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NATO chief warns Bakhmut could fall soon


NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Bakhmut’s possible fall “in the coming days” would not mark a turning point in Russia’s war against Ukraine.

“We must continue to support Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said before a meeting with European Union defense ministers in Sweden.

Oleksandr Syrskyi, the commander of Ukrainian ground forces, made a second visit to Ukrainian positions near Bakhmut this week. Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, meanwhile, said a draft EU proposal to use €1 billion ($1.1 billion) to buy grenades won’t be enough, leaving his country needing about four times that amount.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited Ukraine on Wednesday for talks with Volodymyr Zelenskiy on issues such as grain exports, nuclear security and mitigating the effects of the Russian war.

“I want to underline the critical importance of the rollover of the Black Sea Grain Initiative,” Guterres said at a press conference with Zelenskiy in Kiev.

The deal that allows grain to be exported from some Ukrainian ports expires on March 18 and is subject to renewal if neither side attempts to terminate or amend it, though an extension has yet to be confirmed.

About 40 children will be relocated with a relative, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on television. The evacuation of children was encouraged in all conflict zones, but was made mandatory for Bakhmut at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

According to Vereshchuk, they are among fewer than 4,000 civilians remaining in Bakhmut, compared to a pre-invasion population of about 70,000, including about 12,000 children.

The issue of children in the war in Russia has become particularly fraught. Last month, the Humanitarian Research Lab at the School of Public Health at Yale University said at least 6,000 Ukrainian children ages 4 months to 17 years had been placed in “political re-education” camps in Russia and occupied Crimea, some of whom later were adopted or sent to foster homes. families.

Stoltenberg said Russia suffered heavy losses in the battle for Bakhmut but is deploying more troops to use quantity to make up for a lack of quality.

“They have suffered great losses, but at the same time we cannot rule out that Bakhmut will eventually fall in the coming days,” NATO’s secretary general said, referring to Russia. “It is therefore also important to emphasize that these do not necessarily reflect every turning point in the war and only emphasize that we should not underestimate Russia and continue to support Ukraine.”

According to the Institute for the Study of War, “Russian forces probably captured the eastern part of Bakhmut east of the Bakhmutka River after a controlled Ukrainian withdrawal from eastern Bakhmut from March 7.” Zelenskiy this week ordered commanders to defend the city despite the Russian advance.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.