BAKHMUT: Ukrainian troops were locked in a “fierce” confrontation with Russian fighters on Friday for control of the town of Vugledar, south-west of Donetsk, as the two sides battle along the southern front.

Both sides claimed success in the small administrative centre of apartment blocks surrounded by flat fields, a short distance from the strategic prize of the village of Pavlivka.

“The encirclement and subsequent liberation of this city solves many problems,” said Denis Pushilin, the Moscow-appointed leader of the Donetsk region.

“Soon, Vugledar may become a new, very important success for us,” he was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

But Kyiv said the town, which had a pre-invasion population of around 15,000 people, remained contested.

“There is fierce combat there,” Ukrainian military spokesman Sergiy Cherevaty told local media.

“For many months, the military of the Russian Federation... has been trying to achieve significant success there,” he said.

Moscow’s push for Vugledar is part of its effort to seize control of the entire Donetsk region, which it has already declared a part of Russia.

Ukraine said this week that Russian troops had stepped up their attacks in the east, particularly on Vugledar and Bakhmut.

And Moscow was preparing for a new offensive on Feb 24, the first anniversary of the Russian invasion, said Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s national security and defence council.

“Now they are preparing for maximum activation ... and they believe that by the anniversary they should have some achievements,” Danilov said on Radio Svoboda.

“There is no secret that they are preparing for a new wave by Feb 24, as they themselves say,” he said.

According to the US-based Institute for the Study of War, Russian forces may be engaging in a series of spoiling attacks “to disperse and distract Ukrainian forces and set conditions to launch a decisive offensive operation”.

Barbs on Holocaust Remembrance Day

Russian President Vladimir Putin used International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Friday to lash out at Ukraine, calling those in the country “neo-Nazis” to justify the 11-month-old invasion.

“Forgetting the lessons of history leads to the repetition of terrible tragedies,” Putin said.

“It is against that evil that our soldiers are bravely fighting.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky marked Holocaust Remembrance Day by urging the world to unite against “indifference” and “hatred”.

But in Poland, officials pointed their fingers at Russia as perpetuating Nazi thinking.

“On the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi German death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, let us remember that to the east Putin is building new camps,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Facebook.

“Solidarity and consistent support for Ukraine are effective ways to ensure that history does not come full circle,” he added.

Published in Dawn, January 29th, 2023



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