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Ukraine war latest: NATO head says Bakhmut could fall, but it would not mean 'turning point in war'

by Sofiya Doig March 9, 2023 12:41 AM 4 min read
Ukrainian servicemen load an armored vehicle before being deployed to the front line, Chasiv Yar, Donetsk Oblast, March 8, 2023. (Ignacio Marin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
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Key developments on March 8:
  • Stoltenberg: Bakhmut could fall 'in the coming days'
  • German and Portuguese tanks to arrive in Ukraine by end of March
  • General Staff: Ukraine repels over 100 attacks within 24 hours
  • Governors: No reported civilian injuries over past 24 hours

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on March 8 that Bakhmut could fall "in the coming days." However, he stressed that losing the city would not be critical.

Despite Stoltenberg's claim that the capture of the city would not be a "turning point in the war," he pointed out that Russia should not be underestimated.

"What we see is that Russia is throwing more troops, more forces, and what Russia lacks in quality, they try to make up in quantity," Stoltenberg said.

Corresponding with Stoltenberg's statement, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in its daily report on March 7 that Russia is 'unlikely to generate operational effects' if they capture Bakhmut.

Furthermore, the ISW assesses that "Russian forces likely lack the mechanized forces necessary to advance beyond Bakhmut, and the tactical 'assault detachments' used in assaults against Bakhmut are likely unable to conduct maneuver warfare."

Prior, on March 6, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also said that the fall of Bakhmut would not be a significant setback for the Ukrainian military, adding that the city was more of a "symbolic" than "strategic" value.

With tensions remaining high in the seven-month-long battle for Bakhmut, Ukraine decided not to withdraw troops from the city.

President Volodymyr Zelensky emphasized in a March 7 interview with CNN that if Russia captured Bakhmut 'they could go further,' seizing other critical settlements in eastern Ukraine.

Brigade that spent 2 months in Bakhmut: ‘It was becoming harder each week’

Update on military aid for Ukraine

Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi reported meeting with four top Western military officers on March 7.

Zaluzhnyi met with NATO's Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, U.S. Army General Christopher Cavoli, U.K.'s Chief of the Defense Staff Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, Polish Armed Forces General Rajmund Andrzejczak, and U.S. Army Lieutenant General and Commander of Security Assistance Group Ukraine Antonio Aguto.

Zaluzhnyi informed them about the situation on the battlefield, particularly concerning Bakhmut.

According to Zaluzhnyi, they also discussed the supply of military aid to Ukraine, including weapons and ammunition.

"Strengthening air defense and providing long-range weapons remains crucial," Zaluzhnyi wrote.

Meanwhile, several updates were issued at the March 8 meeting of EU defense ministers in Stockholm.

Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said the main priorities for Ukraine are more air defense systems and a million rounds of ammunition. He also emphasized the importance of supplying Ukraine with more tanks so Kyiv could create an "armored fist" to propel its counteroffensive against Russia.

At the same time, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius confirmed the plan to provide Ukraine with 18 Leopard 2A6 tanks from Germany and three from Portugal by the end of March. The news was earlier reported by Der Spiegel, citing DPA News Agency.

Prior, on March 1, Germany also pledged to increase ammunition production and weapons repair capacity for Ukraine.

Additionally, at the same meeting, Stoltenberg stated that NATO member states have supplied Ukraine with 150 billion euros in aid since the beginning of Russia's full-scale war.

This sum includes 65 billion euros provided to Kyiv in military aid.

Ahead of the meeting with European Union defense ministers, Stoltenberg emphasized the need for the alliance to increase ammunition production.

In addition, the European Union defense ministers have agreed to supply Ukraine with one billion euros worth of ammunition from their stocks, EU top diplomat Josep Borrell said on March 8.

The next stage concerning the aid package for Ukraine will be discussed when the EU foreign and defense ministers gather in Brussels on March 20.

The German government reported it handed Ukraine two additional Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft guns.

Berlin has also delivered two more border protection vehicles and six mobile antenna systems.

Thirteen bridge-laying tanks BEAVER and 500 SFP9 pistols are being prepared for shipment to Ukraine, according to the government's update.

Russia's continued attacks

Ukraine's military repelled over 100 attacks over the past 24 hours, the General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces reported in its morning briefing on March 8.

The update stated that Russian forces are currently conducting offensives toward Kupiansk in Kharkiv Oblast and Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Shakhtarsk in Donetsk Oblast.

Over the past 24 hours, Russia launched 24 air strikes and one missile strike and fired two Iranian-made Shahed drones at Ukraine that were shot down. Russian forces also launched more than 60 attacks using multiple rocket launchers, the report said.

According to the Sumy Oblast Military Administration, Russian forces attacked two communities in Sumy Oblast on March 7.

Russia used mortars and artillery to attack Bilopillia and Esman communities. At least 45 strikes were recorded. However, no casualties or damages were mentioned.

The Ministry of Defense reported that two Iranian drones launched by Russia from the northern direction were shot down at midnight on March 8 by Ukrainian air defense.

For the first time since the start of the full-scale invasion on Feb. 24, no civilian injuries were recorded in Donetsk Oblast, according to Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko.

However, the governor acknowledged that the situation remains 'tense.'

Russia also shelled dozens of border communities in Sumy, Chernihiv, and Kharkiv oblasts over the past day.

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