “the American warmongers have gone even further: They incite the Kyiv regime to further escalate the war,” according to Reuters.
“They supply weapons in huge quantities, provide intelligence and participate directly in the planning of combat operations,” Zakharova continued, adding that “crazy people” had dreams of defeating Russia.
The Kremlin has said on several occasions that all territories considered by Moscow to be part of Russia are covered by its nuclear umbrella.
NEGOTIATIONS TO EXTEND GRAIN EXPORT DEAL BEGIN NEXT WEEK
The Munich summit comes ahead of next week’s scheduled negotiations to extend a United Nations-backed agreement between Russia, Ukraine, and Turkey to export grain from ports blockaded by Russia. The pact made in an effort to stave off a global hunger crisis has been fraught with disputes that have resulted in numerous threats by Moscow that it would pull out of the deal. Increased tensions between Russia and the West have led to concerns that Russia may elect not to renew the pact.
Ukrainian Deputy Infrastructure Minister Yuri Vaskov, however, expressed optimism that exports will continue, saying on Friday: “I think common sense will prevail and the corridor will be extended.”