Overview:

  • US tells Hungarian government to tone down the “wild” rants about Ukraine
  • Mobile polling stations open up in Russian-occupied regions
  • Sweden gets on board the Czech initiative to supply Kyiv with ammo
  • “Russia is paying a high price for minor gains,” says NATO chief
  • Moscow’s units continue to push westward from Avdiivka and Verbove

US envoy warns Orban that his dangerous “anti-American messaging” is risky

In a speech marking the 25th anniversary of Hungary’s membership in NATO, the US Ambassador to that country told its prime minister, in no uncertain terms, to keep a lid on the “wild rhetoric” about the war in Ukraine and the “dangerously unhinged anti-American messaging.”

In an interview with state media last week, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said he “would not give a penny to the Ukrainian-Russian war” and that “Ukraine cannot stand on its own two feet.”

The prime minister also said it would be bad news if President Joe Biden were to win re-election in the United States.

US Ambassador David Pressman said remarks like those, Orban’s cozy relationship with Moscow, and his antics in trying to keep Sweden out of NATO, risk damaging the two countries’ relationship.

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Pressman called Hungary an ally “that behaves unlike any other” and was expressed concern about a “long-time friend and ally saying and doing things that undermine trust and friendship.”

“Orban, who on one hand baselessly claims that the United States government is trying to overthrow his government, publicly calls for the political defeat of the president of the United States and actively participates in US partisan political events,” Pressman complained.

Russia’s Latest Mobilization – Cats from Tatarstan
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Russia’s Latest Mobilization – Cats from Tatarstan

Volunteers sending the cats implied that local Ukrainian cats are eating Russian corpses.

“While the Hungarian government’s wild rhetoric in state controlled media may incite passion, or ignite an electoral base, the choice to issue, on a daily basis, dangerously unhinged anti-American messaging is a policy choice, and it risks changing Hungary’s relationship with America,” he said.

Early voting underway in occupied regions for Russian presidential elections

Mobile voting polls appeared on Thursday in occupied regions of Ukraine, as Russia began voting in presidential elections that officials in Kyiv have called a “farce,” according to AFP.

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Voting will run from March 15 to March 17, just as the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) have ramped up aerial assaults on settlements by the Russian border, and the Russian national guard said it was fighting off attacks from pro-Ukrainian militias in the border region of Kursk, AFP reported.

Also, there will be no protests during the election period, the Kremlin firmly stated.

“The organization of and participation in these mass events are punishable by virtue of the legislation in place,” prosecutors in Moscow announced on social media.

Sweden pledges €30 million ($32.6 million) to Czech artillery supply initiative

Fresh from its induction into NATO, Sweden announced on Wednesday it will join the Czech Republic’s initiative to purchase ammunition for Ukraine from outside the European Union.

At the Munich Security Conference in mid-February, Czech President Petr Pavel launched an initiative to provide Ukraine with more artillery shells, encouraging EU member states to pitch in for an estimated 800,000 shells found outside of the bloc’s borders.

State media Ukrinform also noted that Sweden recently gifted a 7.1 billion kroner (about $683 million) package to Kyiv.

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NATO Chief says Ukraine has shown that Russia can be defeated

Meeting with Polish President Andrzei Duda in Brussels on Wednesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a press conference that, “Ukraine has shown that Russian forces can be defeated.”

“Russia is paying a very high price for minor gains,” Stoltenberg said. “On land, Putin’s war has already cost Russia over 350,000 military casualties. At sea, Ukrainian attacks have sunk or disabled a significant part of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. In the air, Ukraine has been shooting down key Russian targets, including expensive reconnaissance aircraft,” Stoltenberg said.

Official Ukrainian claims of Russian casualties from its full-scale invasion are a bit higher, at about 428,000. Kyiv’s count of destroyed Russian naval vessels stands at 26, and aircraft, including helicopters, at 672.

Operations: Donetsk region

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reported that Russian forces recently advanced further into Berdychi (northwest of Avdiivka) on Thursday.

Geolocated footage published on Wednesday and Thursday seems to show that the invaders have taken up positions along Myr and Kazberov streets in central Berdychi. One Kremlin-loyal blogger claimed that Russian units also advanced further into Pervomaiske (southwest of Avdiivka), although ISW analysts said they could not independently verify these claims.

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Also, while the Russian Ministry of Defense claimed that its troops have seized the entirety of the town of Nevelske on Tuesday, one rare dissenting Russian blogger claimed that Ukrainian forces maintain positions there.

Operations: Zaporizhzhia region

According to geolocated footage posted on Thursday, Moscow’s forces have also gained territory west of Verbove (east of Robotyne) in the western parts of the Zaporizhzhia region, the ISW noted. One Russian blogger added that AFU attempts to counterattack northwest of Verbove were unsuccessful.

Observers noted that the Russian units involved in the fighting included elements of the 429th Motorized Rifle Regiment (19th Motorized Rifle Division, 58th Combined Arms Army, Southern Military District).

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