Russia likely planning to encircle Donetsk Oblast town of Bakhmut

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Dec 3 (Reuters) – Russia is likely planning to encircle the Donetsk Oblast town of Bakhmut with tactical advances to the north and south, Britain’s defence ministry said on Saturday.

The capture of the town would have limited operational value but it can potentially allow Russia to threaten Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, the ministry added in a daily intelligence update.

“There is a realistic possibility that Bakhmut’s capture has become primarily a symbolic, political objective for Russia,” the ministry said in the update posted on Twitter.

A child stands next to policemen’s weapons placed on chairs as she waits for the boarding of an evacuation train heading to Kyiv, at the railway station in Kherson, southern Ukraine. EPA-EFE/ROMAN PILIPEY

In Other Developments:

DIPLOMACY

* The Group of Seven and Australia agreed a $60 per barrel price cap on Russian seaborne crude oil after European Union members overcame resistance from Poland and hammered out an agreement.

* Putin told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in a phone call on Friday that the German and Western line on Ukraine was “destructive” and urged Berlin to rethink its approach, the Kremlin said. Scholz urged Putin to find a diplomatic solution to the war as soon as possible, “including a withdrawal of Russian troops”, Scholz’s spokesperson said.

* Several Ukrainian embassies have received “bloody packages” containing animal eyes, the foreign ministry said after a series of letter bombs were sent to sites in Spain, including Ukraine’s embassy in Madrid.

* Russia’s foreign ministry said it was “outraged” by a statement from the French foreign ministry that supported plans to create a tribunal on possible crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine.

* Germany is preparing to deliver seven Gepard tanks to Ukraine, adding to the 30 air-defence tanks already in use against the Russian army, according to a German government website.

* The International Atomic Energy Agency hopes to reach an agreement with Russia and Ukraine to create a protection zone at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant by the end of the year, the head of the U.N. atomic watchdog was quoted as saying.

ECONOMY

* Russia’s economy is set to shrink 2.5% next year, on top of a 3% contraction in 2022, a Reuters poll suggested, with stubbornly high inflation giving the central bank only limited room to cut interest rates.

* Ukraine’s grain exports so far in the 2022/2023 season are down 29.6% from the same stage a year earlier to 18.1 million tonnes after a six-month blockade caused by the Russian invasion, agriculture ministry data showed.

OTHER

* A group sliced a Banksy mural off a battle-scarred wall in Ukraine, but the people were spotted and the image of a woman in a gas mask and dressing gown holding a fire extinguisher was under police protection, the governor of Kyiv region said.

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