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Ukraine war latest: Ukrainian units begin rotation after fighting 'for a long time,' Syrskyi says

by The Kyiv Independent news desk March 15, 2024 12:28 AM 7 min read
Ukrainian soldiers firing with an SPG in the direction of Bakhmut, where clashes between Russia and Ukraine continue to take place, in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, on Feb. 4, 2024. Photo for illustrative purposes. (Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu via Getty Images)
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Key developments on March 14:

  • Syrskyi: Ukraine begins rotation of troops who have been fighting 'for a long time'
  • Russian reconnaissance troops forced to retreat after failed attempt to cross Dnipro, Ukraine says
  • Russia claims fighting in Kursk, Belgorod oblasts amid ongoing anti-Kremlin militia raid
  • Military: Russian troops intensify attacks in Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk sectors
  • Bulgaria confirms long-awaited armored personnel carriers headed to Ukraine

Ukraine has begun rotating troops who have been serving at the front "for a long time" despite the increasingly difficult situation faced by the country’s Armed Forces, Commander-in-Chief Oleksandr Syrskyi said on March 14.

In a post on Facebook, Syrskyi said Ukrainian troops continued to hold the lines in the Zaporizhia direction but said they were coming under heavy attack from Russian drones, artillery and mortars.

"On the positive side, despite the quite difficult situation across the front line, we have managed to launch the process of rotating and replacing battalions and units that have been performing combat missions on the front line for a long time," Syrskyi said.

"This will allow us to stabilize the situation and positively affect the moral and psychological state of our soldiers."

Ukraine is battling with a manpower shortage. The government aims to ramp up mobilization efforts in 2024 and has pledged to change the approach to military recruitment, giving more choices to potential conscripts.

The parliament is now considering a new draft of the mobilization law after its initial, contentious version was withdrawn.

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Combined with the lack of manpower, Ukraine faces an increasingly perilous situation as U.S. arms and aid continue to be delayed in Congress.

On March 13, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said Ukraine’s ammunition shortage caused by the delays could soon lead to a Russian breakthrough on the front lines.

The ISW highlighted that Ukraine is being forced to ration critical ammunition – in particular, artillery shells – and prioritize allocation based on those areas currently facing the most intense Russian attacks.

With Moscow’s forces currently holding the initiative in the war and being able to determine the "time, location, and scale of offensive operations," this leaves other areas of the front-line highly vulnerable.

Russian reconnaissance troops forced to retreat after failed attempt to cross Dnipro, Ukraine says

Russian reconnaissance troops attempting to cross the Dnipro River in the Kherson Oblast were forced to abandon their mission after suffering heavy casualties, Ukraine’s military has said.

According to the Southern Operational Command, a boat carrying Moscow’s forces attempted to land on the western bank near the Antonivskyi Bridge.

"A bunch of invaders were sent from the left bank of the Dnipro in Kherson Oblast in a motor boat to test their fate," it said in a post on Telegram.

"Under heavy fire from the defense forces, the occupying boat magically repeated the fate of the Russian fleet – having lost a quarter of its capacity and fullness, it retreated to the left bank again."

Fierce fighting is ongoing on the Russian-held east bank of the Dnipro River in Kherson Oblast for months, where Ukrainian forces have established limited footholds and managed to hold them for months.

Last month Russia claimed it had seized the Ukrainian bridgehead in the village of Krynky, one of the main flashpoints in this sector, which was later refuted by Ukraine.

"Our units reliably hold the defenses of the right bank," Southern Operational Command added.

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Russia claims fighting in Kursk, Belgorod oblasts amid ongoing anti-Kremlin militia raid

The Russian National Guard claimed it was repelling an attack near the village of Tyotkino in Kursk Oblast allegedly carried out by "sabotage groups" on March 14.

The statement came amid the combat operations conducted by the Freedom of Russia Legion and the Siberian Battalion, which crossed the border into Russia from Ukraine on March 12 and reportedly launched another attack.

