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Key developments on Feb. 14:
- No news on fighter jets for Ukraine after Ramstein, US says;
- Pentagon head says allies to help Ukraine launch counteroffensive in spring;
- Norway will donate 8 Leopard 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine;
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Kremlin-controlled Wagner Group, whose mercenaries, along with the Russian regular army, have been attempting to capture Bakhmut, says the battle for the city is far from over.
"Bakhmut will not be taken tomorrow because there is heavy resistance and grinding," he said on Feb. 14, referring to the battle for the city as a "meat grinder."
"We will not be celebrating in the near future," he added.
Bakhmut and surrounding areas remain the primary focus of Russia, as Moscow seeks to open up the main road leading to two other cities in the east — Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.
On Feb. 12, Russia claimed it had seized control of Krasna Hora, a village about five kilometers north of Bakhmut, but Ukraine denied the statement the next day.
However, the U.K. defense ministry said in its daily intelligence update that over the past three days, Russia's Wagner mercenaries had "almost certainly" made further small gains around the northern outskirts of Bakhmut, including into the Krasna Hora.
The battle for Bakhmut is the fiercest at the moment, according to Mark Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. He said on Feb. 14 that the fighting for the eastern city is the most extensive in terms of losses, and Ukrainian forces continue to repel attacks.
"I would describe it as a war of attrition. The Russians are suffering huge losses," he said.
Ukrainian officials describe the situation in the city as very dire.
Donetsk Oblast Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on national television that "there is not a single square meter in Bakhmut that is safe or that is not in range of enemy fire or drones."
Allies to help Ukraine with spring counteroffensive, US says
On Feb. 14, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin declared the Ukraine Defense Contact Group's commitment to supporting Ukraine's prolonged fight for freedom.
The group's objective is to assist Kyiv in maintaining its position and advancing its spring counteroffensive, he said.
"With unity and urgency, we will again deliver the support that we have promised to Ukraine," Austin said in his opening remarks before the group's meeting in Brussels.
"We will put capabilities into the hands of trained Ukrainian forces so they can be integrated together on the battlefield."
The Ukraine Contact Group, consisting of more than 40 countries, has already committed about $50 billion in "lethal assistance" to Ukraine since the start of Russia's all-out invasion last February, Austin added.
He also listed the countries that have started preparations for transferring Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine or have given a corresponding commitment.
The list includes Germany, Poland, Canada, Portugal, Spain, Denmark, and the Netherlands, according to the U.S. Defense Secretary.
On the same day, the Norwegian Defense Ministry announced that the country would donate eight Leopard 2 main battle tanks and up to four support vehicles to Ukraine. Norway will also contribute to the training of Ukrainian tank crews in Poland together with other allies.
Ukraine has been pleading for modern Western-designed tanks for months. Modern Western-made tanks are said to be superior to Soviet-made tanks, which Ukraine and Russia currently use on the battlefield.
No fighter jets, for now
Regarding the supply of fighter jets to Ukraine, which Kyiv has asked for months, there is "nothing to report," Austin told reporters.
Austin said that the U.S. "will support Ukraine's fight for freedom over the long haul" and continue to address the country's most urgent needs.
Meanwhile, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that providing Ukraine with Western fighter jets was "not the most important issue now," though adding that it was an "ongoing discussion."
"The urgent need now is to deliver what has always been promised," Stoltenberg said.
Last week, President Volodymyr Zelensky said that "several" European leaders expressed readiness to provide Ukraine with fighter jets and other necessary weapons. However, only Poland has done so publicly.
The West has been reluctant to transfer aircraft to Ukraine amid fears of escalating tensions with Russia – especially just after green-lighting modern tanks for Ukraine.