The intensity of the fighting “increases without ceasing” around the Ukrainian city of Bakhmutwhich Russian troops have been trying to conquer for months, the Ukrainian president said on Tuesday, Volodimir Zelensky.
“The biggest difficulty, as before, is Bakhmut (…). Russia does not count its troops, it constantly sends them to assault our positions. The intensity of the fighting continues to increaseZelensky stated in his daily evening briefing to the nation.
The Ukrainian army admitted on Tuesday a situation “extremely tense” in Bakhmut, where Russian troops are trying to close the siege to conquer that eastern city devastated by weeks of bombing.
However, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar, assured that the army Ukraine inflicts massive casualties on the enemy that force the regular soldiers to relieve the mercenaries of the Wagner group.
Since the boreal summer, troops from Moscow have been seeking to take this city, which has become a symbol of the fight for control of the industrial region of Donbas, in the east of the country.
Zelensky said in his daily evening report to the nation that “the biggest difficulty, as before, is Bakhmut (…). Russia does not count its troops, it constantly sends them to assault our positions ”.
When he visited the area in December, the president promised to defend the city “for as long as possible.”
“The situation around Bakhmut is extremely tense,” he acknowledged on Tuesday. Oleksander Syrskyi, quoted by the official press center of the army.
“The enemy has sent the best-prepared units (of the paramilitary group) Wagner to attack, trying to break through the defense of our troops and surround the city,” he added.
The head of the Wagner group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, announced on Saturday the capture by his men of the town of Yahidne, located on the northern outskirts of Bakhmut. In January Soledar already fell, and in February Krasna Gora, also in the north.
In recent weeks, Russian forces have slowly moved towards the capture of Bakhmut, which had some 70,000 inhabitants before the invasion on February 24, 2022.
The Russians managed to cut three of the four Ukrainian supply roads. The only way out is the one that leads to Chasiv Yar, some 15 km further west, to the south of which the Moscow forces are trying to reach.
Bakhmut has largely remained destroyed by fighting.
The governor of the Donetsk region, Pavlo Kyrylenkoreported in mid-February that fewer than 5,000 civilians, including some 140 minors, remained in the city despite the danger of the fighting.
The Ukrainian military deployed in the city, contacted by AFP on Monday, they said they did not lose their morale.
“We cannot know the entire operational situation, but here we are, we have not fled”said a 44-year-old soldier nicknamed “Kai”.
“Not only Bakhmut, we are also going to take back Crimea and everything else,” added 45-year-old “Ded”.
The soldier “Fox” on the other hand, was pessimistic: “I think that, most likely, Bakhmut will fall.”
Russia for its part stated on Tuesday that a Ukrainian drone crashed about 100 km from Moscow, near a gas compression station. Three other aircraft were shot down in other parts of the country, without causing damage.
In recent months there have been several incidents with drones in Russian territory, although it is the first time that it has occurred in the capital region.
The Battle of Bakhmut and these incidents occur as the war in the Ukraine has just entered its second year.
kyiv insistently asks to be able to join NATO, to which the alliance’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenbergresponded on Tuesday that the former Soviet republic would become one of its members, but “in the long term.”
On the diplomatic front, Chinahitherto little involved in the conflict, presented last week a 12-point proposal for a “political solution” in which he urges dialogue between Russians and Ukrainians.
Although the Western allies greeted this plan by Beijing with skepticism, President Zelensky said he was willing to “work” with China and announced his intention to meet with his counterpart Xi Jinping.
For the Kremlin, on the other hand, the conditions for a “peaceful” solution to the conflict do not exist “for now”.
One of Moscow’s main allies, the Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenkoarrived in Beijing on Tuesday for an unusual visit, which will include a meeting with Xi Jinping.
Highest Russian casualties
Russian forces are outnumbered in the battle for the Ukrainian stronghold of Bakhmut, but the army of Ukraine inflicts massive casualties on the enemy that force regular soldiers to relieve the mercenaries of the Wagner group, said on Tuesday the Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister, Hanna Malyar.
“There are professional soldiers and numerous Wagner units in the Bakhmut area,” Malyar said on Ukrainian television, adding that “enemy casualties are several times higher” than those of the Ukrainian army. “Our soldiers have the capacity to destroy 80% of the terrorists”he added.
Malyar is the first representative of the Ukrainian government to publicly comment on the situation in the city after the interim head of the self-styled Donetsk People’s Republic, Denis Pushilin, assured that the Wagner group took a neighborhood on the outskirts of Bakhmut.
In a military report posted on its Facebook account, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces says that the enemy is continuing the offensive in Bakhmut “and continues to launch assaults on the city.”
(With information from EFE and AFP)
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