Roman Starovoit, Kursk Oblast governor, claimed the battles with "Ukrainian saboteurs" were ongoing. The Russian National Guard claimed to have fought the attack near Tyotkino together with the Russian Armed Forces and Federal Security Service (FSB) border guards.

Later, the Freedom of Russia Legion published a video purporting to show an attack on Russian ammunition in Tyotkino.

Earlier, the anti-Kremlin militia claimed to have taken under control the village bordering Ukraine.  Ukraine’s military intelligence said the units are comprised of Russian citizens acting as part of Ukraine’s "security and defense forces."

The Russian Defense Ministry also claimed to have thwarted an "attempted breakthrough" near the village of Spodaryushino in Belgorod Oblast on March 14, according to Russian state-controlled media outlet RBC.

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The Freedom of Russia Legion, the Siberian Battalion, and the Russian Volunteer Corps published an appeal to the Kursk and Belgorod oblasts governors, urging them to declare an evacuation for civilians in the two regions and "to stop following criminal orders."

"The liberation of Russian regions from (Russian President Vladimir) Putin's terrorist regime is underway these minutes. Massive strikes are now being launched against Putin's forces in the Belgorod and Kursk oblasts," the statement read.

"The operation to liberate the Kursk and Belgorod regions will continue until all aims are achieved," the anti-Kremlin militia said.

The Siberian Battalion urged Russians via social media to ignore the Russian presidential elections, which are set to take place on March 15-17, calling the ballots and polling stations "fiction."

The Kyiv Independent couldn’t independently verify the claims, and there were no official comments from Ukrainian authorities.

Military: Russian troops intensify attacks in Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk sectors

Russian forces intensified their assaults in the Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk sectors of the front, Dmytro Lykhovii, a spokesperson for Ukraine's Tavria group of forces, said on national television on March 14.

Russia continues to advance near the settlements of Terny, Ivanivske, Berdychi, Tonenke in Donetsk Oblast and Verbove and Robotyne in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, according to Commander-in-Chief Oleksandr Syrskyi.

During February, Russian troops occupied Avdiivka, a key front-line city in Donetsk Oblast, and the nearby villages of Lastochkyne, Sievierne, and Stepove.

Lykhovii said there were 13 simultaneous armed clashes as of 8 a.m. on March 14, noting that such intensity of combat activities "has not happened for a long time."

"This is an indicator of the burden, the pressure created by the enemy, the burden which falls on our warriors," Lykhovii said.

A total of 57 armed clashes took place overnight, Lykhovii added. Twelve attack attempts took place in the Donetsk sector of the front and one in the Zaporizhzhia direction, according to the spokesperson.

Bulgaria confirms long-awaited armored personnel carriers headed to Ukraine

After months of delays, 100 Bulgarian armored personnel carriers are on their way to Ukraine by rail, Bulgaria's Defense Minister Todor Tagarev confirmed on March 14.

Tagarev initially said on Feb. 2 that the armored personnel carriers were on the way to Ukraine, but news emerged on Feb. 20 that the delivery had been delayed, as the Bulgarian Defense Ministry was asking NATO to cover the transport costs.

Bulgaria's parliament approved two tranches of military aid to Ukraine on Dec. 8, 2023, including the delivery of the armored vehicles free of charge, together with armaments and spare parts.

The suggestion to dispatch the vehicles, acquired during the final years of Bulgaria's communist regime, was made public and ratified by the National Assembly in the summer of 2023.

The total cost of the transportation exceeded 170,000 leva ($95,000) and involved 240   military personnel, according to Tagarev.

While the minister did not specify when the entire group of armored personnel carriers would arrive in Ukraine, he said the first train left on March 7 and has since arrived in Ukraine.

According to Bulgarian news outlet News.bg, the vehicles are being reported in sets of six.

Tagarev admitted that "with better organization, the armored personnel carriers could have been sent faster," News.bg reported.

Initially a hesitant partner, Bulgaria has become increasingly supportive of Ukraine as the war has progressed. In its December decision, the country's parliament green lit not only the armored vehicles but also the supply of Soviet-era air defense missiles to Ukraine.

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