The battle of the Ukrainian defenders against the Russian mercenary group Wagner around Bakhmut rages on. "Wagner's Assault Groups are attacking from several directions, trying to break through the defenses of our forces and move into the city center," said Ukrainian Land Forces Commander Oleksandr Syrskyj.
The British secret service assumes that the mercenary troupe could soon have a personnel problem due to a lack of recruitment opportunities. Moscow booked huge revenues in 2022 thanks to high oil prices. Meanwhile, in Geneva, Russia and the United Nations (UN) are negotiating a new agreement on the export of Ukrainian grain.
Russian advance and eventual Ukrainian counter-offensive
According to their own statements, the Ukrainian units inflicted "noticeable losses" on the enemy in Bakhmut with artillery and tanks. "The defense of the fortress continues!" Colonel-General Syrskyj said. According to Ukrainian military observers, the Russian units have made up ground primarily north and northeast of Bakhmut. On the Russian side, a Ukrainian counterattack to relieve Bakhmut in the Donetsk region is increasingly expected. The head of the Wagner mercenary unit, Yevgeny Prigozhin, had mentioned this in a video message as a threat scenario for his units. According to Russian reports, several Ukrainian brigades were brought together for this purpose. So far, however, the mud has not allowed rapid advances off paved roads.
London: Mercenary squad faces recruitment problem
According to British estimates, the Russian mercenary group Wagner could run into difficulties due to the lack of new prisoners as recruits in the war in Ukraine. The Ministry of Defense in London pointed out that Moscow had denied Wagner boss Prigozhin the opportunity to recruit mercenaries in prisons. Half of the prisoners used fell victim to the heavy fighting. "If the ban continues, Prigozhin will likely be forced to reduce the scope or intensity of Wagner operations in Ukraine," the London assessment said.
High oil prices: Russia with huge trade surplus
Thanks to high oil prices, Russia achieved a trade surplus of 332.4 billion dollars (a good 311 billion euros) last year. The export volume rose by 19.9 percent to $591.5 billion, while imports fell by 11.7 percent to $259.1 billion in the same period, the customs authority said on Monday. Compared to 2021, Russia's trade surplus has grown by 68 percent. A continuation of the trend this year is not to be expected. There is now a price cap on Russian oil and oil products.
Arms imports to Europe skyrocketed
The turning point triggered by the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine is hitting the arms market in Europe with full force. Imports of heavy weapons such as tanks, fighter jets and submarines to Europe have increased by 47 percent over the past two five-year periods - the European NATO countries by as much as 65 percent. This emerges from a report published by the peace research institute Sipri from Stockholm. As a result of the Russian invasion in February 2022, Ukraine became the world's third largest importer of armaments. After the USA, Germany remains one of the five largest arms suppliers.
Russia and the UN are negotiating the continuation of the grain agreement
In Geneva, representatives of Russia and the United Nations negotiated a continuation of the grain agreement, which is intended to secure exports from Ukraine. Details of the content were initially not made public. According to the Foreign Ministry in Moscow, Russia would be ready to extend the grain agreement by 60 days, as reported by the Tass state agency. The previous agreement expires on March 19 if Russia does not agree to an extension. In return, Moscow is demanding greater support for its own export business, which is being made more difficult by Western sanctions, among other things. Russia initially blocked grain exports via the Ukrainian Black Sea ports in February 2022.
Meanwhile, grain producers in Bulgaria are calling for an import ban on Ukrainian wheat. The duty-free imports from Ukraine, which are a good 30 percent cheaper, are making domestic wheat production no longer competitive, participants in protests in three northern Bulgarian regions said on Monday on state radio BNT. "The market has collapsed, the camps are full," said protest coordinator Dimitar Dimoitrov.
Ukrainian soldiers will soon complete German Leopard training
The Ukrainians who came to Germany for operational training on the Leopard 2 main battle tank are about to complete their training. After a course lasting several weeks, the soldiers fired live fire on Monday at the Bergen military training area in Lower Saxony. The Ukrainian soldiers could now conduct firefights with the modern weapon system, said Brigadier General Björn Schulz, commander of the tank troop school in Munster, Lower Saxony. Germany will deliver 18 modern Leopard 2A6 main battle tanks to Ukraine, Portugal another 3 of the weapon systems. This is part of military aid designed to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia. Experts firmly believe that the Leopard 2 is clearly superior in combat against Russian armored troops.
Completed Leopard training for Ukrainians in Spain
Also in Spain, ten Ukrainian tank crews completed their training on the Leopard A2. A total of 55 Ukrainian soldiers completed a four-week course at the training center in Zaragoza, Ukrainian media reported, citing the Defense Ministry in Madrid. In addition to the ten crews of four men each, specialists were also trained to maintain the complicated electronics and mechanics of the tanks. Spain had originally announced that it would hand over six main battle tanks to Ukraine, but may now want to increase this quota to ten.