Situation ‘Very Difficult’ In East, Zelenskyy Says, As Ukraine Calls Again For Jets, Weapons
By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov will be replaced by General Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence agency, a senior lawmaker in the president’s parliamentary bloc said on February 5. Reznikov is being transferred to another post, said David Arakhamia, the leader of the Servant of the People faction in parliament.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said the situation is “very difficult” in the eastern region of Donetsk and elsewhere as Russia intensifies its war effort as the first anniversary nears of its full-scale attack on Ukraine.
“Things are very difficult in Donetsk region. Fierce battles,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address on February 5. “But, however difficult it is and however much pressure there is, we must endure.”
Zelenskiy said Moscow was intensifying its attacks in an attempt to “make up for its defeats last year. We see that on various sectors of the front and also pressure in terms of information.”
Heavy shelling was also reported in the key eastern city of Kharkiv and the strategic southern port of Kherson on February 5.
Ukrainian authorities said numerous residential buildings were hit by Russian rocket attacks in Kherson, while Kharkiv Governor Oleh Synehubov said missiles struck a residential building in the city center, injuring at least five people.
Earlier in the day, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov renewed calls for allies to supply additional weapons, including fighter jets, saying the West’s reluctance to send such aircraft will “cost us more lives” in the battle against Russian forces.
“I am sure that we will win this war. I am sure we will liberate all the occupied territories,” Reznikov told a Kyiv news conference on February 5. But without Western supplies of jets, “it will cost us more lives.”
Western leaders have said it is not practical to send such jets to Ukraine given the amount of time it would take to train pilots and maintenance crews and amid fears of widening the conflict.
At the same news conference, Reznikov vowed his country will not use newly provided long-range weapons to target sites inside Russia amid the same fears of escalating tensions.
“Our partners decided to provide us with weapons capable of firing at a distance of 150 kilometers,” Reznikov said.
“We always tell our partners that we take an obligation not to use the weapons of foreign partners against the territory of Russia, only against their units in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine for the purpose of de-occupying our land,” he added.
Reznikov said Russia could launch a new offensive later this month for symbolic reasons as the war approaches the anniversary of the February 24, 2022, invasion, but that Ukraine was prepared to hold off any major military onslaught.
Ukraine’s military, in its regular update on February 5, claimed 131,290 Russian military personnel have been killed in Ukraine since Russia invaded the country last year.
The Ukrainian General Staff said 700 Russian soldiers were killed just over the past day.
The update — which is often higher than Western estimates — also said Russia had lost 3,220 tanks, 6,405 armored vehicles, and 2,226 artillery systems since the war began.
Citing U.S. and other Western officials, The New York Times reported earlier this month that the number of Russian troops killed and wounded in Ukraine was approaching 200,000 in total.
Heavy fighting was under way on February 5 in the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut in the eastern region of Donetsk, according to Yevgeny Prigozhin the head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group.
“In the northern quarters of [Bakhmut], fierce battles are going on for every street, every house, every stairwell,” Prigozhin said on Telegram, adding that Ukrainian forces were not retreating.
“The Ukrainian armed forces are fighting to the last,” he said.
Bakhmut has been virtually razed by repeated Russian artillery bombardments as Moscow has been trying to seize control of the city for months.
The British Defense Ministry said that “over the last week, Russia has continued to make small advances in its attempt to encircle” Bakhmut.
“The M03 and the H32 — the two main roads into the city for Ukrainian defenders — are likely now both threatened by direct fire, following the Russian advances,” it said in its regular update on February 5.
In the neighboring Luhansk region, Ukrainian forces remained in control of the village of Bilohorivka, the regional governor said, rejecting claims by some Russian-installed officials that the village was captured by the Russian Army.
“Our troops remain in their positions, nobody has captured Bilohorivka, nobody has entered there, there is no enemy there,” Serhiy Hayday told the Ukrainian national broadcaster.
He said the situation was “tense,” as “the number of Russian attacks has increased,” but he added that “all of the [attacks] have been repulsed” by Ukrainian troops.
Three people were wounded on February 5 by two Russian missiles in the northeastern city of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, according to local officials. Kharkiv Governor Oleh Synehubov said the missiles hit a residential building in the city center.
The claims cannot be independently verified.
In Germany, Chancellor Olaf Scholz again rejected concerns that Berlin’s recent decision to supply Ukraine with its Leopard tanks could make Germany an active party to the conflict with Russia.
“We have carefully weighed every arms shipment [to Ukraine], coordinated them closely with our allies, first and foremost with the United States,” Scholz told Germany’s Bild am Sonntag, in comments seen by dpa ahead of publication on February 5.
“This joint approach prevents an escalation of the war,” said the German chancellor, who has faced much criticism over his initial reluctance to send the Leopards.
Scholz also said that Russian President Vladimir Putin in his telephone conversations “has not made any threats against me or Germany.”
Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this week said Putin had threatened him with a missile strike that would “only take a minute.” The Kremlin said Johnson was lying.
Scholz said the conversations he had with Putin made it clear they had very different views of the war in Ukraine. “I make it very clear to Putin that Russia has sole responsibility for the war,” Scholz said.