5/17/2023 – | Last update: 5/17/2023 06:14 AM (Mecca Time)
The founder of the Russian Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, announced that his forces were on their way to take control of the strategic city of Bakhmut, at a time when a state of air alert was declared in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev.
Prigozhin said – in an audio recording – that Wagner units advanced yesterday, Tuesday, by 200 meters, and now occupy 113,000 square meters, stressing that a residential square and a small piece of the private sector remain to tighten control over the city of Bakhmut (eastern Ukraine), and that the Ukrainian forces control only 1.46 square meters. km in Bakhmut.
The Battle of Bakhmut – of which Russian forces control about 95% – is the longest and bloodiest since the beginning of the Russian war against Ukraine on February 24, 2022.
Meanwhile, the Al-Jazeera correspondent said that a state of air alert was declared in the Ukrainian capital, and sirens were activated in Kiev, southern and eastern Ukraine, and air defenses were activated in Mykolaiv.
Yesterday, Tuesday, Kiev was subjected to a missile attack, which the Ukrainian authorities described as the most complex, and said that its air defenses shot down most of the missiles, including 6 "Kinjal" hypersonic missiles.
Moscow denied that the Ukrainian forces shot down 6 Russian Kinjal missiles, because Russia did not launch this number of missiles.
On the other hand, the Russian Ministry of Defense said that its missiles destroyed Western weapons and equipment; Among them are the American Patriot air defense systems in the capital, Kiev.
For his part, John Kirby, Strategic Communications Coordinator at the US National Security Council, refused to confirm the validity of reports that the US-made Patriot system was damaged as a result of a Russian bombing of Kiev, but Kirby indicated that repairing the system by the Ukrainians depends on the extent of the damage it may have suffered.
He explained that there are a number of "howitzers" that were damaged before and some of them were repaired in Ukraine, "We also helped Kiev in this mission outside the country."
Fighter Aircraft Alliance
Meanwhile, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba confirmed that his country would acquire new military capabilities that would enable it to close its airspace in the face of the ongoing Russian attacks.
He said that there is "very intense diplomacy at all levels that brings us closer to the fact that we will effectively close Ukrainian airspace," noting the importance of President Volodymyr Zelensky's European tour in forming what he called a "coalition of combat aircraft" against Moscow.
"We have good messages from the United States, and in my last meeting with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, a large part of the meeting was devoted to our obtaining combat aircraft," he said.
For his part, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that his country will discuss, on the sidelines of the Council of Europe summit, coordination of support to Ukraine, as well as long-term plans for security support.
The British government indicated that London intends to build an international coalition to help Ukraine obtain F-16 fighter jets, following a meeting between Sunak and his Dutch counterpart, Mark Rutte.
During the meeting, the British Prime Minister reiterated his belief that Ukraine's rightful place is in NATO, and the two leaders agreed on the importance of allies providing Ukraine with long-term security assistance to ensure its ability to deter future attacks.
In the Icelandic capital, Reykjavik, European leaders meet during the Council of Europe summit to discuss Russia's war on Ukraine.
Over the course of two days, the participants will discuss political and human rights support for Kiev. In an effort to establish a special court to prosecute those responsible for war crimes violations there.
The Ukrainian President will deliver a speech to the participants, in addition to the participation of the European Council and Commission Presidents.
In the context, French President Emmanuel Macron said that his country supports efforts to hold accountable what he called all forms of impunity, calling on Ukraine to sign the treaties regulating this.
And on Britain's support for Ukraine with long-range missiles, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that this would require an appropriate military response, adding that the Russian army would consider the relevant decisions from a military point of view.
Members of the Russian State Duma also approved a draft law submitted by President Vladimir Putin last week, to terminate the Convention on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, signed between the former Soviet Union and a number of NATO countries in 1990.
The head of the State Duma Foreign Relations Committee, Leonid Slutsky, said that the agreement has long been a dead letter, and that its cancellation enhances Russia's security, adding that "in light of the existing situation in relations between Russia and countries that are not friendly to it," the decision to cancel the agreement enhances Moscow's interests.
Sergei Ryabkov, the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, held the West responsible for Russia's cancellation of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, saying that the move would not create a sense of security for Western countries.
And Russia suspended the work of the agreement in 2007 due to accusations that NATO did not abide by its provisions.
The Treaty on Conventional Weapons in Europe was signed in the French capital, Paris, in November 1990, and it was between NATO – which included 16 countries – and the Warsaw Pact, which at that time included the Soviet Union, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, and the treaty entered into force two years after the signing.
The Treaty on Conventional Arms in Europe was based on a system of quantitative restrictions on 5 main categories of conventional weapons and equipment of the participating countries, which are battle tanks, armored fighting vehicles, artillery, helicopters and combat aircraft.