• NATO’s Stoltenberg hints that he and the Republican House leader are on same page on Ukraine
  • Ukrainian Storm Shadow missiles believed to have hit airfield in Crimea
  • Russians make more advances around Avdiivka and Bakhmut
  • US Undersecretary of State in Kyiv delivers praise for Ukrainian soldiers
  • North Korean artillery rounds said to be employed in Moscow’s offensive
  • Unofficial news of Zaluzhny’s release seen as a done deal across the Atlantic

“Supporting Ukraine is not a charity,” NATO chief tells Washington lawmakers

Wrapping up his visit to Washington, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday addressed conservative lawmakers, stressing the importance of approving Democratic President Joe Biden’s $61 billion supplemental aid to Kyiv, despite former president Donald Trump's behind-the-scenes effort to kill any such deal.

Stoltenberg reported on social media that he and Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) “agreed” on the importance of standing up to Putin. The joint statement released by the two used the word “addressed.”

“We addressed the importance of sending a clear, decisive message to President Putin that he will not win his war of aggression in Ukraine,” the joint statement reads.


Speaking at a pro-Trump think tank, The Heritage Foundation, Stoltenberg said, “What you produce keeps people safe. What allies buy keeps American business strong.”

“So NATO is a good deal for the United States,” AFP quoted him as saying. The NATO chief underscored that US aid so far has helped destroy “a substantial part of Russia’s combat capacity.”

He appealed to the business-friendly crowd with economic numbers: US manufacturers have exported $120 billion in arms to allies over the past two years, money that creates domestic jobs and profits.

Russia Tries to Advance Before Ukraine’s F-16s Arrive, Says Syrsky
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Russia Tries to Advance Before Ukraine’s F-16s Arrive, Says Syrsky

Kyiv’s Commander-in-Chief said Russia is now working hard to erode Ukraine’s forces the best it can before F-16s arrive and strengthen Ukrainian skies.

“Supporting Ukraine is not a charity,” Stoltenberg said. “It is an investment in our own security.”

Ukrainian missiles hit near Belbek airfield in occupied Crimea

Geolocated imagery posted on Wednesday seems to show a Ukrainian air strike near the Belbek airfield near Sevastopol, occupied Crimea.

Ukrainian Air Force Commander Lt. Gen. Mykola Oleshchuk thanked Ukrainian forces for striking the targets:

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), however, said it has yet to observe definitive evidence indicating which Russian targets the Ukrainian Armed Forces (AFU) struck at or near the airfield.


Meanwhile, the ISW reported that the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Russian forces intercepted 20 Ukrainian missiles, 17 reportedly on the approaches to Sevastopol on Wednesday. A Russian blogger wrote that these were likely Storm Shadow missiles, reminiscent of similar Storm Shadow attacks in the vicinity of the same airfield in October.

The Russian MoD claimed that missile fragments fell in Lyubimovka (northeast of Sevastopol), and Sevastopol occupation governor Mikhail Razvozhaev claimed that “missile fragments damaged buildings along Fedorivska Street in the vicinity of the Belbek airfield,” ISW reported.

Operations: Donetsk region

The ISW reported on Wednesday that Russian troops advanced in areas along both the Avdiivka and Bakhmut fronts, citing geolocated footage.

Imagery appears to show that Moscow’s troops marginally advanced along streets in the southernmost residential areas of Avdiivka. A Russian military blogger claimed that the units advanced along a front up to 500 meters wide to a depth of 300 meters along Chernyshevskoho, Sportyvna, and Soborna Streets in southern Avdiivka.


Donetsk regional military administration head Vadym Filashkin also stated that Russian forces launched 24 glide bombs at Avdiivka this week, ISW reported.

Meanwhile, along the Bakhmut front, geolocated imagery published on Tuesday indicates that Russian forces advanced east of Ivanivske, a town immediately west of Bakhmut.

 “Putin is going to get some nice surprises on the battlefield,” US envoy says in Kyiv

The US acting Deputy Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, visited Kyiv on Wednesday to ease worries that American aid could be drying up, and to praise Ukraine’s defense efforts to date in Russia’s full-scale invasion.

 “I leave Kyiv tonight more encouraged about the unity and the result, about 2024 and its absolute strategic importance for Ukraine,” AFP quoted Nuland as saying.

“I also leave more confident that, as Ukraine strengthens its defenses, [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is going to get some nice surprises on the battlefield and that Ukraine will make some very strong success,” she said, noting that Ukraine has “inflicted massive damages on Putin’s land forces.”

Her comments came as Putin claimed that Moscow’s troops now control the outskirts of Avdiivka, presumably aiming to appease voters ahead of the March presidential elections that Russia’s staggering losses there have yielded results.


Russia said to be using North Korean artillery, in addition to its missiles

State media outlet Ukrinform reported on Wednesday that a military intelligence spokesperson confirmed that Russia is using North Korean-supplied artillery shells in the war against Ukraine.

Andriy Yusov, a spokesman for Ukraine’s defense intelligence (HUR), told Ukrinform, “Yes, we can confirm that if we are talking about artillery rounds, such cooperation between the two regimes is being documented. North Korea has already delivered a significant part of artillery rounds to Russia. Some of them have already been used and are being used in the war against Ukraine.”

Pyongyang had reportedly delivered more than a million artillery shells to Russia back in November.

The use of North Korean missiles against targets in the Kharkiv region had already been widely reported, but this represents the first official confirmation of North Korean artillery in Ukraine. A spokesman for Ukraine’s Ground Forces Command, Volodymyr Fitio said it is more difficult to determine definitively whether a North Korean shell had been used “since the rounds fully disintegrate during the explosion.”

American media not quite sure what to make of Zaluzhny’s reported ouster

With the ticker “Top Ukraine General Fired,” US cable news giant CNN interviewed Ukraine’s defense intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov, whom they identified as a likely successor to Valery Zaluzhny, on the “Erin Burnett Out Front” program on Wednesday. Burnett called Zaluzhny’s “firing” a bombshell, even though the news has not been confirmed by the Ukrainian president’s office.


In a meeting on Monday with President Volodymyr Zelensky, Zaluzhny was reportedly told that he was being replaced, but no official announcement has yet been made. The news has caused disbelief among his loyal soldiers, and much confusion in the American media, some of whom, such as CNN, are reporting it as a fait accompli.

Zelensky spokesman Serhiy Nykyforov on Monday denied the news that Zaluzhny had been fired. “[This is not a] subject of conversation,” he said. “The president did not dismiss the commander-in-chief.”

When asked by reporters about the matter at a Pentagon briefing on Tuesday, Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder of the US Air Force said only, “I’m not tracking any changes [on that], obviously it’s for Ukraine to discuss their domestic affairs.”

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