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Ukrainians Fend Off More Assaults In Bakhmut As Russian Shelling Kills Civilians In The East

By RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service March 17, 2023

Ukrainian fighters repulsed a fresh series of Russian assaults in Bakhmut and the surroundings of the city in the eastern region of Donetsk, Kyiv's military said early on March 17, while Russian shelling of settlements caused deaths among Ukrainian civilians.

In the south, the city of Kherson came under intense Russian shelling again, according to the region's military administration.

Donetsk region governor Pavlo Kirylenko said that two people were killed and eight others were wounded over the past day.

"On March 16, the Russians killed two residents of the Donetsk region: in Toretsk and the village of Krasnohorivka. Another 8 people in the region were injured," Kirylenko wrote on Telegram.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported that Russian troops carried out more than 70 attacks in the past day along the front line in eastern Ukraine, with the focus being on the now-ruined city of Bakhmut, the main target of an intense Russian offensive that started last summer and has ground on relentlessly during the winter months.

The fight for Bakhmut has been one of the most sustained battles since Russia invaded Ukraine almost 13 months ago despite its questionable strategic -- as opposed to symbolic -- worth in the eyes of many Western military observers.

Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, told RFE/RL on March 17 that for Kyiv, Bakhmut remains "a very important fortress," and that military leaders including Valeriy Zaluzhniy, the commander in chief of the armed forces, and Oleksandr Syrskiy, the commander of Ukraine's ground forces, favor continuing and further strengthening the defense of the city.

"This is our land, and we have no right not to defend it," Danilov said, adding that Ukrainian forces are causing huge losses to the Russian attackers in and around Bakhmut.

"Everywhere in and around Bakhmut the land is littered with them," Danilov said, referring to the enemy losses. "That is of key importance for us," he told RFE/RL.

Besides Bakhmut, Russian forces launched offensive actions on the Donetsk settlements of Lyman, Avdiyivka, Maryinka, and Shakhtarsk, the Ukrainian military said.

Russian forces launched five missile strikes and 18 air strikes, and carried out dozens of salvoes from rocket systems.

Heavy Russian shelling of the Donetsk settlement of Kostyantynivka wounded six civilians and damaged dozens of houses and civilian infrastructure, the military report said.

The southern city of Kherson was shelled 13 times in 24 hours, the region's military governor, Oleksandr Prokudin, said early on March 17. One person was wounded. Prokudin said that the whole region of Kherson sustained 76 attacks mainly launched from heavy Grad rocket-launching systems.

Ukrainian forces liberated Kherson city, on the right bank of the Dnieper River, in November, forcing Russian troops to retreat to the left bank.

Since then, Russian troops have been constantly shelling the city of Kherson and other parts of the region under Ukrainian control, causing numerous civilian deaths and injuries and repeatedly damaging energy infrastructure and leaving large areas without electricity during the winter months.

Since the beginning of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russia has persistently denied targeting civilians despite abundant evidence to the contrary.

On the diplomatic front, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba urged Ukraine's allies to speed up deliveries of weapons, warning that delays were measured in human lives lost on the battlefield.

"If one delivery is postponed for one day, it means that someone is going to die on the front line," Kuleba told the BBC in an interview in Kyiv.

He added that Ukraine won't forget who helped it in its hour of need and who did not.

"War is a moment when one has to make a choice. And every choice has been recorded," Kuleba said.

Meanwhile, Russia's Defense Ministry said on March 17 that it had decorated the pilots involved in an incident over the Black Sea earlier this week that resulted in the crash of a U.S. surveillance drone which further raised the tensions between Washington and Moscow.

The United States on March 16 released a video clip showing two Russian Su-27 jets dumping fuel as they fly closely by the MQ-9 Reaper drone in an apparent attempt to blind the drone's camera.

The Pentagon says the video feed was interrupted as a result of a collision between the drone and one of the Russian planes. At one point in the video it appears as though part of the drone's propeller has been damaged.

Moscow, however, maintains the aircraft was downed after it lost control.

Russian political analyst Sergei Markov said in a post on his Telegram feed that the commendation of the pilots "is a clear sign that Russia will continue to shoot down American drones if they continue to participate with their intelligence in attacks on Russian cities in Crimea."

Russia illegally annexed Ukraine's Crimea in 2014 and last year unilaterally declared a no-fly zone in the area near the peninsula.

The United States has said it will "continue to fly and to operate wherever international law allows."

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and the BBC

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/ukraine-russian-attacks-bakhmut- shelling/32322372.html

Copyright (c) 2023. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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