Ukrainian troops on Wednesday defended their positions in Bakhmutin eastern Ukraine, in the middle of the relentless offensive of Russian forces to capture a city turned into a wasteland after seven months of fighting.
Both parties claimed hits in what has become the longest battle since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine more than a year ago.
Ukrainian officials claimed that Ukrainian ground forces shot down a Russian fighter near Bakhmut and made gains north of the city.
Meanwhile, Yevgeny Prigozhinfounder of the Wagner mercenary group, which has spearheaded the Russian assault on the city, said Wednesday in a social media post that Russian forces have taken control of the Zaliznyanskoye settlement and are expanding the encirclement of Bakhmut.
The battle for Bakhmut intensified after Russian forces captured the nearby town of Soledar in January. Russian forces must cross Bakhmut into parts of Donetsk province they do not yet control, though Western officials say capturing the city would have limited impact on the course of the war.
A UK Defense Ministry assessment over the weekend said paramilitary units from the Wagner Group had seized eastern parts of Bakhmut, with a river flowing through the town marking the front line of the fighting.
Russian troops have surrounded the city on three sides, leaving only a narrow corridor to the west. The only road to the west has come under Russian artillery fire, forcing the Ukrainian defenders to resort increasingly to rural roads, difficult to use before the muddy ground dries.
Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky discussed the situation in Bakhmut with senior military and intelligence officials on Tuesday, and all agreed on the need to maintain and defend the city, the presidential office reported.
Zelensky relieves the governors of Lugansk, Khmelnytskyi and Odesa
Zelensky today dismissed the governors of the regions of lugansk (this), Khmelnytskyi (center) and Odessa (south), according to corresponding decrees published on the website of the Presidency of Ukraine.
The three governors had requested to be relieved of their posts, a measure that was already approved yesterday by the Council of Ministers, according to the Ukrinform agency.
Serhiy Haidai He had been the governor of Lugansk – where Ukrainian and Russian forces are currently fighting the battle for control of the city of Bakhmut – since October 25, 2019 and in recent months rumors had emerged that he was going to be relieved of his position and Appointed Ambassador of Ukraine to Kazakhstan.
In the case of the until today governor of Odesa, Maksim Marchenkowho had held the position since March 1 last year, the Ukrainian media pointed to the high number of corruption scandals in that region as one of the possible causes for his dismissal.
For his part, serhiy gamalii he had led the Khmelnytskyi administration since December 2020. The names of the successors to the three governors have not yet been made public.
(With information from AP and EFE)
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