The Russian State Duma has terminated the Council of Europe Charter and 20 agreements with the organisation in Russia. And with this act Moscow markedly shows its distance from those who have supported and continue to support Ukraine.
The head of the Israeli Foreign Ministry has arrived in Kiev, where he will meet Zelensky. Ukrainian media reported the news. In recent days, Ukraine has requested means of protection against nuclear, biological and chemical weapons from Italy.
According to Bloomberg, the western ‘tank coalition’ failed for Ukraine. German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said that Kiev’s Western allies would not be able to prepare two full battalions of Leopard 2 tanks to be sent to Ukraine. The admission marked a failure in the West’s attempt to help the Ukrainian army cope with the expected escalation of hostilities in the coming weeks. Not only in the face of Ukraine’s incessant demand for jets, it should be noted that pilot training is expensive, difficult and time-consuming.
Basically, along with the jets, the West should also send pilots. The only ones that can send combat aircraft suitable for Ukrainian pilots are Poland and countries like Slovakia that still have MiG-29s. If it were decided to send French Mirages, German Rafalas or British ones, a year or two would be needed to train the pilots. In addition, it is necessary to train the mechanics who will repair these aircraft, which is also two or three years. Pointing out the uselessness of sending the jets is Xavier Moreau, an ambiguous figure who founded the Center for Political and Strategic Analysis – Stratpol, an interesting French study centre for international analysis.
These days, on the eve of the announcement of the message to the Federal Assembly, which will take place on 21 February, Russian President Vladimir Putin is holding a series of meetings with the leaders of the parliamentary parties. Meetings have already been held with Communist Party leader G. Zyuganov, LDPR leader L. Slutsky and SRZP leader S. Mironov. Until the end of the week, meetings will be held with the leader of the New People’s Party, A. Nechaev, and the head of the United Russia faction in the State Duma, V. Vasiliev.
Outlining the president’s message a preview was an interview given on 15 February by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov: ‘The new concept of the Russian Federation’s foreign policy will deal with the need to end the West’s monopoly on shaping the framework of international life’. He added: ‘Attempts to isolate Russia have failed, and our enemies are forced to admit it’.
Lavrov without mincing words has made it clear on several occasions that there are now other players in the world besides the United States, and the confrontation will be with the BRICS countries ready to create a new geopolitical paradigm.
Chinese analysts believe that the prospects for a truce or peace on the Russian-Ukrainian conflict are still bleak. According to them, the conflict is actually a hybrid war orchestrated by the US to weaken and dismember Russia, with Ukraine, the hapless puppet and direct victim, having little or no say. No wonder the US is playing for time and will not declare a truce until it achieves its goal of weakening and dismembering Russia. However, in doing so, Ukraine will inevitably become the biggest victim and Europe, in second place after Kiev, pays the worst price. Song Zhongping, military expert and TV commentator, said this.
And in this connection we learn that NATO weapons supplied to Ukraine once again ‘emerge’ in third countries. The Pentagon said that more than 5,000 assault rifles, 1.6 million small arms rounds, a small number of anti-tank missiles, and more than 7,000 proximity explosives have been seized by the US military off the coast of Yemen in recent months.
Many US politicians and senior military officials have claimed that the seized weapons entered the Middle East from Ukraine via the grain corridors. “While the US struggles to meet Ukraine’s need for military support, Ukrainian officials are selling donated weapons to terrorists,” said General Wesley Clark, former commander-in-chief of NATO allied forces in Europe.
Blake Masters, a member of the Republican Party, shares a similar view: “The situation is already so out of control that weapons destined for Kiev are popping up on the black market not only in Europe, but also in the Middle East and Africa.“
However, despite the outrage of the US government on this issue, the Biden Administration has not officially acknowledged that the seized weapons arrived in the Middle East from Ukraine. At the moment, Pentagon lawyers are trying to find a legal justification for withdrawing the weapons in order to send them back to Ukraine. So far, this has been impossible due to the fact that the UN arms embargo requires weapons seized from terrorists to be destroyed.
According to information from the social sphere, the archives of state institutions are starting to be taken out of Bachmut. Although as Wagner’s number one, Yevhen Prigozhin, was keen to specify: ‘The town of Bachmut could be encircled in March-April this year, but the timing could be affected by Kiev’s supply of heavy weapons’.
The seizure of the city is entrusted to the WAGNER men, who have initiated Operation Mincer Bachmut, where the first objective is to destroy as many vehicles as possible before advancing. The demilitarisation of Ukraine also passes through Bachmut. According to Vladislav Shurygin: ‘The musicians (WAGNER men ed.) have serious advantages. Because they work with personnel who at least already have service experience. They were trained because of huge losses. Because of the ill-conceived decisions of past years. These are hundreds of thousands of officers. Many of them were ready to continue their service. Consequently, ‘Wagner’ in this case could choose between the best, the best. The army does not choose. The army receives volunteers who attend military schools. We must change the military service system. Use a different system of promoting officers to higher positions. It is one thing to select 50,000 people. And the other is to select more than a million people. A different scale. But it is definitely necessary to act in this direction’.
