After months of apparent reluctance to engage with Kyiv on the same level as Moscow, China said Wednesday that it will send special representatives to Ukraine and hold talks with all parties on resolving the crisis there.
Chinese state media said that President Xi Jinping told his Ukrainian counterpart President Volodymyr Zelensky in a phone call that Beijing will focus on promoting peace talks between Ukraine and Russia, and would make efforts for a cease-fire to be reached as soon as possible.
Commenting on the call, which he described as “long and meaningful,” Zelensky said he believed it would “give a powerful impetus to the development of our bilateral relations.”
Ukraine has been waiting for an audience with Xi since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and particularly after Xi’s recent visit to Moscow in March.
Russia switching to defensive positions in all areas of combat except Bakhmut, claims Ukraine intelligence
Russia has switched to defensive positions in all its areas of combat apart from Bakhmut, according to the Ukrainian head of intelligence Kyrylo Budanov.
In an interview with RBC Ukraine, he said: “They have completely switched to positional defense everywhere. The only places on the frontline where they are making attempts are in the city of Bakhmut, an attempt to cover the city of Avdiivka from the north, and localized fighting in the city of Marinka. In both Avdiivka and Marinka, the tactics are identical to those in Bakhmut – aiming to wipe the settlement off the face of the earth.
“And against the backdrop of the lack of success elsewhere, they face the problem that even their ‘deceived’ society needs to see something, some kind of victory. This is the only place where they are somehow succeeding. In addition, there is the fact that Prigozhin once said that he would take Bakhmut. He would be happy to sing about it, but he can’t. That is, everything just came together here,” Budanov noted.
He added that there was little chance of Vuhledar in the Donbas region, which has been the site of a long-term tank battle, being captured. He added that he didn’t think Russians were planning to intensify or launch offensive operations on the frontline.
Key battlefield updates:
• Russian state-owned news agency Tass is reporting that Denis Pushilin, the acting head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, has said the situation in Bakhmut continues to be tense, but that Wagner Group forces have made some advances.
• Russia’s Black Sea Fleet repelled a drone attack on the Crimean port of Sevastopol in the early hours of Monday, the Moscow-installed governor of the city said on via Telegram.
• Ukraine’s military has set up positions on the eastern side of the Dnipro River near Kherson city, the Institute for the Study of War cites Russian military bloggers as saying. Infiltrating the area could be a first step towards trying to dislodge Russians from positions they are using to fire upon Kherson.
• The prime minister of Estonia, Kaja Kallas, visited Volodymyr Zelensky in Ukraine. Kallas said that Ukraine should be admitted to the EU and NATO, and signed a joint declaration on her visit. She said that she supported Ukraine getting more ammunition, arms and training, which was why she proposed the EU move to provide shells to Ukraine.
• The EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, expressed confidence on Monday that the bloc would complete a plan within days to buy ammunition for Ukraine after Kyiv expressed frustration at wrangling among EU member states. “Yes, there is still some disagreement. But I am sure everybody will understand that we are in a situation of extreme urgency,” Borrell told reporters as he arrived for a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg.
Heavy short-range combat continues around Bakhmut, UK says
Heavy short-range combat continues in the western districts of the contested town of Bakhmut in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, the UK’s Ministry of Defense noted Wednesday.
Fighting on the outskirts of the town, especially near the village of Khromove, has been a key development over the last week, the ministry said in an intelligence update on Twitter, as Ukraine seeks to maintain control of its 0506 supply route into the west of Bakhmut.
“Ukraine’s other resupply options into Bakhmut are likely complicated by muddy conditions on unsurfaced tracks,” the ministry noted.
“With the town having now been under attack for over 11 months, the Ukrainian defenses of Bakhmut have now been integrated as one element of a much deeper defensive zone, which includes the town of Chasiv Yar to the west.”
Ukraine has refused to abandon the site, which Russia wants to capture as part of its larger war aims to control Luhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine marks 37th anniversary of Chernobyl disaster
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky commemorated Wednesday the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster that took place in Ukraine 37 years ago.
The International Atomic Energy Agency summed up the accident as occurring after the fourth reactor at the nuclear power plant “went out of control during a test at low-power, leading to an explosion and fire that demolished the reactor building and released large amounts of radiation into the atmosphere.”
The initial explosion killed two workers at the plant but several dozen firemen and emergency workers died in the subsequent three months after the explosion from acute radiation sickness and one of cardiac arrest.
The shut down plant was occupied by Russian forces at the start of their invasion of Ukraine last February, although it was then liberated.
On Wednesday, Zelensky said the accident at the plant “left a huge scar on the whole world” and added “we must do everything” to prevent Russia “from using nuclear power facilities to blackmail Ukraine and the world.”
Compiled by Ana Dumbadze