© Reuters. A Ukrainian serviceman carrying a shell for a 2S5 Giatsint-S self-propelled howitzer before firing towards Russian troops outside the frontline town of Bakhmut, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Donetsk region, Ukraine March 5, 2023. REUTERS/Anna Kudriav
(Reuters) – Ukraine and Russia both claimed high casualties in Ukraine’s Donetsk region as they fight for Bakhmut, with Kyiv fending off unabating attacks and a small river that bisects the town now marking the new front line.
FIGHTING IN BAKHMUT, KHERSON
* Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russian forces had suffered more than 1,100 dead in the past few days fighting along the Bakhmut section of the frontline. Russian forces also sustained 1,500 “sanitary losses” – soldiers wounded badly enough to keep them out of further action, he added.
* Russia’s defense ministry said on Sunday its forces had killed more than 220 Ukrainian service members over the past 24 hours in the Donetsk direction.
* Three civilians were killed in Russian shelling of Kherson in southern Ukraine on Saturday, Zelenskiy said, denouncing what he called “brutal terrorist attacks” by pro-Moscow units.
* The head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary force, which has led the assault on Bakhmut, said his army will begin to reboot once the city was captured. “In particular, we will start recruiting new people from the regions,” Yevgeny Prigozhin said in a clip posted on Telegram channels associated with Wagner.
* Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said he believes that a deal allowing Ukrainian grain to be exported via the Black Sea will be extended from its current March 18 deadline.
* Russia’s foreign ministry said on Sunday that Russian representatives had not yet taken part in negotiations on extending the Black Sea grain deal.
CHURCH, DIPLOMACY, WEAPONS
* Ukraine’s punitive actions against a branch of the Orthodox church linked to Russia are part of a drive to achieve “spiritual independence”, Zelenskiy said. Ukrainian leaders have accused the long-established Ukrainian Orthodox Church of undermining Ukrainian unity and collaborating with Moscow.
* Ukraine’s foreign minister urged Germany in an interview published on Sunday to speed up supplies of ammunition and to start training Ukrainian pilots on Western fighter jets.
* The European Union could soon top up the fund used for purchasing weapons for Ukraine by 3.5 billion euros ($3.7 billion), a senior EU official said on Friday.