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Elite Russian Forces Said to Suffer Losses in Ukraine

Ukrainian servicemen of the 28th Independent Mechanized Brigade fire 2S3 Akatsiya self-propelled howitzer towards Russian positions, near the frontline town of Bakhmut, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, Donetsk region, Feb. 25, 2023.

An elite Russian infantry force has suffered significant losses in Ukraine, the British Defense Ministry said Sunday.

The ministry said in an intelligence update that imagery from the Vuhledar section of Donetsk oblast shows “concentrated Russian vehicle losses,” with the vehicles probably from Russia’s 155th Naval Infantry Brigade.

The ministry said the Naval Infantry “has been tasked with some of the toughest tactical missions in the war and has suffered extremely high casualties.”

The ministry update, posted on Twitter, said the capability of Naval Infantry brigades has “almost certainly been significantly degraded” because its units have been replenished with “inexperienced mobilized personnel.”

The European Union agreed Saturday to impose new sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. The restrictions "are directed at military and political decision-makers, companies supporting or working within the Russian military industry, and commanders in the Wagner Group,” the EU’s presidency said in a statement.

The 10th round of EU sanctions targets about 120 individuals and entities, including those involved in the abduction of Ukrainian children, those who spread disinformation, Iranians involved in sending drones to Russia and members and supporters of the Wagner Group mercenaries, including its activities in Africa.

The sanctions restrict exports of the electronic components used in Russian weapons, including missiles, drones and helicopters, and bans some rare earth minerals, electronic circuits and thermal cameras, the statement said.

The EU sanctions also prohibit transactions with three more Russian banks and lists 96 more entities, including seven from Iran that provide Russia with military drones used in attacks against civilian infrastructure in Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy applauded the sanctions and said in his nightly video address that Ukraine is working to extend sanctions to Russia’s nuclear sector "and all those involved in the missile program and the nuclear blackmail of the terrorist state."

Russian Commissioner for Human Rights Tatyana Moskalkova, who is included in the sanctions, said listing her "violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all other international legal acts concerning human rights."

People walk past the destroyed Mariupol's theater, after the first anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine in Mariupol in Russian-controlled Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Feb. 25, 2023.
People walk past the destroyed Mariupol's theater, after the first anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine in Mariupol in Russian-controlled Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Feb. 25, 2023.

Earlier Saturday, in its intelligence update, the British Defense Ministry said Russia has likely depleted its supply of Iranian one-way-attack uncrewed aerial vehicles.

The ministry said there have not been any reports of the vehicles being used in Ukraine “since around” Feb. 15, while at least 24 were reported downed between late January and early February.

“Scores were destroyed in the first few days of the year,” the ministry said.

Ukrainian and Western officials have said that Western sanctions are hampering Russia’s ability to replenish its stocks of guided weapons that rely on imported microchips.

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, now deputy chairman of Russia's Security Council, responding to that report, said Moscow has increased military production "by tens of times" at some factories and was closely studying weapons fired into Russian-held areas from the Ukrainian side in an effort to gain an advantage.

"We are not just expanding production, but also introducing the latest technologies, perfecting them literally 'on the march,'" he said in an article published Saturday in National Defense magazine.

“It was funny to hear the Kyiv fantasists reasoning that 'missiles ran out' in Russia or 'production stopped.'”

During the G-20 summit in Bangaluru, India, on Saturday, finance chiefs of the world’s largest economies condemned Moscow for its war on Ukraine, with only China and Russia not signing a joint statement.

With no consensus, India, which holds the G-20 presidency this year, said in what is called a “chair’s summary” that "most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stressed that it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy."

Stating that it is essential to uphold international law, the summary said that “the use of or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible. The peaceful resolution of conflicts, efforts to address crises, as well as diplomacy and dialogue are vital. Today’s era must not be of war.”

The declaration noted that references to the war were “agreed to by all member countries except Russia and China.”

On Friday, a year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the White House announced that the Pentagon would commit $2 billion more in military assistance to Ukraine’s defense against Russia. The package includes additional ammunition for HIMARS, or High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, 155 mm artillery rounds, munitions for laser-guided rocket systems, and funding for training, maintenance, and sustainment of equipment. U.S. President Joe Biden reasserted his vow that "Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia."

Zelenskyy has been pressing the U.S. and allies for fighter jets, but White House officials have said they are not the weaponry that Ukrainians need in the near term.

“There is no basis on which there is a rationale, according to our military now, to provide F-16s,” Biden said. “I am ruling it out for now,” he said during an ABC News interview Friday.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to support Ukraine’s infrastructure. Blinken said the State Department in coordination with the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Treasury Department are offering $10 billion in assistance, including budgetary support to Ukraine and additional energy assistance to support Ukrainians suffering from Russia’s attacks.

The Treasury Department said it is sanctioning Russia’s metals and mining sector among others. The action, taken in coordination with the G-7 leading industrial nations, seeks to punish 250 people and firms, puts financial blocks on banks, arms dealers and technology companies tied to weapons production, and goes after alleged sanctions evaders in countries from the United Arab Emirates to Switzerland.

VOA’s Anjana Pasricha contributed to this story from New Delhi.

The Associated Press and Reuters provided some information for this report.