The battle for the besieged, Ukrainian-held city of Bakhmut has intensified, with a top Ukrainian military commander saying Tuesday that Russian forces had deployed specialized Wagner mercenary units to break through the eastern city’s defenses. In comments shared by Ukrainian outlets, Ukrainian Col. Gen Oleksandr Syrsky described the situation in Bakhmut — a top symbolic target for Moscow — as “extremely tense.”
Meanwhile, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko — one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies — has embarked on a three-day trip to China. He is due to meet Chinese leader Xi Jinping as part of the state visit, which comes as Washington and Beijing exchange tense messages over China’s position over the war. State Department spokesman Ned Price accused China of being anything “but an honest broker” over the conflict and its assistance to Russia.
Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.
- The situation in the front-line city of Bakhmut is becoming increasingly difficult, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address Monday. Russian forces “are constantly destroying everything that can be used to protect our positions,” he added. Military experts say Bakhmut is of limited strategic value, but the city has taken on great symbolic value as Moscow attempts to regain the upper hand after months of battleground setbacks.
- NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg restated his support for Ukraine joining the Western military alliance in the “long-term,” speaking at a joint news conference with Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin Tuesday. “NATO allies have agreed Ukraine will become a member of our alliance,” Stoltenberg said, while also emphasizing that in the immediate term he was more focused on supporting Ukraine to defend its sovereign territory. Russia vehemently opposes Ukraine joining NATO, which it views as a threat to its own borders.
- Senior U.S. defense officials will appear in front of two House committees to discuss U.S. security assistance to Ukraine on Tuesday, as Republicans step up scrutiny of the Biden administration’s aid efforts for Kyiv.
- Moscow and Minsk are yet to respond to claims by Belarusian anti-government activists to have blown up a Russian military surveillance aircraft at an airfield near Minsk. In a Tuesday update, British defense officials said the aircraft was “critical to Russian air operations for providing an air battlespace picture,” making its loss — if confirmed — “significant.”
- Secretary of State Antony Blinken is visiting two former Soviet countries ahead of a Group of 20 meeting Wednesday, as the United States looks to deepen ties to Central Asia in a potential counterbalance to the influence of Russia and China. On Tuesday, Blinken met with Kazakhstan’s foreign minister in the capital Astana. He will then visit Uzbekistan, according to his schedule.
- One person died after Russian forces shelled the Ukrainian port city of Kherson, the head of the Ukrainian presidential office, Andriy Yermak, said on Telegram Tuesday. Yermak said the attack destroyed a residential building, without providing any more details.
- Russian forces continued to focus their offensive efforts along the country’s eastern front, where Ukraine’s military claim to have repelled more than 60 attacks in the last day. In a Tuesday Facebook update, Ukrainian forces said there were attacks on more than a dozen settlements on the front-line around Bakhmut, where Russian forces have been inching slowly forward toward the besieged city in recent weeks.
- A wave of drone attacks across Ukraine is further evidence that Kyiv needs modern combat aircraft, Zelensky said in his nightly address. Ukrainian forces shot down 11 of the 14 attack drones, he said, “but we will be able to fully protect the sky when the aviation taboo in relations with our partners is lifted.”
- Russia will not resume its participation in the New START nuclear arms treaty until Washington is ready to listen to Moscow’s concerns, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in an interview published Tuesday with Russia’s Izvestia newspaper. Putin announced last week that Russia would suspend its role in the only remaining nuclear arms control treaty between the United States and Russia, a move criticized by President Biden and multiple U.S. officials.
- The war in Ukraine is likely to loom over discussions at the meeting of G-20 foreign ministers, to be held Wednesday and Thursday in India. Last weekend, finance chiefs from the world’s most powerful economies ended a meeting without issuing their usual communique after failing to achieve consensus on sections that condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine. China and Russia declined to sign the document. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov — who walked out on discussions denouncing the invasion at a G-20 meeting in Bali last year — will attend the latest gathering, according to Russia’s Foreign Ministry.
- Budget airline Wizz Air said it would end flights to the Moldovan capital of Chisinau next month because of concerns over the safety of Moldovan airspace. The former Soviet republic shares a border with Ukraine and recently disclosed an attempted plot by Russia to topple its pro-West government.
- Russian officials temporarily closed large swaths of airspace above St Petersburg Tuesday morning as part of a military training drill, the Russian defense ministry said. Air fighters “made sorties to practice interception and identify the conditional target of the intruder,” according to the ministry. Earlier in the day, airspace within a 124 mile radius of the city’s Pulkovo airfield were closed, state-owned Tass news reported.
- Putin gave U.S. actor Steven Seagal a state decoration for his work as a special representative of Russia’s Foreign Ministry, according to the Associated Press. Seagal publicly backed Russia’s 2014 invasion of Crimea and in 2017 was banned from entering Ukraine for five years.
From our correspondents
China, saying it can mediate on Ukraine, hosts Putin’s ally Lukashenko: In Beijing Xi and Lukashenko are expected to sign agreements deepening cooperation between their two countries, just days after China positioned itself as a potential mediator in the Ukraine war by releasing a 12-point proposal for peace, Meaghan Tobin reports.
The three-day meeting kicks off amid warnings in Washington that China is contemplating direct military aid to Russia, which Beijing vehemently denied Monday, accusing the United States of “blatant bullying and double standards.”
Natalia Abbakumova and Mary Ilyushina contributed reporting.