| 18 June 2024, Tuesday |

Zelenskiy vows to defend ‘fortress’ Bakhmut, hosts EU leaders in Kyiv

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy promised on Friday that Ukrainians will fight “for as long as we can” to keep the eastern city of Bakhmut. Zelenskiy was hosting European Union leaders to talk about additional sanctions against Russia and Kyiv’s chances of joining the EU.

The United States announced that it would provide Ukraine with military assistance worth more than $2.175 billion, including a new rocket that will increase Kyiv’s attack range and enable it to reach the majority of the Ukrainian territory that is now controlled by Russia.

The head of the EU’s executive Commission and the chairman of the 27 EU national leaders were in Kyiv to demonstrate support for Ukraine as the first anniversary of Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of its neighbour approaches.

As they and Zelenskiy’s government discussed a range of issues, air raid sirens sounded in Kyiv and across the country – a regular occurrence during months of Russian missile attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure far from the battlefields in the east and south – but there were no reports of new air strikes.

Zelenskiy, flanked by the EU leaders at a news conference, said European sanctions should aim to ensure Russia cannot rebuild its military capability. And he had a defiant message on Bakhmut, the focal point of Ukrainian resistance to Russia’s invasion and of Moscow’s drive to regain battlefield momentum.

“Nobody will give away Bakhmut. We will fight for as long as we can. We consider Bakhmut our fortress,” he said.

Moscow says Russian forces are encircling the city that had a pre-war population of around 75,000 from several directions and battling to take control of a road which is also an important supply route for Ukrainian forces.

“If weapon (supplies) are accelerated, specifically long- range weapons, not only will we not abandon Bakhmut but we will also begin to remove the occupiers from the Donbas (region of eastern Ukraine), occupied since 2014,” Zelenskiy said.

The U.S. military aid announced on Friday included rockets known as Ground Launched Small Diameter Bombs (GLSDB), whose 151 km (94 mile) range would put all of Russia’s supply lines in eastern Ukraine within reach, as well as part of the Crimea peninsula, also seized by Moscow in 2014.

  • Reuters