Shelling and Intense Fighting in Ukraine's Eastern Provinces

The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has taken a deadly turn as shelling by Russian forces destroyed homes and killed multiple civilians in different parts of the country. The Kharkiv province in northern Ukraine was hit by Russian shelling, leaving at least one person dead and several homes razed, according to Governor Oleh Syniehubov. The town of Kupiansk, which is just 30 kilometers from the Russian border, has come under frequent attacks despite Russian ground forces withdrawing from the area almost six months ago.

Meanwhile, the eastern city of Bakhmut has become a hotbed of fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces, with the latter trying to capture the city as part of their offensive in eastern Ukraine. Donetsk province Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko reported that two civilians were killed in the past day, and the area has seen some of the bloodiest ground fighting of the war.

Ukrainian forces have been trying to inhibit Russian movement in the area and limit exit routes to the west. They recently destroyed two key bridges just outside Bakhmut, including one that linked it to the nearby town of Chasiv Yar along the last remaining Ukrainian resupply route, according to U.K. military intelligence officials and other Western analysts.

The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, assessed last week that Kyiv’s actions may point to a looming pullout from parts of the city. It said Ukrainian troops may “conduct a limited and controlled withdrawal from particularly difficult sections of eastern Bakhmut,” while seeking to inhibit Russian movement there and limit exit routes to the west.

If Russian forces capture Bakhmut, it would not only give them a rare battlefield gain after months of setbacks but also potentially rupture Ukraine’s supply lines and allow them to press on toward other Ukrainian strongholds in Donetsk province.

The violence has also spread to other parts of the country. In southern Ukraine, a woman and two children were killed in a residential building in the village of Poniativka, while a man and his wife were killed in the village of Burdarky when a Russian artillery shell hit their car, according to the regional prosecutor’s office. The death toll from a Russian missile strike that hit a five-story apartment building in southern Ukraine on Thursday has also risen to 13, according to Ukraine’s emergency services.

Amidst the chaos, one of the few areas of cooperation between Ukraine and Russia has been grain shipments. The two countries have been exporting grain from their respective Black Sea ports under an agreement brokered by the U.N. and Turkey in July 2022. The deal has helped keep global food prices stable, but it is set to expire on March 18.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has announced that his country is making “intense efforts” to extend the agreement and allow Ukraine to continue exporting grain. He discussed the matter with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during the U.N. Conference on Least Developed Countries in Doha, Qatar.

However, Russian officials have complained that shipments of their fertilizer were not being facilitated under the agreement, leaving the deal’s renewal in question. The situation highlights the ongoing tensions and complex relationships between the involved countries, with cooperation in one area contrasted by violent conflict in another.