Day 734: Macron doesn’t rule out sending Western troops to Ukraine

Macron doesn’t rule out sending Western troops to Ukraine. Ukrainian troops pull back from the villages of Severne and Stepove near Avdiyivka to new defensive lines. Ukraine shoots down two Russian Su-34 jets in one day.

Macron doesn’t rule out sending Western troops to Ukraine

French President, Emmanuel Macron, convened a conference of over 20 European heads of state and government in Paris on Monday, calling for western countries to step up their support for Ukraine. 

Macron did not attend the Munich security conference earlier this month, or join an online meeting of G7 leaders that reaffirmed support for Ukraine. The summit in Paris was attended by leaders including Poland’s Andrzej Duda, Germany’s Olaf Scholz, prime ministers of the Netherlands, Spain, Greece, Slovakia, as well as ministers from the UK and the U.S. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi addressed the leaders via videolink. 

At the conference, Macron made a number of ambitious announcements. A new coalition is to be launched to further “mobilize” nations with capabilities to deliver medium and long-range missiles to Ukraine, Macron said.

He admitted Europe had failed to meet its over-optimistic promise to provide Ukraine with a million rounds of ammunition. He said the provision of ammunition was now the “top priority.” Defense ministers had been mandated to come up with a plan within the next 10 days for a Czech-led initiative to buy hundreds of thousands of ammunition rounds from third countries.

President Macron also said: “We are convinced that the defeat of Russia is indispensable to security and stability in Europe.”

Macron made headlines by saying that sending Western troops on the ground in Ukraine is not “ruled out” in the future, although he cautioned that there was no consensus at this stage.

“There’s no consensus today to send in an official, endorsed manner troops on the ground. But in terms of dynamics, nothing can be ruled out. We will do everything needed so Russia cannot win the war,” Macron said in a news conference at the Elysee presidential palace. “Many people who say ‘never, never’ today were the same people who said ‘never tanks, never planes, never long-range missiles’ two years ago. Let us have the humility to note that we have often been six to twelve months late. This was the objective of this evening’s discussion: everything is possible if it is useful to achieve our objective,” he said.

An advisor to the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, Mykhailo Podolyak welcomed talk of European nations sending troops to Ukraine. “This shows, firstly, an absolute awareness of the risks posed to Europe by a militaristic, aggressive Russia,” Podolyak told Reuters in a written comment on Macron’s statement.

Ukrainian troops pull back from two villages near Avdiyivka to new defensive lines

Ukrainian troops have withdrawn from the villages of Severne and Stepove near Avdiyivka, spokesperson for Ukraine’s defense forces in the Tavria direction, Captain Dmytro Lykhoviy said on national television on Tuesday, February 27. 

“The Ukrainian Armed Forces continue to conduct a defensive operation in the Avdiyivka direction. As of the morning of February 27, they have stabilized the defensive line near Tonenke, Orlivka, and Berdychi,” Lykhoviy said. 

“Enemy assault units were blocked on the north-eastern outskirts of Orlivka. Fighting rages there while Russia launches heavy artillery fire, mortar attacks, and FPV drone strikes,” he added.  

“Yesterday the enemy stormed [Ukraine’s positions] toward Berdychi, using up to two motor-rifle platoons. Ukrainian troops threw them back from the outskirts of the village,” the spokesperson said.

“In the Avdiyivka direction, our troops withdrew from the small villages of Severne and Stepove. (Both villages had a total population of fewer than 100 people before the invasion). Fierce battles for Severne continued in the evening and at night. The enemy took heavy losses,” Captain Lykhoviy said.

Russia began to send larger groups to storm Ukraine’s positions in the area, replacing smaller infantry units of detachment size with a platoon- and company-size force, he said.

In the past day, 475 Russian soldiers were killed or wounded in the area of responsibility for the Tavria operational strategic group, of which 407 in Donetsk region. Between midnight and 6 a.m. on Tuesday, Russia lost 120 more troops in the Donetsk direction, Lykhoviy said. 

In the past day, Ukrainian troops took 11 Russian soldiers captive. It happened mostly outside Avdiyivka, he added.

Ukraine shoots down two of Russia’s Su-34 jets in one day

Ukraine’s armed forces have shot down a second Russian fighter jet in a day, according to Ukrainian Air Force Commander, Lieutenant General Mykola Oleshchuk.

In a Telegram post on Tuesday, Oleshchuk said Ukrainian forces had downed another Su-34 jet at about 2 p.m. local time. Both planes were shot down in eastern Ukraine.

“With such losses of combat and special aviation, the Russians should think, at least for some time to stop ‘airborne meat assaults.’ Well, let’s keep working,” he said. 

Ukraine has claimed to have had success in downing Russian Su jets in the past week. On February 17, Ukrainian forces destroyed two Russian Su-34s and one Su-35. They shot down one more Su-34 the next day. The warplanes destroyed on February 17 kept dropping glide bombs at Ukrainian positions in Avdiyivka and other areas, spokesperson for the Ukrainian Air Force Command, Colonel Yuriy Ihnat said.

On February 19, Ukraine shot down one Russian Su-34 and one Su-35S in eastern skies. According to Oleshchuk, the pilot of a Su-35S crashed in the sea and died. The second aircraft fell north of occupied Mariupol.

On February 21, Ukrainian forces destroyed another Russian Su-34 jet.