Kyiy: Ukraine`s President Volodymyr Zelensky has said that the operations to defend Bakhmut will continue, and the army have been instrusted to find forces to bolster the defence of the embattled city. “I told the Chief of Staff to find the appropriate forces to help the guys in Bakhmut. There is no part of Ukraine about which one can say that it can be abandoned,” Zelensky said on Monday during his evening address to the nation.
Moscow has been trying to take Bakhmut for months, as both sides suffer heavy losses in a grinding war of attrition, the BBC reported. However, Deputy Mayor Oleksandr Marchenko has said that Russia had not yet gained control of the city.
Meanwhile, Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner private army involved in the Russian campaign, has complained of a lack of ammunition amid apparent friction between his fighters and regular Russian forces, the British news broadcaster reported. He also said that his representative had been barred from a Russian military headquarters.
Analysts say Bakhmut has little strategic value but has become a focal point for Russian commanders who have struggled to deliver any positive news to the Kremlin, the media outlet reported.
Capture of the city would bring Russia slightly closer to its goal of controlling the whole of Donetsk region, one of four regions in eastern and southern Ukraine it annexed last September after referendums widely condemned outside Russia as a sham, it added.
His top adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak said that Ukrainian forces around Bakhmut have been grinding down enemy forces, reinforcing their positions and training tens of thousands of Ukrainian military personnel for a possible counteroffensive.
Intense Russian shelling targeted the city in the Donetsk region and nearby villages as Moscow waged a three-sided assault to try to finish off Bakhmut’s resistance.
The nearby towns of Chasiv Yar and Kostiantynivka came under heavy shelling, damaging cars and homes and sparking a fire. No casualties were immediately reported.
Police and volunteers evacuated people from Chasiv Yar and other front-line towns in an operation made difficult by the loss of bridges and constant artillery fire that has left barely a house standing.
Russian forces have been unable to deliver a knockout blow that would allow them to seize Bakhmut. Analysts say the city does not hold major strategic value and that its capture would be unlikely to serve as a turning point in the conflict.
The Russian push for Bakhmut reflects the Kremlin’s broader struggle to achieve battlefield momentum. Moscow’s full-scale invasion on February 24, 2022 soon stalled and Ukraine launched a largely successful counteroffensive. Over the bitterly cold winter months, the fighting has largely been deadlocked.
The city’s importance has become mostly symbolic. For Russian President Vladimir Putin, prevailing there would finally deliver some good news from the front. For Kyiv, the display of grit and defiance underscores the message that Ukraine is holding on after a year of brutal attacks, justifying continued support from its Western allies.
US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin endorsed that view on Monday, saying during a visit to Jordan that Bakhmut has “more of a symbolic value than … Strategic and operational value”. Moscow, he added, continues “to pour in a lot of ill-trained and ill-equipped troops” into Bakhmut, while Ukraine patiently builds “combat power” elsewhere with Western military support ahead of a possible spring offensive.
On Monday, Prigozhin warned in a Russian social media post that the situation in Bakhmut “will turn out to be a pie’: The filling is the parts of the Armed Forces of Ukraine surrounded by us (in the case, of course, if there is a complete encirclement of Bakhmut), and the shell is, in fact, the Wagner” Group.
Bakhmut has taken on almost mythic importance. It has become like Mariupol — the port city in the same province that Russia captured last year after an 82-day siege that eventually came down to a mammoth steel mill where determined Ukrainian fighters held out along with civilians.
Moscow looked to cement its rule in Mariupol. Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu toured some of the city’s rebuilt infrastructure — a newly-built hospital, a rescue centre and residential buildings — the Defence Ministry said.
The Russian Volunteer Corps last week claimed responsibility for an attack on Russian villages on the border with Ukraine. The FSB said on Monday that Kapustin organised and spearheaded the raid, which killed two civilians and wounded two others. The FSB’s allegations could not be independently verified.