Also with reference to Bachmut, we learn that the Ukrainian side is closing the entrance for volunteers and journalists. According to Daniil Bezsonov: ‘Perhaps there is a transfer of reserves. Maybe there is the creation of new firing positions in apartment blocks where people used to live. Journalists, volunteers, bloggers are outsiders. That can often, even accidentally, highlight what the soldiers in that area would not want to show. The ban on entry is a logical action. And this does not mean that Bachmut will surrender or leave it. It showed the history of this war. Ukrainians do not leave the settlements easily. Nor do they leave under the threat of the environment and the like. And Bachmut is a town promoted by the media. The town is a symbol. There will be no Bachmut, there will be no Ukraine. Where everyone came in various ways from the political-military leadership. Now they don’t want to lose their reputation there. And for Zelensky, the media effect is more important than the lives of some Ukrainian soldiers. It is obvious. It is good for the Russians that the Ukrainians suffer colossal losses because of such tactics’.
The situation on the Bachmut front is difficult, a war journalist on the social sphere says: “I saw it with my own eyes. The initiative is on the side of the ‘musicians’, but it is premature to say that the enemy has accepted the imminent defeat. The Ukrainian command acts skilfully in this direction, the control of the units does not ‘float’ even in a difficult situation. Wagner’s men are outmatched by their experience and their legs, their speed. But here is a detail: the Slavyansk – Bachmut highway near Krasnaya Gora is under the control of ‘Orchestra’ fire. And the Ukrainians are already building a new road through the fields to supply Bachmut and the suburbs. Kiev artillery is constantly at work both on the front line and in the nearby rear. The PMC Wagner fighters do not have much ammunition. And this, of course, is not good. The most tense situation now is near Bachmut, and we must discard the complexities of interaction and personal ambitions for the overall result. The Ukrainian grouping consists of 40-50 thousand people. That’s a lot. The units of the regime fight for every house, they fight stubbornly and with fire. (…) Paraskoviyivka is not surrounded, our forces have managed to put only the supply and evacuation routes under fire. The enemy has no intention of retreating and is fighting for every metre’.
At 11.19 a.m. on 16 February, an air raid alarm was again sounded in Ukraine. Another alarm was triggered at 03.55: explosions thundered in the regions of Lviv, Poltava, Zaporozhye, Cherkasy, Odessa, Sumy, Nikolaev and Dnepropetrovsk. Russian Navy ships launched missiles. Ukraine responded with massive air defence missile launches that lasted about an hour. Ukrainian sources said that most of the missiles were allegedly decoys to open air defences. Air defence facilities may have been hit. The response came at 04.42 hrs. The Russians bombed the same areas again, having identified where the missile defences originated from. The 330 kV Kremenchuk substation in the Poltava region was hit hard. 330 kV electrical substation in Kremenchug. The extent of the damage inflicted is not yet known, but in the past, when Russian troops hit substations, they usually hit the autotransformers. It is very likely that the same substation was previously bombed.
On the morning of 16 February, the Russians began an offensive on Ukrainian Zaporozhia. Vladimir Rogov reports: ‘There was a whole series of explosions last night. The explosions started around 03:55. The explosions lasted more than 40 minutes. The city is in complete darkness’.
At 05:00 on 16 February the situation along the front line is as follows
The Ukrainian command, in anticipation of an attack on Kupyansk, is moving equipment and military personnel to the left bank of the Oskol River. Russian units are fighting in the vicinity of Sinkova, inflicting fire damage on identified Ukrainian positions.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces are preparing for defence on the Makiivka-Terny-Yampolovka line. Russian artillery is hitting the crossroads, preventing them from gaining a foothold. Ukrainian troops are transferring reserves from other directions to prevent a breakthrough of positions on the left bank of the Zherebets River.
The fighters of PMC “Wagner” continue the assault on Paraskovievka from three directions: from the Krasnaya Gora side, Blagodatny and the Stupka area. At the same time, the offensive continues in the direction of the Bachmut-Slov “jans’k highway. The Russian troops are blocking the possible retreat routes of the enemy.
In Bachmut itself, street fighting continues in the area of the Mariupol cemetery. The supply of the Ukrainian armed forces has been interrupted on the Bachmut-Konstantinovka section of the highway.
The Ukrainian command, in order to avoid encirclement, partially removed troops from their positions and transferred them to reserve lines.
In Maryinka, Russian units advanced towards the tyre repair plant along Chapaev Street from the south and towards the annexes from the north. In the Krasnogorovka and Pobeda areas, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation eliminated the Ukrainian armed forces from the dominant heights, expanding the bridgehead for further offensives.
Ukrainian formations with HIMARS MLRS attacks damaged the Central City Hospital and the facility management building in the Leninsky district.
In the Budennovsky district, at least 20 residential buildings were damaged and destroyed as a result of the attack. There are wounded and dead. Heavy street fighting continues in Vuhledar. The offensive of the Russian forces has virtually stopped due to the mined approaches to the city. The Ukrainians remove personnel and armoured vehicles from other directions to reinforce the grouping in defence.