Overview:

  • One killed, several injured after Russian missile hits cargo ship in Black Sea port
  • Candidates for US president define positions on Ukraine: Zelensky is “a Nazi”
  • ‘Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it,’ pro-Kyiv US candidate says
  • About 40,000 Russian reserves reported encircling Avdiivka, making more gains…
  • … but Russian losses in Avdiivka continue to mount quickly
  • AFU makes some advances on east bank of Dnipro
  • Ukrainian drones reportedly shot down over Crimea

A ship’s pilot was killed and crew injured by Russian missile in Odesa, risking commerce

A Russian missile blew up the superstructure of a Liberia-flagged cargo ship in the port of Odesa on Wednesday, killing the port pilot and injuring the Filipino crew. A statement from Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) said it was a Russian missile that struck the ship as it was being piloted through the harbor.

Continuing the terror on civilian shipping, the enemy insidiously fired a Kh-31P anti-radar missile in the direction of one of the ports of Odesa region from tactical aircraft in the Black Sea,” the Southern Command of the AFU said in a statement.

The ship was to be loaded with iron ore in Odesa and transported to China, Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said. The name of the vessel was not mentioned as of Wednesday, nor was the company that owned it.

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Russian airstrikes continuously have targeted Black Sea port infrastructure ever since Moscow pulled out of agreements that aimed to protect global shipments of grain. The Kremlin warned that any maritime vessels operating in the area could be seen as potential military targets.

In Republican debate, candidates for US President hold widely divergent views on Ukraine

While discussions about Israel dominated much of the Republican debate for the US presidential nomination on Wednesday night in Miami, in one question, candidates were asked about continuing funding for Ukraine. Their views ranged from rabidly anti-Kyiv to greatly supportive:

  • Vivek Ramaswamy, a California entrepreneur, said he is “absolutely against” sending any future aid to Ukraine. He repeated unfounded claims that US President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden (who consulted with a Ukrainian company) took bribes from officials in Kyiv and “that’s why we are sending 200 billion dollars back to that same country.” He went on to compare President Volodymyr Zelensky to a “Nazi,” said “Ukraine is not a paradigm of democracy,” and that Donetsk and Luhansk are “Russian-speaking regions that have not been part of Ukraine since 2014.”
  • Ron DeSantis, Florida’s governor, mostly took the opportunity to highlight his own military service in Iraq but promised that, if elected, he was “not going to send your sons and daughters to Ukraine… [Ukraine funding] is a totally ridiculous use of American tax dollars. We need the Europeans to step up and do their fair share.”
  • Tim Scott, Senator from South Carolina, took a more moderate position, saying that the “dollars and weaponry” from the US have been effective, and praised the valiance of Ukrainian soldiers who have “shed their blood,” but ultimately “we need to have some accountability.”
  • Nikki Haley, former Ambassador to the United Nations, responded by saying that Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin are “salivating at the thought that someone like [Ramaswamy] could become president.” She noted that “half a million people have died because of that thug [Putin]…. I think we should give [Ukraine] the equipment and the ammunition to win…. This unholy alliance between Russia, China and Iran is real,” she said.
  • Chris Christie, former governor of New Jersey, warned of a “Communist dictator” like Putin potentially moving forward to take Poland and the Baltic states. He continued with a comparison to World War II: “Let’s remember the last time we turned our back on Europe. Dictators work together… In 1992 this country made a promise to Ukraine, if you return the nuclear weapons to Russia, we will protect you… Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.”

The Republican front-runner in the polls, former president Donald Trump, again refused to show up for a debate, instead electing to put on a show for his base in nearby Hialeah, Florida.

GoPro Captures Intense Combat: Ukrainian Fighters vs. Russians Under Thermobaric Fire
Other Topics of Interest

GoPro Captures Intense Combat: Ukrainian Fighters vs. Russians Under Thermobaric Fire

Fighters of the Ukrainian Third Assault Brigade entered the dugouts where the Russian military was hiding and engaged in close combat, resulting in the capture of three Russian soldiers.

Operations: Avdiivka

A spokesperson for the AFU, Anton Kotsukon, said on Wednesday that Russian forces have surrounded Avdiivka on three sides, and have remained committed to the strategic city despite massive losses over the past month. The AFU estimates Moscow’s reserve forces in the area at 40,000 troops.

One Russian military blogger said in an unconfirmed claim Wednesday that some Russian units are within 400 meters of the Ukrainian-held city on the border of occupied territory in Donetsk.

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Moscow’s forces reportedly advanced to the railway line in Stepove, but Russian bloggers admitted that those units suffered huge losses to make that gain. For its part, the AFU’s General Staff contends that its troops repelled Russian assaults near Keramik (14 km northwest of Avdiivka), Stepove (3 km northwest of Avdiivka), Tonenke (7 km northwest of Avdiivka), and Pervomaiske (11 km southwest of Avdiivka).

One Russian military blogger claimed that Russian forces have advanced to positions 400 meters from the southern border of Avdiivka, but the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said it “has not observed visual evidence of this claim.”

Meanwhile, Ukrainian Tavriisk Group of Forces Spokesperson Colonel Oleksandr Shtupun said on Tuesday that Russian forces in the Avdiivka area “lost 585 personnel within the past day during light infantry attacks without armored vehicle support,” the ISW reported.

Finally, a prolific Russian military blogger often quoted by the ISW said that Ukrainian forces made “marginal gains during counterattacks near Avdiivka” on Wednesday, counterattacking Russian positions near Vodyane.

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Operations: Dnipro River and Kherson region

Russian military bloggers said on Wednesday that AFU troops continue to maintain positions on the east bank of the Dnipro River and indeed made some advances near Krynky. Ukrainian forces reportedly advanced near Krynky on Wednesday and maintained positions in the central part of the town, two kilometers from the river.

There are regular claims in the blogosphere about “creeping” advances of Russian units in the area, with one social media user saying invading forces are advancing about “one meter per day,” while the AFU continues to shuttle in reinforcements on the Dnipro’s east bank.

Meanwhile, the Moscow-installed regional head of Kherson, Vladimir Saldo, claimed on Wednesday that Russian air defenses shot down three Ukrainian missiles over occupied the Henichesk district. Also, a Kremlin-affiliated Russian blogger claimed on Tuesday that Russian air defenses and electronic warfare (EW) systems downed 17 Ukrainian drones, primarily targeting the Belbek and Saky airfields in Crimea.

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