Ukrainian soldiers hold out in Bakhmut and force the Russians back

Ukrainian soldiers in a trench on the outskirts of Bakhmut (Reuters) (STRINGER /)

What looked like an imminent fall over the weekend resulted in a fierce defense by Ukrainian troops in Bakhmut and even some successful advances on the Russian troops, in a battle that has gained enormous symbolic value for both sides.

The invading army planned to completely surround the eastern city of Ukrainebecome one of the epicenters of the war, but the local troops showed a harsh response.

In its daily report, the Ukrainian General Staff said it had repelled “more than 130 enemy attacks” in the past 24 hours at various locations on the front, including Liman, Bakhmut, Kupiansk and Avdiivka.

It was early on Saturday that Ukrainian brigades went on the attack, later joined by hundreds of troops mounting ground assaults and shelling Russian positions from the outskirts of the city.

“I am confident that Bakhmut will hold out,” said Colonel Yevhen Mezhevikin, commander of a combined tactical group fighting in the area. “We have enough forces to push the enemy back from this city, but it depends on the tasks that the command has, whether it is to hold the city or inflict maximum losses on the enemy,” he explained, according to a publication. The New York Times. The US newspaper report indicated that the soldiers on the ground expressed their exhaustion, but did not seem willing to give up.

A Ukrainian soldier sits in a trench near Russian positions near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Sunday, March 5, 2023. (AP Photo/Libkos)
A soldier rests in a trench near Bakhmut (AP) (LIBKOS /)

The Times noted that even before Ukraine stepped up its attacks on the Russians in Bakhmut over the weekend, its forces had moved to push Russian troops back from the last main access road to the city, preserving a line of key supply and exit route in case they were forced to withdraw.

“I would like to pay a special tribute to the bravery, strength and resilience of the soldiers fighting in Donbas,” the region of eastern Ukraine where Bakhmut is located, President Volodimir Zelensky said in his Sunday address.

The president described the battle for Donbas as “painful and difficult” and thanked his soldiers, who have “repelled attacks, destroyed the occupier, weakened enemy positions and logistics, and protected our borders and our cities.”

The capture of Bakhmut would not only give Russian fighters a rare battlefield gain after months of setbacks, but could break Ukraine’s supply lines and allow Kremlin forces to push into other Ukrainian strongholds in the province. from Donetsk.

However, the US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austindeclared on Monday that Bakhmut had more symbolic than operational importance and would not necessarily mean that Moscow would have regained momentum in his year-long war effort. “I think it has more symbolic value than strategic and operational value,” Austin told reporters during his visit to Jordan, adding that he would not predict if or when Russian forces would take Bakhmut. “The fall of Bakhmut will not necessarily mean that the Russians have turned the tide in this fight,” Austin added.

Ukrainian servicemen ride a military vehicle, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, near the town of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region (Reuters)
Ukrainian soldiers ride a military vehicle, in the midst of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, near the city of Bakhmut, in the Donetsk region (Reuters) (STRINGER /)

The Russian Wagner paramilitary group, on the front line of the battle, had reported on Friday that the city was “practically surrounded” and urged Zelensky to withdraw his troops. But on Sunday, after the tusa response, the head of the group, Evgeny Prigozhinhe changed his tone and complained again about the lack of ammunition, blaming the delivery delays on a possible “betrayal”.

“Delivery orders were given on February 23. But so far most of the ammunition has not been shipped,” Prigozhin said. According to him, the delay can only be due to two eventual reasons: “Ordinary bureaucracy or betrayal.”

And warned that “If Wagner now withdraws from Bakhmut, the entire front will collapse.”

(With information from AFP, EFE, AP)

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