Latest in Ukraine: Ukraine Repels Russian Attacks on Bakhmut
U.S. President Joe Biden has endorsed plans to train Ukrainian pilots on U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets, The Associated Press reports. Russia has added International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Karim Khan to its wanted list. Khan prepared an arrest warrant last March for President Vladimir Putin on war crimes charges, Russian media reported on Friday. The Pentagon has overestimated the value of the weapons it has sent to Ukraine by at least $3 billion, said Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh. The accounting error will allow the Defense Department to send more weapons without asking Congress for additional money. Russia is targeting Ukrainian military facilities and supplies to disrupt a Ukrainian counteroffensive, Vadym Skibitskyi, deputy head of the Defense Ministry's Main Intelligence Directorate, told the Ukrainian news portal RBK.
Heavy fighting continues in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, with Ukraine on Friday claiming incremental advances against Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Russian paramilitary forces there.
“The enemy is trying to regain what they have lost … but our forces are repulsing the attacks,” Deputy Ukrainian Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said in televised remarks. She noted that Russian forces had “made some progress” inside Bakhmut but said they did not control the city.
“It’s very difficult to carry out combat missions there, and every meter [of advance] is like 10 kilometers in other conditions,” she said.
Both Russia and Ukraine said the other has sustained heavy losses in the area. Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told Ukrainian news portal RBK that Russia has suffered about 70,000 casualties in and around Bakhmut. His assertion could not be independently verified, Reuters said.
Moscow regards its assault on Bakhmut, a city of about 70,000 before Russia’s full-scale invasion nearly 15 months ago, as a springboard to capturing the rest of the industrial Donbas region in eastern Ukraine.
Training on F-16s
During the Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima on Friday, U.S. President Joe Biden endorsed plans to train Ukrainian pilots on U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets in Europe in the coming weeks. According to people who spoke on the condition of anonymity, Biden discussed with G-7 allies the training as a precursor to sending fourth-generation fighter jets to Ukraine in the months ahead, AP reports.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will join the G-7 Summit in Japan on Sunday, either in person or virtually. If he does attend in person, it would be the farthest he has traveled from his country since the war began in February of last year.
The G-7 leaders also laid out new sanctions against Moscow on Friday.
“Our support for Ukraine will not waver,” they said in a statement released after closed-door meetings. They promised “to stand together against Russia’s illegal, unjustifiable and unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine.”
“Russia started this war and can end this war,” they said.
Military facilities increasingly targeted
Russia is increasingly targeting Ukraine’s military facilities and munitions supplies to disrupt preparations for a Ukrainian counterattack, a senior Ukrainian military intelligence official said.
After months of attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure, Russian forces are increasingly training their sights on areas where air defense equipment is located, according to Vadym Skibitskyi, deputy head of Ukraine’s Defense Ministry’s Main Intelligence Directorate.
“Now they have completely different priorities — to disrupt our plans and preparations for active [military] action during the spring-summer campaign,” he told the Ukrainian news portal RBK on Friday.
He said the Russians were striking decision-making centers, supply routes and places where large quantities of ammunition, equipment, fuel or troops were concentrated, according to Reuters.
Skibitskyi also said Russian aviation was targeting areas on or near the front line more often than before, echoing Ukrainian fighters’ reports that Russian forces were pounding supply lines to try to halt the Ukrainian advances.
Russia did not immediately comment on Skibitskyi’s remarks.
Kyiv under fire
Kyiv was again targeted by Iranian-made drones overnight Friday — the 10th attack since the start of the month — but all of them were destroyed by the capital’s air defenses, Serhiy Popko, the head of the Kyiv military administration, said Friday.
“With such tactics, the Kremlin is trying to exhaust our air defense, as well as to psychologically influence the civilian population,” Popko said.
Separately, Ukrainian air defense said Friday it had shot down six cruise missiles, 16 out of 22 drones and one cruise missile overnight, without specifying the location, RFE/RL reported.
Explosions also were heard in the western city of Lviv and in Zelenskyy’s hometown Kryviy Rih in the southeast, seriously wounding a 64-year-old woman.
“Several explosions occurred in [the central Ukrainian city of] Kryvyi Rih. The enemy hit a private industrial enterprise. Several buildings caught fire at once,” the president’s office said in a statement.
According to RFE/RL, the latest attacks came as officials in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Kharkiv reported Friday that three civilians were killed, and 16 others were wounded by Russian shelling the previous day.
Two people were killed and nine more were wounded in Donetsk, according to Pavlo Kyrylenko, the head of Donetsk regional administration.
One man was killed and two were wounded in a rocket attack on a village in Kharkiv, regional Governor Oleh Synyehubov said.
Patriot system fixed
In Washington, a Pentagon spokeswoman said a Patriot missile-defense system damaged in a Russian airstrike on Kyiv several days ago has been repaired.
“What I can confirm is that one Patriot system was damaged, but it has now been fixed and is fully back and operational,” Sabrina Singh told a news briefing.