Several Ukrainian cities came under fire from Russian missiles early Thursday morning. As in previous assaults, energy facilities have been among the key targets, Ukrainian officials said.
Russia is likely to downgrade its ambitions in Ukraine for the time being to hanging onto territory seized after the start of its invasion, US intelligence chiefs told a Senate committee.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the possible fall of the city of Bakhmut “in the coming days” wouldn’t indicate a turning point in Russia’s war against Ukraine. “We must continue to provide support to Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said before a meeting with European Union defense ministers in Sweden.
Ukraine continues to defend Bakhmut, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said when asked about the NATO chief’s comments during a press conference.
Cities Come Under Fresh Missile Attacks (5:25 a.m.)
Ukrainians awoke to a fresh wave of Russian missile attacks on Thursday morning and sirens were heard in many parts of the country.
Kharkiv, the second largest city, and the surrounding region were hit by at least 15 strikes on critical infrastructure and private homes, local governor Oleh Synehubov said on Telegram.
The railroad company Ukrzaliznytsia said about 15 trains out of more then 90 were running with delays Thursday morning because of Russian attacks on energy facilities. A number of railroad areas across the country are out of power, the company said on Telegram.
Kyiv’s mayor, Vitaliy Klitschko, confirmed explosions in Holosiyivskiy district, without providing further details.
Zelenskiy Praises Protesters in Georgia’s Capital (9:16 p.m.)
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy thanked protesters in Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, who held Ukrainian flags and sang his country’s national anthem.
“We want to be in the European Union — and we will,” he said. “We want Georgia to be in the European Union, and I am sure it will be. We want Moldova to be in the European Union, and I am sure it will be. All the free peoples of Europe deserve this.”
The US and the European Union have condemned Georgia’s government for pressing ahead with a draft law targeting “foreign agents” that sparked violent clashes between police and protesters.
US Sees Russia Reducing Its Goals in Ukraine for Now (8:11 p.m.)
President Vladimir Putin would have to find outside suppliers of ammunition and impose a mandatory national mobilization if Russia is to advance in its year-old invasion, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told the Senate Intelligence Committee Wednesday in presenting an annual assessment of worldwide threats to the US.
“We do not foresee the Russian military recovering enough this year to make major territorial gains,” Haines said. “Putin is likely better understanding the limits of what his military is capable of achieving and appears to be focused on more limited military objectives for now.”
Ukraine Continues to Defend Bakhmut, Deputy Defense Minister Says (6:27 p.m.)
“So far, Bakhmut is standing,” Malyar, the Ukrainian deputy defense minister, said.
Replying to the comment by NATO’s Secretary-General Stoltenberg that Bakhmut may fall within days, she said that while the grueling fighting exhausts Ukraine it also drains forces from Russia.
“For us, it’s very important to exhaust the enemy, so all this makes its own sense,” she said.
Ukraine’s GDP Decline Slows in February, Economy Minister Says
The economy shrank near 26% in February from the same period last year according to preliminary data, Economy Minister Economy Minister Yulia Svyrydenko said on the website.
This compares to an estimated 32% decline in January, according to Svyrydenko. Economic activity gradually began to recover and the business mood improved as the energy deficit shrank and power cutoffs became shorter from mid-February. Reconstruction in liberated territories and the relocation of farmers from frontlines to safer areas also helped to offset economic decline.
UN’s Guterres Visits Kyiv as Crop-Export Deal Talks Continue (3:00 p.m.)
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited Ukraine for talks with Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Wednesday on issues which included grain exports, nuclear security, and mitigating impact from the Russia’s war.
“I want to underscore the critical importance of the rollover of the Black Sea Grain Initiative,” Guterres said during a press conference with Zelenskiy in Kyiv.
The deal allowing to export grain from some Ukrainian ports is set to expire March 18 and can be extended if no side seeks to terminate or modify it, though a renewal is yet to be confirmed.
Ukraine Will Evacuate Dozens of Children From Bakhmut (2:20 p.m.)
About 40 children will be re-located with a family member, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on television. The evacuation of children had been encouraged in all areas of fighting, but was made obligatory for Bakhmut during a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
They are among fewer than 4,000 civilians still in Bakhmut compared with a population of about 70,000 before the invasion, including about 12,000 children, according to Vereshchuk.
The issue of children in Russia’s war has become particularly charged. Last month, The School of Public Health’s Humanitarian Research Lab at Yale University said at least 6,000 Ukrainian children aged from 4 months to 17 years had been placed in “political reeducation” camps in Russia and occupied Crimea, with some later adopted or sent to foster families.
Bakhmut Could Fall to Russia Shortly, NATO Chief Says (1:30 p.m.)
Stoltenberg said Russia has suffered major losses in the battle for Bakhmut but is deploying more troops, trying to use quantity as a way of making up for a lack of quality.
“They have suffered big losses but at the same time we cannot rule out that Bakhmut may eventually fall in the coming days,” the NATO secretary general said, referring to Russia. “Therefore, it is also important to highlight that this does not necessarily reflect any turning point of the war and just highlights that we should not underestimate Russia and should continue to provide support to Ukraine.”
Mother of Wagner Group Founder Wins Appeal Against EU Sanctions (12:05 p.m.)
Violetta Prigozhina was targeted in February last year through her association with her son, whose mercenary group has played a key role in President Vladimir Putin’s increasingly all-encompassing war effort. The EU General Court, the bloc’s second-highest tribunal, on Wednesday annulled her inclusion on the list.
Even if Prigozhin “is responsible for actions undermining the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine,” the link between mother and son “is based solely on their family relationship and is therefore not sufficient to justify her inclusion on the contested lists.”