In Bakhmut, Russia Controls East, Ukraine Controls West

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Russia’s Wagner Group is in control of the eastern portion of the Ukranian Donbas town of Bakhmut, while Ukranian forces are holding on to the western part of the town, according to an intelligence report Saturday from the British Defense Ministry.

With Ukranian forces firing from fortified buildings, the update said, “this area has become a killing zone likely making it highly challenging for Wagner forces attempting to continue their frontal assault westwards.”

The Defense Ministry said, however, that the Ukrainian forces and their supply lines to the west remain vulnerable to Russian attempts to outflank Ukraine forces from the north and south.

Moscow has said capturing Bakhmut is a step toward the Russian military seizing all of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.

Ukraine’s capital had largely restored power Friday, a day after Russia fired a barrage of missiles across the country, which damaged infrastructure and energy supplies.

The head of Kyiv’s military administration, Serhii Popko, said power and water had been restored in the capital, but said about 30% of city residents were still without heat. He said repair work was continuing.

Ukrainian authorities said that power was fully restored in the southern region of Odesa and that 60% of residences in the second-largest city of Kharkiv that suffered power outages were back online by Friday.

However, authorities said that significant damage to power supplies remained in the wider Kharkiv region, as well as in Ukraine’s northwestern Zhytomyr region.

Russia’s missile attacks killed at least six people Thursday in Ukraine and damaged critical infrastructure across the country.

It was the largest such attack on Ukraine in three weeks, with Ukrainian forces saying they shot down 34 of the 81 missiles that Russia fired, far less than the usual ratio, as well as four Iranian-made drones. The Russian onslaught also included the use of hypersonic Kinzhal cruise missiles.

While missile salvos have become a common Russian military tactic, such onslaughts have also become less frequent since the fall.

The British Defense Ministry said Friday that the interval between such strikes will likely grow. It said Russia needs time “to stockpile a critical mass of newly produced missiles directly from industry before it can resource a strike big enough to credibly overwhelm Ukrainian air defenses.”

The Russian Defense Ministry said the attacks were in retaliation for an alleged Ukrainian attack on the Bryansk region of western Russia. Ukraine has denied carrying out the assault.

Moscow said it hit military and industrial targets in Ukraine Thursday “as well as the energy facilities that supply them.”

In other developments Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attended the funeral in Kyiv of one of Ukraine’s best-known fighters and commanders who died in fighting near Bakhmut. Dmytro Kotsiubailo, 27, was killed a few days ago in battle.

Western support

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, who made an unannounced visit to Kyiv on Friday, also attended the funeral of Kotsiubailo, along with thousands of mourners.

During a news conference in Kyiv, the Finnish leader accused Russia of carrying out war crimes and said Russian leaders must be held accountable.

“Putin knows he will have to answer for his crime of aggression,” Marin said.

Russia has denied deliberately targeting civilians or carrying out war crimes.

Also Friday, the White House accused Russia of stirring unrest in Moldova.

White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said U.S. intelligence shows that individuals with ties to Russian intelligence are planning to stage protests in Moldova in the hopes of toppling that country’s pro-Western government.

“As Moldova continues to integrate with Europe, we believe Russia is pursuing options to weaken the Moldovan government probably with the eventual goal of seeing a more Russian-friendly administration in the capital,” Kirby said.

Moldova is a western neighbor to Ukraine. Like Ukraine, the country was once part of the Soviet Union and has had to navigate both historic ties to Russia as well as recent moves toward Europe, including ambitions of joining the European Union.

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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