Russia-Ukraine war: Nato defence ministers to meet in Brussels; Bakhmut under heavy fire – live | Ukraine

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Key events

Summary and welcome

Hello and welcome back to the Guardian’s live coverage of the war in Ukraine. I’m Samantha Lock and I’ll be bringing you all the latest developments as they unfold.

The eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut is facing heavy artillery fire from Russia’s forces, according to local officials. The Ukrainian military earlier reported that 16 nearby settlements had been bombarded.

A two-day meeting of Nato defence ministers is set to begin today in Brussels where leaders will discuss possible further military aid for Ukraine.

Nato’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said he expected the issue of aircraft to be discussed, but stressed that Ukraine needed urgent support on the ground now.

He also said Nato planned to increase its ammunition stockpile targets as Kyiv is burning through shells much faster than western countries are able to produce.

It’s 7.30am in Kyiv. Here’s where we stand:

  • A major new Russian offensive has begun, Nato’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, has said. Speaking ahead of a two-day meeting of Nato defence ministers in Brussels, Stoltenberg said Russia was “sending more troops, more weapons, more capabilities”. Nato planned to increase its ammunition stockpile targets and he expected possible supply of aircraft to Ukraine to be discussed. Stoltenberg said Ukraine’s use of ammunition was “many times higher than our current rate of production”.

  • Ukrainian defenders who have held out for months are braced for new ground attacks, Ukrainian military officials have said. The eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut is facing heavy artillery fire, according to local officials. “The city, the city’s suburbs, the entire perimeter, and essentially the entire Bakhmut direction and Kostyantynivka are under crazy, chaotic shelling,” said Volodymyr Nazarenko, deputy commander of Ukraine’s Svoboda battalion. The Ukrainian military reported 16 settlements had been bombarded near Bakhmut.

  • President Volodymyr Zelenskiy thanked Ukrainian soldiers for “preventing the occupiers from encircling Bakhmut”. The capture of Bakhmut would give Russia a new foothold in the Donetsk region and constitute a rare victory after months of setbacks.

  • Ukraine’s top general and the top US army commander in Europe have discussed further military aid for Kyiv. Valeriy Zaluzhnyi from Ukraine talked to the commander in chief of Europe’s combined Nato forces, US General Christopher Cavoli, ahead of the Nato defence ministers’ meeting. “We discussed the issue of supplying international military aid to Ukraine and training our units on the territory of partner countries,” Ukraine’s defence ministry quoted Zaluzhnyi as saying.

  • Ukraine’s allies have begun training Ukrainian troops on the Leopard 2 and other modern battle tanks. Germany started training Ukrainian soldiers on the Leopards on Monday at an army base in the northern town of Munster. Ukrainian troops are also being trained by Polish, Canadian and Norwegian instructors at a military base in Swietoszow, south-west Poland.

  • Two Dutch F-35 fighters have intercepted a formation of three Russian military aircraft near Poland and escorted them out. The Netherlands’ defence ministry said: “The then unknown aircraft approached the Polish Nato area of responsibility from Kaliningrad,” according to a Reuters translation of the ministry’s statement. “After identification, it turned out to be three aircraft: a Russian IL-20M Coot-A that was escorted by two Su-27 Flankers. The Dutch F-35s escorted the formation from a distance and handed over the escort to Nato partners.”

  • Moldova’s president, Maia Sandu, has accused Russia of planning to use foreign saboteurs to overthrow her country’s government, prevent it from joining the EU and use it in the war against Ukraine. Sandu’s comments on Monday came after Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said his country had intercepted plans by Russian secret services “for the destruction of Moldova” – this was later backed up by Moldovan intelligence officials.

  • Russia is set to become “more authoritarian and militarised” in the coming years, Norway’s intelligence services believes. “There is no turning back,” said Lars Nordrum, second in command of the Norwegian intelligence service. “Russian interests will not be compatible with those of the west.”

  • Russian arms supplies to India have been worth $13bn in the past five years, and India has placed orders for another £10bn, according to Russian state media. India is the world’s biggest buyer of Russian arms, accounting for about 20% of Moscow’s current order book. India has not condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and its prime minister, Narendra Modi, has called for dialogue and diplomacy to solve the conflict.

  • An unverified video is being circulated on social media that appears to show the murder with a sledgehammer of a former Russian mercenary who fled the Wagner group while fighting in Ukraine. The clip is similar to one that showed the killing of another Wagner fighter, Yevgeny Nuzhin, in November last year. Wagner’s founder declined to say whether the apparent victim had been killed or not.

  • The UN human rights office said it had recorded 7,199 civilian deaths and 11,756 wounded since Russia’s February invasion, mostly from shelling, missiles and airstrikes. However, it believed the actual figure was far higher.

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