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Russia Strikes Ukraine’s Energy Infrastructure, As Kyiv Claims Heavy Russian Battlefield Losses

Russia’s military said it had carried out a “massive strike” with missiles and drones on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and that it had blocked rail and land routes used to deliver Western weaponry to Ukrainian forces, while Kyiv said its military had inflicted heavy casualties on Moscow’s invasion force as battles raged in the east of the country.

“The Russian armed forces launched a massive attack on energy facilities critical to the operations of the Ukrainian defense and transport industry,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on February 11, without providing details. “All the targeted objects were hit.”

Ukrainian authorities earlier reported power cuts in many cities and towns, but the military also said 61 of the more than 100 cruise missiles fired by Russian forces had been shot down and that more than 1,100 Russian soldiers had been killed in fighting during the past 24 hours.

Battlefield reports are difficult to independently verify, but Russian military officials and others are increasingly acknowledging heavy casualty levels in the war as the one-year anniversary of the invasion approaches.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Russian Wagner mercenary group, admitted that Russian forces were facing strong resistance from the Ukrainian military in the strategically important eastern city of Bakhmut.

Prigozhin’s published remarks on February 10 came as Ukrainian officials said a long-anticipated Russian offensive was under way in the east.

Kyiv has been expecting a new Russian military offensive, convinced that after months of setbacks Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to highlight battlefield success before the anniversary of his unprovoked invasion on February 24.

Putin is scheduled to deliver his delayed annual address to parliament on February 21.

Prigozhin said in the interview with a Russian military correspondent that Russian forces need to capture Bakhmut, which has been the site of intense fighting for weeks now.

Wagner began recruiting prisoners in Russia’s sprawling penal system last summer, with Prigozhin, a catering entrepreneur who served nine years in prison during the Soviet Union, offering convicts a pardon if they survived six months in Ukraine. On February 9, Wagner said it had stopped recruiting prisoners to fight in Ukraine.

“Bakhmut is needed so our troops can operate comfortably,” said Prigozhin, who has criticized Russia’s military leadership and certain officials. “Why is it called the ‘meat grinder’? Because the Ukrainian Army is sending more and more and more units.” Ukraine and the West have said the nickname is due to Russian tactics of throwing legions of untrained soldiers into the fray.

In its daily update on February 10, Britain’s Defense Intelligence said Wagner forces appear to have advanced 2 to 3 kilometers around the north of Bakhmut since February 7. It also said Russian forces had made some advances near Vuhledar, some 150 kilometers southeast of the fighting in and around Bakhmut, but that Russia’s small gains had likely come at a high cost, including at least 30 armored vehicles abandoned in one failed assault.

In its daily update on February 11, the General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said that, along with the large numbers of Russian soldiers killed in the past 24 hours, it also had destroyed nine tanks and three armored vehicles on the battlefield.

Citing senior U.S. officials, The New York Times reported on February 2 that fighting around Bakhmut had caused Russian casualty figures to spike.

On the diplomatic front, the White House said U.S. President Joe Biden is scheduled to visit Poland on February 20-22 to meet with allies and discuss the Ukraine war. Warsaw has been a major supporter of Kyiv’s effort to defend itself since the Russian invasion.