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War in Ukraine, day 345 | Kyiv will get longer range western weapons



(Kyiv) The United States promised on Friday to deliver longer-range rockets to Ukraine, whose desire to join the European Union has been bolstered by the trip to Kyiv of senior European officials.

The Ukrainian army will defend “as long as it can” Bakhmout, a key city in the East which Russian soldiers have been seeking for months to seize, “no one will abandon” this “fortress”, hammered on this occasion President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Nearly a year into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, this city has become the epicenter of the fighting, and Moscow’s forces have made small territorial gains in the region in recent weeks at heavy cost. losses.

“If arms deliveries [occidentales à Kyiv] are accelerating, especially long-range weapons, not only are we not going to withdraw from Bakhmout, [mais] we will start to end the occupation of Donbass”, an eastern region partly in Russian hands, Mr. Zelensky said.

The new US military aid to Ukraine, in the amount of $2.2 billion, announced the same day by the United States, includes in this regard rockets which could almost double the range of the Ukrainian strike force , the Pentagon said.

These are in particular missiles fired from the ground that can reach a target located 150 km away and therefore threaten Russian positions behind the front lines.

“The longer the range of our weapons and the more mobile our troops are, the sooner Russia’s brutal aggression will come to an end,” the Ukrainian head of state reacted in the evening.

At the same time, Paris announced that France and Italy would provide a MAMBA medium-range surface-to-air defense system in the spring to help Ukraine “defend against attacks by drones, missiles and Russian planes.

Russian bombings

AFP journalists noted on Friday the violence of the clashes which reduced certain neighborhoods on the outskirts of Bakhmout to ruins, with the incessant dull percussions of the artillery and the exchange of heavy fire with small arms.

De la fumée s’élevait du centre-ville tandis que des hélicoptères militaires ukrainiens survolaient des plaines gelées en rase-mottes pour éviter d’être repérés et abattus.

Selon les autorités, cette ville compte aujourd’hui environ 6500 habitants contre environ 70 000 avant la guerre.  

Jeudi, une personne a été tuée et sept ont été blessées dans une attaque contre un véhicule transportant des secouristes volontaires.

Oleksandre Tkatchenko, 65 ans, a dit s’être précipité avec d’autres voisins pour extirper une femme de la carcasse du véhicule. Ce n’était « clairement » pas une cible militaire car la voiture « était rouge », a-t-il dénoncé.

Les bombardements se sont également poursuivis à Kherson, une grande ville du Sud prise puis abandonnée par les Russes, où une personne a été tuée et une autre blessée vendredi, d’après les autorités.

« Efforts considérables »

À Kyiv, où les sirènes d’alerte antiaérienne ont retenti à deux reprises dans la journée, le président du Conseil européen Charles Michel, la présidente de la Commission européenne Ursula von der Leyen et d’autres hauts représentants de l’UE se sont réunis avec M. Zelensky.

Ce dernier a affirmé que son pays ne perdrait pas « un seul jour » pour avancer vers l’entrée dans l’Union européenne et a jugé « possible » d’engager les discussions à ce sujet dès cette année.

Les dirigeants européens ont salué dans un communiqué les « efforts considérables » fournis par l’Ukraine malgré la guerre, soulignant « les progrès » dans la création d’institutions « indépendantes et efficaces » chargées de lutter contre la corruption qui ronge ce pays.

« Nous avons répété que la mise en place de réformes judiciaires profondes et cohérentes […] remained essential” in order to allow the integration process to move forward, they nevertheless noted, without mentioning a precise timetable.

“Ukraine is the EU, the EU is Ukraine,” said Charles Michel after the summit.

This country has been an official candidate for membership of the European Union since June 2022, an arduous process requiring many reforms that could last for years.

Oil products

Ursula von der Leyen assured that she was working on new sanctions against Russia for February 24, the first anniversary of the invasion, judging that she should “pay for the destruction she caused”.

She said the punitive measures taken over the past year had already set back the Russian economy by “a generation”, noting that capping the price of Russian oil exports at $60 a barrel was costing Moscow 160 million euros a year. day.

It will be superimposed on a cap on the price of refined petroleum products, which the ambassadors of the EU member states approved on Friday, before final adoption by the European Council.

A European embargo on these same petroleum products sent abroad by sea must already come into force on Sunday, the Kremlin having meanwhile castigated a “negative” measure on Friday which will “further unbalance” the markets.

In their joint statement after the summit, European leaders also said they wanted to “intensify” their efforts “to use frozen Russian assets to support Ukraine’s reconstruction and for reparations purposes, in accordance with European and international law”.

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