Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu on Saturday has carried out an inspection of the front line in eastern Ukraine, according to the ministry, as fighting raged around the besieged city of Bakhmut. Ukrainian forces defending the eastern city are facing increasingly strong pressure from Russian forces, British intelligence said. Read about the day’s events as they unfolded on our liveblog. All times Paris time (GMT+1).
6:35pm: Mourners commemorate death anniversary of 8 men killed in Bucha
Clutching flowers and wiping away tears, relatives and friends of eight men executed by Russian forces during the occupation of the Ukrainian town of Bucha marked the first anniversary of the deaths.
The eight had set up a roadblock in an attempt to prevent Russian troops from advancing as they swept toward Kyiv at the start of their invasion. But they were captured, Ukrainian authorities say, and executed.
Their bodies lay outside a building on Yablunska Street for a month, with relatives only able to collect them in April after Russian troops pulled out of Bucha.
Relatives gathered for the anniversary commemoration at the building where the bodies of the men were found. Photos of the victims were hung on the wall of the building between two Ukrainian flags. A wreath of red plastic roses and bouquets of blue and yellow flowers lean against the wall beneath the pictures.
Anna Levchenko, 81, kisses the picture of her grandson Andrii Matviichuk, during a ceremony marking the first anniversary of his death in Bucha, Ukraine, on March 4, 2023.
Anna Levchenko, 81, kisses the picture of her grandson Andrii Matviichuk, during a ceremony marking the first anniversary of his death in Bucha, Ukraine, on March 4, 2023. © Thibault Camus, AP
6:14pm: Death toll in Zaporizhzhia strike rises to 11
The death toll from a Russian missile strike on Thursday that hit an apartment block in the southern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia has risen to 11 after a woman’s body was found in the debris, according to the state emergency service.
One child was among those killed in Thursday’s early-morning strike on the five-storey residential building, the service said in a post on the Telegram messaging app.
Officials from the regional administration said in another post that a Russian S-300 missile had hit the building.
5:15pm:Ukrainians still fighting for Bakhmut, but for how long is an ‘open question’
Reporting from the eastern Ukrainian city of Kostyantynivka, which lies west of Bakhmut, FRANCE 24 Gulliver Cragg says there’s little doubt that Bakhmut has been “practically surrounded” by the Russians. But, Cragg notes, “there’s a big difference of course between being ‘practically’ or ‘almost’ surrounded, and ‘fully’ surrounded.”
Cragg’s comments come a day after Wagner Group boss Yevgeny Prigozhin said his fighters had “practically” encircled” Bakhmut, which has seen some of the fiercest fighting of the conflict.
Ukrainian forces still have access to Bakhmut, said Cragg. “There are still various dirt roads that the Ukrainian forces can use to get in and out of the city – which have been used in recent days by two top Ukrainian commanders as a means of showing that, for the moment, they’re still there and they’re still fighting for Bakhmut. But for how long that can go on for clearly that does seem to be very much an open question,” said Cragg.
In the video, Prigozhin, clad in full military gear, said: “We are sending another shipment of Ukrainian army fighters home. They fought bravely, and perished. That’s why the latest truck will take them back to their motherland.”
The footage shows men in uniform nailing wooden coffins shut and loading them onto a truck.
The latest video came a day after Prigozhin released a clip on Friday claiming his group had “practically encircled” the easter Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.
Prigozhin, whose Wagner Group has spearheaded Russia’s months-long assault on Bakhmut, has repeatedly praised the Ukrainian army as a worthy and capable adversary.
10:20am: Ukraine forces under increasingly severe Russian pressure defending Bakhmut, UK says
Ukrainian forces defending Bakhmut are facing increasingly strong pressure from Russian forces, British military intelligence said on Saturday, with intense fighting taking place in and around the eastern city.
Russian artillery pounded the last routes out of Bakhmut on Friday, aiming to complete the encirclement of the besieged Ukrainian city and bring Moscow closer to its first major victory in half a year after the bloodiest battle of the war. Reuters observed intense Russian shelling of routes leading west out of Bakhmut, an apparent attempt to block Ukrainian forces’ access in and out of the city. A bridge in the adjacent town of Khromove was damaged by Russian tank shelling.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of Russia’s Wagner mercenary force, said in a video Bakhmut was “practically surrounded” by his forces and Kyiv’s forces had only one road out left.
9:10am: Russia’s defence minister Shoigu pays rare visit inspecting troops on Ukraine front line
Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu has paid a rare visit to Russia’s forces, carrying out an inspection of the front line in eastern Ukraine, the ministry said Saturday, as fighting rages around the eastern city of Bakhmut.
In a statement published on Telegram, the ministry said “the Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation, General of the Army Sergei Shoigu, inspected the forward command post of one of the formations of the Eastern Military District in the South Donetsk direction”, without specifying the exact place or time.
In video published by the ministry, Shoigu is seen awarding medals to Russian military personnel and touring a ruined town with the Eastern Military District’s commander, Colonel-General Rustam Muradov.
Russia’s top military chiefs have visited the front line in Ukraine only sparingly since Russia invaded the country in what it calls a “special military operation” a year ago.
“We are here today in Ukraine to speak clearly, and with one voice: the perpetrators of those crimes will not get away with them,” Garland said. He went to Lviv in western Ukraine at the invitation of his Ukrainian counterpart to take part in the “United for Justice Conference”.
Garland told the conference the United States stood beside Ukraine’s war crimes investigators as they collect and catalogue evidence from blast sites that include hospitals, apartment buildings and schools, exhume mass graves and study human remains – “in order to tell the stories of those who no longer can”, according to a Justice Department transcript of his remarks.