Ukraine: Priority is to “hold the line”, meeting in Munich on security

KYIV (Reuters) – Russian forces stepped up attacks along front lines in eastern Ukraine on Friday as senior political and military officials from around the world gather in Germany, where Ukrainian officials are also expected at the 59th Munich Security Conference.

A new Russian offensive appears to be taking shape and the governor of Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine reported a significant increase in attacks on Friday along front lines in that region.

“Today it is quite difficult from all directions as the number of attacks has increased significantly, the shelling has also increased a lot, even with the air force,” Governor Serhi said. Gaïdaï, to a Ukrainian television channel.

Russia fired missiles at Ukraine on Thursday, hitting the country’s largest oil refinery. Russia said nothing about the latest fighting or missile strikes, and Reuters could not independently confirm reports from the battlefield.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and US Vice President Kamala Harris are among the many senior officials attending the Munich security conference.

This year, leaders will have to deal with the consequences of Vladimir Putin’s decision to ignore their calls made the year before, shortly before the outbreak of war.

Russian leaders will be conspicuously absent from the conference, which runs until Sunday, but senior Ukrainian officials are expected to speak.

Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky said in an overnight video address that his priority was to repel Russian attacks and prepare for a possible counteroffensive.

“Maintaining the situation at the front and preparing for any escalation by the enemy is the priority in the near future,” he said.

U.S. officials have advised Ukraine to wait until the last shipment of U.S. weapons is in place and training is completed before launching a counterattack.


Russian attacks are concentrated on the small town of Bakhmout. In battles led by the mercenary Wagner Group, whose ranks are swelled by troops recruited from prisons, Russia has for months shelled and surrounded the area.

“They’re sending a lot of troops. I don’t think that’s viable for them,” Ukrainian 80th Air Assault Brigade press officer Taras Dzioba said of the Russians.

“There are places where their bodies are just piled up. There is a trench where…they just don’t evacuate their wounded or killed.”

Capturing Bakhmut would allow Russia to advance west on two more important cities, Kramatorsk and Sloviansk. Ukraine and its allies claim that taking Bakhmut would be a Pyrrhic victory, given the losses Russia has suffered.

In Munich, the war will revive long-running debates on issues such as the strengthening of European military capabilities and the support that can be expected from the United States.

(Reporting Olena Harmash, Max Hunder, Pavel Polityuk, Yiming Woo, Caleb Davis, Tim Heritage, Jake Cordell, Gwladys Fouche, Sabine Siebold, Ron Popeski, David Ljunggren, Gabriela Baczynska, Andrew Gray, Andreas Rinke; written by Robert Birsel; French Augustin Turpin, edited by Kate Entringer)

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