Moscow denies reports of Ukrainian breakthroughs

Russia’s defence ministry on Thursday denied reports that Ukrainian forces had broken through in various places along the front lines and said the military situation was under control.
Moscow reacted after Russian military bloggers, writing on Telegram, reported what they said were Ukrainian advances north and south of the city of Bakhmut, with some suggesting a long-awaited counter offensive by pro-Kyiv forces had started, Reuters reported.
U.S. accusations
Meanwhile, South African officials on Friday hit back at U.S. accusations that a sanctioned Russian ship had picked up weapons from a naval base near Cape Town late last year, a move investors feared could lead Washington to impose sanctions.
The U.S. ambassador to South Africa said on Thursday he was confident that a Russian ship uploaded weapons from the Simon’s Town naval base in December, suggesting the incident was not in line with Pretoria’s professed neutrality in the Ukraine conflict.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office said on Thursday that an inquiry led by a retired judge would look into the allegation. On Friday, a minister responsible for arms control and a foreign ministry spokesman said the country had not approved any arms shipment to Russia in December.
Washington has repeatedly warned countries against providing material support to Russia, cautioning that those who do may be denied access to U.S. markets.
During a briefing on Thursday, U.S. State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel did not repeat the allegation that arms had been loaded onto the vessel.
He said Washington had serious concerns about the docking of the ship at a South African naval port and had raised those concerns directly with South African officials.
South Africa’s defence department said on Friday it would give its side of the story to the government’s inquiry.


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