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Russia-Ukraine war live: Bakhmut is holding on despite everything, says Zelenskiy


Key events

Emma Graham-Harrison

Emma Graham-Harrison

Russia and Belarus have expanded their joint military training exercises in Belarus, the country’s defence TV channel said on Sunday, as concern grows that Moscow is pressuring its closest ally to join the war in Ukraine.

Reuters reporters have filed this update…

Ukrainian forces are repelling constant Russian attacks on Bakhmut and other towns in the eastern region of Donbas, Ukrainian authorities said on Monday, after denying Kremlin claims of 600 soldiers killed in a missile strike.

Russia launched seven missile strikes, 31 air strikes and 73 attacks from salvo rocket launchers in the past day, the general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said in a daily report.

Ukrainian forces repelled attacks on 14 settlements, including Bakhmut, it added.

“Bakhmut is holding on despite everything,” President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in nightly video remarks on Sunday.

Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskiy during a nightly video address
Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskiy during a nightly video address Photograph: Reuters

“And even though most of the town has been destroyed by Russian strikes, our soldiers are repelling constant Russian attempts to advance.”

The nearby town of Soledar was holding on, “even though there is even greater destruction and things are very difficult”, he added.

Reuters was not able to independently verify the battlefield reports.

Zelenskiy made a fresh denunciation of what he called Russia’s failure to observe a truce it had proclaimed for Orthodox Christmas by staging attacks on Ukrainian cities.

“Russians were shelling Kherson with incendiary ammunition immediately after Christmas,” he said, referring to the southern city abandoned by Russian forces in November.

“Strikes on Kramatorsk and other cities in Donbas – on civilian targets and at the very time when Moscow was reporting a supposed ‘silence’ for its army.”

On Sunday, Russia said a missile attack on Kramatorsk, northwest of Bakhmut, had killed 600 Ukrainian soldiers, but a Reuters reporter at the scene found no obvious signs of casualties.

A Reuters team visited two college dormitories that Moscow said had been temporarily housing Ukrainian personnel and which it had targeted as revenge for a New Year’s attack that killed scores of Russian soldiers and caused outcry in Russia.

A woman stands at the site of a missile strike that occurred during the night, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kramatorsk, Ukraine
A woman stands at the site of a missile strike that occurred during the night, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kramatorsk, Ukraine Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

But neither dormitory in the eastern city of Kramatorsk appeared to have been directly hit or seriously damaged. There were no obvious signs that soldiers had been living there and no sign of bodies or traces of blood.

Serhiy Cherevatyi, a Ukrainian military spokesperson for the eastern region, described the claim of mass casualties as an attempt by the Russian defence ministry to show it had responded forcefully to Ukraine’s recent strikes on Russian soldiers.

“This is an information operation of the Russian defense ministry,” Cherevatyi told Ukrainian broadcaster Suspilne News.

As Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine grinds towards the one-year mark, Russia’s military is under domestic pressure to deliver battlefield successes.

Hawkish voices have sought an escalation of the war effort after setbacks such as loss of captured territory and high rates of death and injury.

Some prominent Russian military bloggers have criticised the Russian defence ministry claims.

“Let’s talk about ‘fraud’,” wrote one prominent pro-war military blogger on the Telegram messaging app, who posts under the name of Military Informant and who has more than half a million subscribers.

“It is not clear to us who, and for what reason, decided that 600 Ukrainian soldiers died inside, all at once, if the building was not actually hit (even the light remained on).

“Instead of the real destruction of the enemy personnel, which would have been a worthy response, an exclusively media operation of retaliation was invented.”

Kherson airport in January 2023. The Kherson airport was recovered in early November by the Ukrainian army but still shows the extensive destruction suffered in during the beginning of the war in February
Kherson airport in January 2023. The Kherson airport was recovered in early November by the Ukrainian army but still shows the extensive destruction suffered in during the beginning of the war in February Photograph: Edgar Gutiérrez/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock

The militaries of both Russia and Ukraine militaries have often overstated enemy losses, while minimising their own.

Ukraine’s top military officials said last week some 760 Russian troops had been killed or wounded in two attacks on Moscow-controlled parts of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. These reports could not be independently verified.

The Russian government has banned maps that dispute what it insists is the country’s official ‘territorial integrity’ as extremist materials, Reuters reports.

Russia’s government extended support to a legislative amendment that would classify maps that dispute the country’s official “territorial integrity” as punishable extremist materials, the state-owned TASS news agency reported on Sunday.

The amendment to Russia’s anti-extremism legislation stipulates that “cartographic and other documents and images that dispute the territorial integrity of Russia” will be classified as extremist materials, the agency reported.

Russia’s sweepingly ambiguous anti-extremism legislation — it applies to religious organisations, journalists and their materials, as well as the activity of businesses, among others – has allowed the Kremlin to tighten its grip on opponents.

The new amendment, TASS reports without citing sources, emerged after its authors pointed out that some maps distributed in Russia dispute the “territorial affiliation” of the Crimean Peninsula and the Kuril Islands.

Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014 – a move rejected by Ukraine and many countries as illegal. Ukrainians and their government have since often objected to world maps showing Crimea as part of Russia’s territory.

