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Ukraine Says Fighting in Eastern Mining Town Becoming More Difficult


Ukrainian service members are seen next an infantry fighting vehicle near the frontline town of Bakhmut in Donetsk region, Ukraine Feb. 25, 2023.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Monday the situation is becoming increasingly difficult in the eastern city of Bakhmut, where Ukrainian and Russian forces are engaged in heavy fighting.

"The situation is getting more and more complicated," Zelenskyy said Monday during his nightly address.

He said Russian forces are "constantly destroying everything that can be used to protect our positions."

Russia has been intensifying its attacks on several areas in eastern Ukraine, including Bakhmut, a salt-mining town in the region of Donetsk. The ruined city once held about 75,000 people.

Reuters reports that Russian forces have made some progress from the north and south as they seek to encircle the city and cut off Ukrainian forces inside it.

Also Monday, Ukraine continued its push for allies to supply Ukrainian forces with fighter jets despite the latest U.S. assessment that providing F-16s would not be appropriate at this time.

"Every discussion about supplying Ukraine with a new, crucial kind of weapon started with a 'no' and ended with a 'yes,'" Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted. "In the last year, we have unlocked political decisions on six of the seven types of game-changer weapons. The only one left is combat aircraft."

Kuleba alluded to earlier reluctance to send Ukraine tanks and other military aid that its partners ultimately decided to provide.

U.S. President Joe Biden said Friday in an interview with ABC News that on the question of providing F-16s to Ukraine, he was "ruling it out for now."

Biden Administration Won’t Send F-16 Fighter Jets to Ukraine, for Now
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White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday that U.S. military commanders believe what Ukraine needs now are “tanks, and armored personnel carriers, and infantry fighting vehicles, artillery, and air defense systems up there on the front line.”

“This phase is about ground combat and being able to have the tools in the hands of the Ukrainians to take the territory back that the Russians are occupying,” Sullivan said.

He also said allies are providing Ukraine with spare parts for the Soviet-era MiG-29 and SU-27 fighters that Ukrainian pilots use every day.

Yellen in Ukraine

Also Monday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen made a surprise visit to Kyiv, voicing continued U.S. support for the Ukrainian fight against Russia’s yearlong invasion, echoing Biden during his visit a week ago to the Ukrainian capital.

Yellen met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other key government officials, saying, “America will stand with Ukraine as long as it takes.” She announced the transfer of the first $1.25 billion from the latest, $9.9 billion tranche of economic and budget assistance from Washington.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, and U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen shake hands during their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, Feb. 27, 2023.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, and U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen shake hands during their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, Feb. 27, 2023.

She laid a wreath at a memorial wall for Ukrainian soldiers killed in the war, saying, “I am witnessing firsthand the devastating toll of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s brutal war.”

Yellen stopped to look at a destroyed Russian tank and mobile artillery piece at a city square that was cleared of visitors for security purposes.

In the last year, the United States has given Ukraine more than $13 billion in economic and budget support funding, with an additional $8.65 billion expected through the end of September. The latest funds are part of $45 billion in new military, economic and humanitarian assistance approved by Congress in December.

Yellen said such economic support is keeping Ukraine’s government and critical public services running, schools open and pensions paid, providing a “bedrock of stability” that fuels Ukrainian resistance.

“A sustained military effort cannot succeed without an effective government at home,” Yellen said at the Kyiv Obolon School No. 168, where the salaries of teachers, administrators and support staff are reimbursed from U.S. budget support funds.

Ukrainians gather at a humanitarian aid center in Bakhmut, Ukraine, on Feb. 27, 2023 .
Ukrainians gather at a humanitarian aid center in Bakhmut, Ukraine, on Feb. 27, 2023 .

UN Human Rights Council

In Geneva, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Russia's invasion of Ukraine "has triggered the most massive violations of human rights" in the world today.

He made the comments as Russia's war in Ukraine took center stage at the opening of the U.N. Human Rights Council's five-a-half-week session in Geneva.

Guterres said Russia's invasion has "unleashed widespread death, destruction and displacement."

Russia withdrew from its seat on the council last year following international pressure over the war in Ukraine.

NATO expansion

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Monday talks with Sweden and Finland about their bids to join NATO will resume next month.

Cavusoglu told a news conference the meeting was set for March 9.

In January, Turkey halted the talks in response to far-right protesters burning a Quran outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm.

Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. All of NATO’s existing members must approve their bids.

Turkey has expressed objections about Sweden, accusing the government of being too lenient toward groups that Turkey considers terror organizations.

Cavusoglu said Monday that Sweden has not lived up to its side of a June agreement in which Sweden and Finland pledged to lift restrictions on selling weapons to Turkey and to intensify work on Turkey’s requests to extradite suspected militants.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said during a visit to Turkey earlier this month “the time has come” to ratify both Sweden and Finland as new NATO members. Only Turkey and Hungary have yet to give their approvals.

Stoltenberg noted Turkey’s “legitimate security concerns,” while also saying Sweden and Finland “have both made big steps” toward fulfilling their commitments under the deal reached in Madrid last year.

The NATO chief is due to visit Finland on Tuesday.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.