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Ukraine war: Bakhmut gains, American allegedly killed by Wagner, F-16 fighter jets

Ukrainian soldiers fire a cannon near Bakhmut, an eastern city where fierce battles against Russian forces have been taking place, in the Donetsk region, Ukraine.
Ukrainian soldiers fire a cannon near Bakhmut, an eastern city where fierce battles against Russian forces have been taking place, in the Donetsk region, Ukraine. Copyright LIBKOS/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright LIBKOS/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Euronews with AFP/AP
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These are the latest developments from the Ukraine war this Wednesday.

Finland's diplomats resort to cash after Russia freezes accounts

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Russia has frozen the bank accounts of Finland’s diplomatic missions in Moscow and St. Petersburg, forcing them to rely on cash payments, the country's foreign minister said on Wednesday.

Pekka Haavisto said Moscow’s move - which has impacted making rent, electricity and water payments - breaches the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

Helsinki has delivered a diplomatic note about the matter to Russia, he added. 

“We’re not alone,” Haavisto told reporters. “Some other European Union nations have encountered problems with money traffic in Russia. But according to our information, restrictions on Finland are among the tightest.”

He didn’t see the move as linked to Finland’s recent membership of NATO but rather to Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.

Finland became the 31st member of NATO last month, a historic move after decades of military nonalignment, though it was close to the US-led alliance.  

Ukraine claims it has gained ground around Bakhmut

Kyiv said on Tuesday it had captured 20 square kilometres from Russian forces around Bakhmut in recent days.

Likened to a "meat grinder", the devastated eastern city has been an epicentre of fighting for months, with both sides suffering heavy losses. 

Ukraine's army claims it is regaining ground to the north and south, diminishing Russian control over the former salt mining town - currently estimated at 90%. 

"In recent days, our troops have liberated about 20 square kilometres north and south" of Bakhmut, said Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Ganna Maliar.

Russian troops continue their attempt at "completely destroying the city with the help of artillery", he added. 

In its daily assessment, the US-based Insitute for the Study of War said Russia was reinforcing its troops in Bakhmut, despite Ukraine's "limited and localised counterattacks". 

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stressed on Monday that Ukraine's long-awaited counter-offensive had not begun, maintaining his army "needs more time".

This could be a red herring to trick Russian forces. 

US volunteer allegedly killed by Wagner mercenaries

The Russian mercenary Wagner Group claimed on Tuesday its soldiers killed a US citizen in Bakhmut. 

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In a video posted online, Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin announced the death of the volunteer soldier, reportedly an ex-member of the US special forces from Idaho.  

"He came to meet us," Prigozhin said next to the body of a man he claimed was the American. He said the body would be handed over to the US authorities. 

Euronews could not verify his claim. 

At least 12 Americans have died fighting in Ukraine since the war broke out last year, despite authorities warning citizens not to travel to the country.

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The mercenary head also claimed his force had seized ground in Bakhmut. 

"Today Wagner's units advanced 200 meters and occupied an area of ​​113,000 m2. Only 1.46 square kilometres remain under enemy control in Bakhmout," he said. 

UK tires to build collation for supplying Ukraine with jets

Kyiv has received support from London to obtain F-16s - something it has been calling for in vain for months. 

London wants to build an "international coalition" to help Ukraine obtain the sophisticated Western fighter jets, Downing Street said on Tuesday. 

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Its statement followed a meeting between British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte - who also wants to supply Ukraine with the planes - during a Council of Europe summit in Iceland.

It is a question of "providing Ukraine with air combat capabilities (...), ranging from training to the delivery of F-16 aircraft", added Downing Street. 

The day before Zelenskyy said he was "very optimistic" jets would be forthcoming after the meeting with Sunak.

Western countries have previously been hesitant to supply Ukraine with such expensive and complicated to use military equipment, with Ukraine accusing them of dithering.

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Russia threatens to exit Ukraine grain deal

The United Nations is racing to extend a deal that has allowed shipments of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea, easing a global food crisis exacerbated by Russia's invasion more than a year ago.

The breakthrough accord the UN and Turkey brokered last summer came with a separate agreement to ease shipments of Russian food and fertilizer that Moscow insists hasn't been applied.

Russia set a Thursday deadline for its concerns to be ironed out or it's bowing out. 

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday there's an “intense session of contacts” but that ”a decision is yet to be made.”

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With a similar extension in the balance in March, Russia unilaterally decided to renew the deal for just 60 days instead of the 120 days outlined in the agreement.

UN officials and analysts warn that a failure to extend the Black Sea Grain Initiative could hurt countries in Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia that rely on Ukrainian wheat, barley, vegetable oil and other affordable food products.

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