Ukraine congratulated itself on Wednesday for having "defeated the winter terror", marked by intense Russian bombardments which plunged millions of people into the cold, Russia announcing for its part a "massive" attack of drones in Crimea annexed.
The ten Ukrainian aircraft sent to this peninsula have all been neutralized, the Russian army said. This is the second day in a row that Moscow has reported a drone attack.
"Winter is over. It was very difficult, every Ukrainian felt it," declared President Volodymyr Zelensky in the evening. "But we managed to supply Ukraine with energy and heating."
Earlier in the day, the head of Ukrainian diplomacy Dmytro Kouleba had said: "It was cold and dark, but we were unbreakable (...) Ukraine has overcome the winter terror".
He considered that the European Union had "also won" because it "did not freeze without the Russian gas", targeted by sanctions. Russia, which was one of the main suppliers to Europe, had relayed catastrophic predictions in the event of a cut in supplies.
"Our partners have stood by our side and helped us," Kouleba noted, adding, "There is still a long way to go until final victory. But we already know how to win."
The Secretary of the Security and Defense Council, Oleksiï Danilov, for his part wished his fellow citizens a "happy first day of the Ukrainian spring". "So did they manage to freeze us?" he quipped.
The winter in Ukraine was marked by a long series of Russian strikes using missiles and explosive drones, which hit energy sites, regularly causing massive cuts in electricity, heating and running water.
The Russian bombing had forced the national operator Ukrenergo to set up supplies intermittently, while the Ukrainian emergency services were busy repairing each damaged plant.
Millions of people, including in Kyiv and other major cities, have been left without heating in winter temperatures.
kyiv's Western allies gradually provided it with air defense systems, and Russia decreased the frequency and scale of its attacks.
Ukrenergo confirmed on Wednesday that the Ukrainian electricity system had not encountered any damage for 18 days and that no cuts were planned.
The Russian army said on Wednesday it repelled a "massive" drone attack on Crimea, a territory that Russia annexed in 2014 and uses as a rear base and port for its fleet, which has been targeted several times. since the start of the war.
The day before, several Russian regions, including for the first time that of Moscow, had been the target of Ukrainian drones.
Throughout the winter, the fighting has been concentrated in eastern Ukraine, particularly around the fortress city of Bakhmout, where the Ukrainian army reported on Tuesday an "extremely tense" situation in the face of repeated assaults.
During the night from Wednesday to Thursday, a missile fell on the city of Zaporijjia, in the south-east of Ukraine, a region regularly affected by Russian strikes. Two people died in the attack, according to city secretary Anatoly Kurtev, who said on his Telegram channel that civilians are still trapped under the rubble of a building.
Russian troops have taken several localities north of Bakhmout in recent weeks, tightening their grip on this city and cutting three of the four roads that allow it to be supplied.
On Wednesday morning, AFP journalists found that the road to Bakhmout and Chassiv Iar, a town just to the west, had been closed to traffic by the police.
The spokesman for the eastern command of the Ukrainian army, Serguiï Tcherevaty, denied to AFP that a Ukrainian withdrawal from Bakhmout was in progress.
A possible withdrawal "will depend on the operational situation. So far, such a decision has not been taken", he said.
Further north on this part of the front, Ukrainian doctors were trying to treat soldiers injured in the fighting.
"Here, someone is saved every day," Igor, an anesthetist, told AFP after examining a patient.
"He was seriously injured, he had a lot of trauma, to both shoulders, to the right lung, to the left thigh. The right lung was (perforated) right through, the same for the left thigh. He lost a lot of blood ", he says.
In Brussels, the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell also recommended in a document consulted by AFP that EU countries devote one billion euros to the purchase of 155 mm shells used by the Ukrainian artillery.
European leaders have promised Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to speed up the supply of arms and ammunition to enable Ukrainian forces to repel the onslaught of Russian troops.
On the diplomatic front, one of Moscow's main allies, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, said on Wednesday, during a rare visit to China, "totally" backing Chinese peace proposals for Ukraine.
In this twelve-point document, Beijing urges Russians and Ukrainians in particular to dialogue but also insists on respect for territorial integrity and opposes any recourse to nuclear weapons.
02/03/2023 04:41:52 - Kiev (Ukraine) (AFP) © 2023 AFP