| 20 April 2024, Saturday |

Ukraine takes strategic high ground above flashpoint city of Bakhmut

On Monday, Ukrainian forces successfully seized control of strategic elevated positions near the contentious eastern city of Bakhmut, demonstrating their continued progress in a counteroffensive against the ongoing Russian invasion.
Kyiv’s forces had established fire control over “entrances, exits and movement of the enemy around the city,” Deputy Defense Minister Ganna Malyar said.

“During the process of advancing, our troops took control of key commanding heights around Bakhmut.”

The Ukrainian military said its troops had now retaken 169 sq km on the southern front and 24 sq km around Bakhmut since the counteroffensive began early last month, tightening the noose around Russian troops occupying the city

“All of us, we want to do it faster because every day means new losses of Ukrainians. We are advancing. We are not stuck,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

“We would all love to see the counteroffensive accomplished in a shorter period of time. But there is reality. Today, the initiative is on our side.”

As Zelensky spoke, NATO leaders were gathering in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius for a summit of the Western military alliance, with Ukraine’s membership high on the agenda.
The summit had a troubled prelude, with simmering discontent over US President Joe Biden’s decision to supply Ukraine with controversial cluster-bomb munitions, which are banned in more than 120 countries.

The UK is one of several NATO members with reservations about the move.

Biden stopped off in London on his way to Vilnius on Monday for talks with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Ukraine and other issues.

Meanwhile, NATO members remain divided on how to put Ukraine on a path to membership, but on Monday they appeared to have removed one key hurdle.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he had put forward a package that included the removal of the requirement for a Membership Action Plan — a list of political, economic and military goals that other eastern European nations had to meet before joining.

Nevertheless Zelensky, who is expected to attend the summit, wants a clear invitation to join the alliance after the war ends, and security guarantees until that time.

NATO members in eastern Europe have backed Ukraine’s stance, but the US and Germany are wary of any move that could draw NATO into a direct conflict with Russia.

Stoltenberg said: “No final decision has been made but at the summit I am absolutely certain that we will have unity and a strong message on Ukraine.”

  • Arab News