Over the Black Sea, there was an incident between two Russian Su-27 fighters and an American MQ-9 reaper drone that fell into the sea. It is the first incident between the Russian and American air forces since the start of the war in Ukraine.
According to the commander of US Air Forces in Europe and Africa by James Hecker at the time of the incident, the drone was performing “routine operations in international airspace“.
In a press release, the US military explained that its reconnaissance aircraft was intercepted by two Russian aircraft, one of which hit the aircraft’s propeller, which then fell into the sea.
“This dangerous and unprofessional action by the Russians almost caused the crash of both planes,” said Hecker. The Russian fighter was said to have refueled the plane before the collision and flew unprofessionally and dangerously around it.
They added that the US Air Force will continue to operate in international airspace. At the same time, they called on Russia to behave professionally and safely, as the incident allegedly followed a pattern of dangerous behavior by Russian pilots in the vicinity of US and allied aircraft.
State Department spokesman Ned Price called the incident a clear violation of international law and announced that the Russian ambassador to the United States had been called to defend him.
Russia denies responsibility for the incident
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defense in Moscow has denied responsibility for the incident. They confirmed that two Russian fighter jets intercepted the aircraft, which, after attempting to evade, began to plummet, with no previous contact. Both planes returned safely to the base, they added in a press release, reports the German news agency dpa.
Moscow: Kyiv must accept the new reality on the ground
The Kremlin has announced that Russia can currently achieve its goals in Ukraine only through military force and that Kiev must accept the “new reality” on the ground before a peaceful resolution of the conflict is possible.
“We have to achieve our goals. At the moment, this is only possible by military means due to the position of the regime in Kiev,” a Kremlin spokesman said Dmitry Peskov.
Russia claims that it is fighting for the Ukraine “liberation” of the Russian-speaking population in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas from, as they say in Moscow, the neo-Nazi regime in Kiev. Moscow also uses terms “denazification” and “demilitarization” of Ukraine. Ukraine and the West point out that this is a baseless excuse to justify an act of aggression and an attempt to occupy a large part of Ukraine.
Peskov also said that Ukraine will have to accept “new reality” on the ground that was established after the Russian invasion a year ago, which in Moscow is characterized as “special military operation”.
It is without considering the new conditions “transition to a peaceful solution impossible”, Peskov said. Russia insists that Ukraine must accept the loss of parts of the country illegally annexed by Russia.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky he said that a peace agreement will be possible only when Russian troops completely withdraw from Ukrainian territory.
Zelensky: The future of Ukraine depends on the battles in the east of the country
Meanwhile, Zelensky said that the future of Ukraine depends on the outcome of the battles raging around Bakhmut and other key cities in the east of the country, or on the destruction of Russian forces there.
“It is very difficult, very painful in the East. We must destroy the enemy’s military power and we will,” said Zelensky.
The president listed the names of the cities where the key battles are taking place, Bilogorivka and Marinka, Avdijivka and Bahmut, Vugledar and Kamjanka. In these and other places, they are fighting for the future of all Ukrainians, he said.
“I am grateful to everyone who is now in conflict, to everyone who never lets down those who are next to them on the front line,” Zelenski added, according to Al Jazeera.
Russia says the occupation of Bahmut will pave the way for taking control of the entire Donetsk region, one of Moscow’s central goals in Ukraine.
After several weeks of fierce fighting, the Ukrainian army announces that it has not withdrawn from Bakhmut and that it intends to continue fighting there with the aim of inflicting as many losses as possible on Russian forces. Ukrainian forces are also suffering heavy losses.
Russian forces, led by the mercenaries of Wagner’s group, have occupied the eastern part of Bahmut, but have not yet completely surrounded the city. Then last week he warned that Bahmut could fall into Russian hands within days.
At the same time, a Ukrainian counter-offensive is increasingly expected. According to Russian reports, several Ukrainian brigades have gathered for this purpose between the cities of Slovyansk and Kostyantinivka. Until now, the mud, which is common at this time due to melting snow, did not allow fast progress outside of paved roads.
35-year-old Ukrainian paramedic Mihajlo Anest told Reuters that there was still a lot of shelling in the area, but that the fighting was less extensive than last month. The height of the fighting was two or three weeks ago, he said.
A little more than 4,000 people, including 33 children, are said to be living in Bahmut.
He doubts Zelensky’s decision
Meanwhile, some Ukrainian military analysts question Zelensky’s decision to continue defending Bakhmut instead of withdrawing from the city.
Oleg Zhdanov he said that Ukraine is sending reserve units trained in Western countries to Bahmut. The country thus loses the forces it is supposed to use in counter-offensives. “Everything we wanted to use in those counter-offensives could be lost here,” a military analyst said.
Also a Ukrainian military historian Roman Ponomarenko is concerned about the potential losses if Russia succeeds in encircling the city. “If we simply give up Bahmut and withdraw our troops, nothing terrible can happen. But if they close the circuit, we will lose both men and equipment,” he said to Ukrainian radio NV, according to the German portal Deutsche Welle.
The Russian army shelled Kramatorsk
The Russian army shelled the center of the city of Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine this morning. Zelenski announced on Facebook that residential buildings were damaged in the attack, one person was killed, and three people were injured.
According to Zelensky, six residential buildings were damaged in the Russian shelling, and according to the mayor of Kramatorsk, 25. The Ukrainian president also announced that the rescue operation in the area is continuing.
“The evil state continues to wage war against the civilian population, but it will be punished for these murders,” Zelensky was critical of Russia.
Kramatorsk, where about 150,000 people lived before the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February last year, and another 80,000 in December last year, lies near Bahmut. Kramatorsk is a regular target of Russian shelling, and since the Russian occupation of Donetsk in 2014, it has acted as a regional hub.
Last April, a Russian missile hit the railway station in Kramatorsk, killing around 60 civilians who were trying to flee the region.
Extension of the grain export agreement
Russia’s TASS news agency reported that the agreement on the safe export of grain from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports will be automatically extended after it expires on March 18 if there is no objection from the parties involved.
TASS, citing an unnamed source familiar with the negotiations, reports that so far none of the parties involved has indicated a withdrawal.
Russia indicated on Monday that the agreement could be extended for only 60 days after March 18, rather than the 120 that lasted for the last renewal.
Russia agrees to extend the agreement, but only for 60 days, the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister announced on Monday after talks with UN representatives Sergey Vershinin. According to him, the further extension of the agreement by Russia depends on compliance with the part of the agreement, which provides for the export of Russian grain and fertilizers without Western sanctions.
Russia has announced that it agrees to extend the agreement as a sign “good mood”, at the same time she warned that its key part has not yet been established, as she expects. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the West had not done enough to remove the barriers to Russian exports of agricultural products and fertilizers.
“The United Nations will do everything in its power to preserve the integrity of the agreement and ensure its continued implementation,” a spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in Geneva Jens Laerke and added that the consultations “with all sides and at different levels” continue, reports the French news agency AFP.
At the same time, he emphasized the importance of extending the agreement. “This is a good agreement (…) It has a very good effect on global food prices, because it lowers them, and food gets to the market and to the right places,” assessed Laerke and explained that for now it is not clear what exactly will happen on March 18, when the validity of the current agreement will expire.
The Ukrainian side announced on Monday that Russia’s decision for a 60-day extension is contrary to the original agreement. However, Kiev will, as the Ukrainian Minister of Infrastructure said Oleksandr Kubrakovwaited for the official position of the UN and Turkey on this matter.
The agreement was concluded by Russia and Ukraine last July with the mediation of the UN and Turkey.