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Russia-Ukraine war at a glance: what we know on day 359 of the invasion

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Five killed in attacks on Bakhmut residential district; Zelenskiy rules out giving up territory in potential peace deal with Russia

Russia fired Grad rockets and barrel artillery at a residential district in the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut on Thursday, killing three men and two women and wounding nine more, Ukraine’s prosecutor general said. Blurred images of the victims were shared on Telegram by the office of the prosecutor, who said the attack was being investigated as a war crime. “Criminal proceedings have been initiated.”

Russia launched a total of 36 air- and sea-based cruise missiles, guided air-to-surface missiles and anti-ship missiles at Ukraine overnight into Thursday, according to Ukrainian officials. At least 16 missiles were shot down by Ukrainian forces, the air force said. Among them, air defences in the south downed eight Kalibr missiles fired from a ship in the Black Sea, the officials said.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy has ruled out giving up any Ukrainian territory in a potential peace deal with Russia. In an interview with the BBC, Ukraine’s leader said conceding land would mean Russia could “keep coming back”. Zelenskiy said a predicted spring offensive had already begun but he believed his country’s forces could keep resisting Russia’s advance until they were able to launch a counter-offensive.

Bakhmut will fall within a couple of months, the head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group has predicted. In an interview with a pro-war military blogger, Yevgeny Prigozhin forecast Bakhmut would be seized in March or April, depending on how many soldiers Ukraine commits to its defence and how well his own troops are supplied.

Russia’s overnight bombardment did not have a major impact on power, Ukraine’s energy minister said. German Galushchenko said Ukraine was meeting consumer demand for the fifth successive day. The national power grid operator, Ukrenergo, said it saw no need to introduce emergency power outages to conserve supplies.

Critical infrastructure was damaged in Russian strikes on the Lviv region in Ukraine’s west, the regional state administration’s head, Maksym Kozytskyi, reported on Telegram, adding there were no casualties.

Russia’s defence ministry said Ukraine had returned 101 prisoners of war to Russia following talks, state-run media reported. Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukrainian president’s office, said 100 troops and one civilian had been returned to Ukraine. Nearly all had been defending the southern city of Mariupol before it fell to Russian forces, he said.

Russia has “definitely changed tactics” by using decoy missiles without explosive warheads and deploying balloons to fool Ukraine’s air defences, according to a senior Ukrainian official. The goal of the decoy missiles was to overwhelm Ukraine’s air defence systems by offering too many targets, Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Volodymyr Zelenskiy, told Associated Press.

Russian sortie rates have increased over the past week following several weeks of quieter activity, the UK’s Ministry of Defence has reported. Air activity is “now roughly in line with the average daily rate seen since summer 2022”, its latest intelligence update reads.

Russia “continues to introduce large numbers of troops” on to the battlefield in Ukraine, the US defence secretary, Lloyd Austin, has said. Those troops were “ill-equipped and ill-trained” and, as a result, Russian forces were “incurring a lot of casualties and we expect that that will continue”, he told reporters in Estonia.

Neither Russia nor Ukraine is likely to achieve their military aims, according to Gen Mark Milley, chair of the US joint chiefs of staff. In an interview with the Financial Times, Milley said he believed the war would end at the negotiating table. The Pentagon was re-examining its weapons stockpiles and may need to boost military spending after seeing how quickly ammunition has been used during the war in Ukraine, he added.

Belarus will fight alongside ally Russia if another country launches an attack against it, President Alexander Lukashenko has said, adding that he planned to meet the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, on Friday.

The UK Labour party leader, Keir Starmer, has travelled to Kyiv to meet Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Starmer said the UK’s position on Ukraine “will remain the same” if there was a change of government next year, as he travelled on Thursday to the suburbs of Irpin and Bucha, where Russia committed atrocities last year as they were forced back by Ukrainian forces.

Israel’s foreign minister, Eli Cohen, arrived in Kyiv on Thursday to meet Volodymyr Zelenskiy in the first public visit to the Ukrainian capital by a senior Israeli official since Russia’s invasion last year. During a joint briefing with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, Cohen said Israel would support a Ukrainian peace initiative at the UN and help secure up to $200m for healthcare and infrastructure projects.
Russia’s foreign ministry said it was expelling four Austrian diplomats after Vienna took an “unfriendly and unjustified step”. The tit-for-tat move came after Austria this month said it was expelling four Russian diplomats for behaving in a manner inconsistent with international agreements, a reason often invoked in spying.

The UN general assembly will vote next week on a draft resolution stressing “the need to reach, as soon as possible, a comprehensive, just and lasting peace” in Ukraine. Ukraine and its supporters hope to deepen Russia’s diplomatic isolation by seeking yes votes from nearly three-quarters of the general assembly.

source: the guardian

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