Russian reservists fought with 'shovels' during assault on Ukrainian stronghold, says UK Ministry of Defence

1 year ago 411
30 min ago

Evacuations from frontline Bakhmut slow to a trickle, deputy mayor says

From CNN’s Maria Kostenko, Maria Avdeeva and Saskya Vandoorne in Kyiv and Niamh Kennedy in London 

Evacuations from the frontline city of Bakhmut have slowed to a trickle, the city's deputy mayor has told CNN.

Speaking over the phone from a neighboring town, Oleksandr Marchenko said five to 10 people were being evacuated each day, down from the up to 600 who were leaving the city when evacuations were at their peak.

“The enemy blows everything to the ground, strikes at multi-story buildings, and the residential sector. There are air raids, artillery shelling, mortar shelling. The enemy is striking the city with everything they can,” the deputy mayor told CNN.   

“There is no way we can get there,” Marchenko stressed.  

Approximately 4,000 to 4,500 people are still in Bakhmut, but Marchenko said it was difficult to persuade those there to leave.

Most, he said, "fear having nowhere to go and nothing to go with."

He said four medical workers remain in the city and there are heating points available for residents.

Russia has been pressing hard to capture Bakhmut for months and appears to be closing in on the city.

One soldier inside the city told CNN Sunday that the situation remains “difficult,” as the Russian assault continues to cause “a lot of destruction” and losses for the Ukrainian side.   

56 min ago

Russian reservists fought with "shovels" during assault on Ukrainian stronghold, says UK Ministry of Defence

From CNN's Hafsa Khalil

Russian reservists said they were ordered to attack a Ukrainian strong point armed only with "firearms and shovels," according to the UK Ministry of Defence.

"The ‘shovels’ are likely entrenching tools being employed for hand-to-hand combat," it said in an intelligence update tweeted on Sunday. An entrenching tool is digging tool used by military forces.

Designed in 1869, the ministry described the lethality of the standard issue MPL-50 entrenching tool as "particularly mythologised" in Russia.

"Its continued use as a weapon highlights the brutal and low-tech fighting which has come to characterise much of the war," it said, adding that evidence has shown an increase in close combat.

One reservist told the MoD that they were "neither physically nor psychologically" prepared for attack.

According to evidence obtained by the ministry, there has been a rise in close combat, which it says may be the result of a Russian insistence on an offensive despite being short of munitions.

In December, Russian citizens were crowdfunding to equip soldiers deployed in Ukraine with socks, winter clothes, sleeping bags and body armor. This came after troops complained they were short of basic equipment, which Russian officials said were teething problems.

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2 hr 31 min ago

Turkey blocking NATO's expansion could backfire

Analysis from CNN's Luke McGee

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a meeting at the Turkish Grand National Assembly in Ankara on January 18.Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a meeting at the Turkish Grand National Assembly in Ankara on January 18. (Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images/FILE)

When Sweden and Finland declared their intention to join NATO last May, it was seen by many as a poke in the eye for Russia and evidence of a shift in European thinking. Historically, both countries had committed to non-alignment with NATO to avoid provoking Moscow, but the invasion of Ukraine changed that. 

Both countries – along with the majority of NATO allies – would like to see them formally join the alliance at a NATO summit on July 11. However, a significant hurdle stands in the way of this becoming a reality: Turkey has yet to give the plan its formal and official blessing. 

Hungary has also failed to ratify the Nordics’ accession which further muddies the waters. 

Officially, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan objects to Sweden and Finland’s membership on security grounds, claiming both countries are harboring militants from the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a designated terror group in Turkey, Sweden, the US and Europe. 

But Gonul Tol from the Middle East Institute’s Turkey program believes there are other reasons that Erdogan doesn’t want to upset Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. 

“Russia has been a lifeline economically for Turkey after other nations imposed sanctions for their activities in Syria, their cooperation militarily with Russia and other hostile activity,” Tol explained. 

NATO diplomats are split on whether they think Turkey will budge before the July summit.

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3 hr 5 min ago

US evaluating Ukrainian pilots for possible F-16 training

From CNN's Zachary Cohen, Aaron Pellish, Chloe Liu and Heather Chen

A Belgian F-16 fighter jet takes part in a NATO Air Nuclear drill at Kleine-Brogel air base in Belgium on October 18, 2022.A Belgian F-16 fighter jet takes part in a NATO Air Nuclear drill at Kleine-Brogel air base in Belgium on October 18, 2022. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images/FILE)

The US is working with Ukrainian pilots in the United States to determine how long it would take to train them to fly F-16 fighter jets, three sources briefed on the matter told CNN.

Two Ukrainian pilots are currently at a military base in the US having their skills tested in flight simulators to see how much time they would need to learn to fly various US military aircraft, including F-16s.

A US military official told reporters traveling with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to the Middle East that the Ukrainian pilots were in Tucson, Arizona, for “a familiarization event” that he described as a “routine activity” in their military-to-military dialogue with Ukraine.

Ukraine has been pushing for the US to provide fighter jets, arguing that they need them to defend against Russian missile and drone attacks.

But that push has been met with skepticism by allied officials, who say the jets would be impractical because they require considerable training and Russia has extensive anti-aircraft systems that could easily shoot them down.

When previously asked if the US would be providing F-16s to Ukraine, President Joe Biden responded with a flat “no,” but this event suggests the US has not completely closed the door on providing F-16s.

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