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Russia 'pays high price for every advance' as Putin turns to Middle East mercenaries
13 March 2022, 08:40 | Updated: 13 March 2022, 14:33
Russian forces are paying a "high price" for every advance they make in Ukraine and are turning to thousands of Middle Eastern mercenaries to replace losses.
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The invading military is laying siege to cities throughout Ukraine, reducing picturesque urban centres to rubble.
It is trying to encircle Kyiv, the capital, but its progress is thought to have been much slower than the Kremlin expected thanks to determined Ukrainian defenders.
However, talks between Ukraine and Russia continue. The Russian side said progress has been made while Ukrainian negotiator and presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said "some results" could be made "in a matter of days".
An update on the war from the British Ministry of Defence [MoD] on Sunday said: "Russian forces are attempting to envelop Ukrainian forces in the east of the country as they advance from the direction of Kharkiv in the north and Mariupol in the south.
"Russian forces advancing from Crimea are attempting to circumvent Mykolaiv as they look to drive west towards Odesa.
"Russia is paying a high price for each advance as the Ukrainian Armed Forces continues to offer staunch resistance across the country."
The scale of Russia's losses is unclear, with Ukraine and Moscow's differing tallies proving hard to verify.
US intelligence said recently it could be up to 4,000 casualties but that figure was uncertain.
However, the Kremlin is thought to be using "alternative sources" to replace losses and bolster their "overstretched" forces.
The MoD said: "President Putin has publicly welcomed the recruitment of "16,000 mostly Middle Eastern volunteers" to support his invasion of Ukraine.
"Syrian mercenaries have deployed alongside Russian proxy forces in Libya since late 2020.
"This follows earlier reporting that Russia was also planning to deploy experienced mercenaries from Russian Private Military Companies to support the invasion.
"Russia this week has also been forced to acknowledge the use of conscript soldiers in its operations against Ukraine.
"As losses mount, Russia will be forced to draw on alternative sources to reinforce their overstretched regular forces."
Russia has struck a military base in Yavoriv, close to the Polish border in the west of Ukraine, firing eight missiles at it.
The invaders have widened their attack in that part of Ukraine, having also struck an airport in Ivano-Frankivsk.
Cities throughout Ukraine are under siege, including the coastal city of Mariupol on the Black Sea coast.
Russian forces are attempting to encircle the capital Kyiv, possibly in a bid to overthrow the democratically elected government.
Meanwhile, the British government has offered £350 payments to people who sponsor Ukrainian refugees.