Russia and Japan have not formally ended WWII hostilities because of their standoff over a group of islands just off Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido. The Soviet Union seized those islands – known in Russia as the Kurils and in Japan as the Northern Territories – at the end of the war.

The Island of Kunashir, one of four islands known as the Southern Kurils in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan
The Island of Kunashir, one of four islands known as the Southern Kurils in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan Photograph: Yuri Maltsev/Reuters

The amendment must be proposed to the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, and after a review go through three readings. It is then sent to the Federation Council, the upper house, and to President Vladimir Putin for signing.

Separately, Russian politicians began debating punishment for Russians who oppose the war in Ukraine and who, as the former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said, “wish their fatherland to perish.”

Deputy Chairman of Russia's Security Council Dmitry Medvedev
Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Security Council Dmitry Medvedev Photograph: SPUTNIK/Reuters

Medvedev, one of the most forthright allies of Putin, said that “in times of war,” there are special rules that allow to deal with traitors.

“In times of war, there have always been such special rules,” Medvedev said on the Telegram messaging app. “And quiet groups of impeccably inconspicuous people who effectively execute the rules.”

Medvedev’s rhetoric has become increasingly vitriolic since the war in Ukraine began, though his published views sometimes chime with thinking at the top levels of the Kremlin elite.

We mentioned in our earlier summary that 50 Ukrainian soldiers were released in a prisoner swap with Russia on Sunday. They (at least most of them) posed for a photograph…

Volodymyr Zelenskiy issued a fresh denunciation of what he said was Russia’s failure to observe the truce it had ordered for Orthodox Christmas by staging attacks on Ukrainian cities.

“Russians were shelling Kherson with incendiary ammunition immediately after Christmas,” the Ukrainian president said on Sunday, referring to a city in the south abandoned by Russian forces in November.

He said:

Strikes on Kramatorsk and other cities in Donbas – on civilian targets and at the very time when Moscow was reporting a supposed ‘silence’ for its army.

Russia said on Sunday that a missile attack on Kramatorsk, north-west of Bakhmut, had killed 600 Ukrainian soldiers. But a Reuters reporter at the scene found no obvious signs of casualties.

Ukraine ‘holding on’ in Bakhmut under heavy fire, says Zelenskiy

Ukrainian forces are repelling constant attacks on the town of Bakhmut in the eastern Donbas region and holding their positions in nearby Soledar in very difficult conditions, Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday.

In his nightly video address, the Ukrainian president said:

Bakhmut is holding on despite everything. And even though most of the town has been destroyed by Russian strikes, our soldiers are repelling constant Russian attempts to advance.

Soledar is holding on, even though there is even greater destruction and things are very difficult.

A Ukrainian soldier in his position as a tankman on the Bakhmut frontline
A Ukrainian soldier in his position as a tankman on the Bakhmut frontline. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Opening summary

Welcome back to our continuing live coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war – day 320 of the conflict. It is 7:30am in Kyiv. My name is Ben Doherty.

Ukrainian forces are repelling constant attacks on Bakhmut in the eastern Donbas region and holding their positions in nearby Soledar in arduous conditions, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his Sunday night to the nation.

Bakhmut is holding on despite everything.

Even though most of the town has been destroyed by Russian strikes, our soldiers are repelling constant Russian attempts to advance.

More on this soon. In other recent developments:

  • Russia has claimed to have killed more than 600 Ukrainian troops in a “retaliatory strike” in the eastern town of Kramatorsk, but Ukraine’s armed forces rejected the claim. The mayor of the town, near the frontline city of Bakhmut, said there had been no deaths from strikes over the weekend, while a witness told Reuters on Sunday that buildings had been damaged but not destroyed and there were no obvious signs of casualties. The Russian claim seems suspicious for several reasons.

  • Zelenskiy denounced what he said was Russia’s failure to observe a 36-hour ceasefire it had declared for Orthodox Christmas by launching attacks on Ukrainian cities.

  • At least two people were killed during fighting in eastern Ukraine, officials said. Donetsk’s governor, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said one person was killed in strikes on Bakhmut and eight others in the region were wounded, Associated Press reported. Kyrylenko also said rocket attacks on Kramatorsk and Konstantynivka.

  • Russia and Belarus have expanded their joint military training exercises in Belarus, the country’s defence TV channel said on Sunday, as concern grows that Moscow is pressuring its closest ally to join the war in Ukraine. The two countries added weapons, soldiers and specialised equipment to the exercises, Reuters reported.

  • One person was killed in the attack on the Starobesheve power plant in Novyi Svit, Russia’s state news agency Tass said on Sunday. The thermal power plant was one of two – in part of Ukraine’s Donetsk region controlled by Russian forces – damaged in a rocket attack by the Ukrainian army, Moscow-installed officials said.

  • Demands for a special tribunal to investigate Russia for a “crime of aggression” against Ukraine have been backed by senior UK politicians from across the political divide in a move to show Vladimir Putin and his generals that they will be held to account.

  • The Russian government extended support to a legislative amendment that would classify maps that dispute the country’s official “territorial integrity” as punishable extremist materials, Reuters reported the state-owned Tass news agency as saying on Sunday.

  • About 50 Ukrainian soldiers who were released from Russian detention on Sunday as part of a prisoner swap posed for a photo on their release.





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