Ukraine should not seek to defend the city of Bakhmout, the scene of a bloody battle, at all costs, and focus more on preparing for a major counter-offensive, a senior American official said on Friday.
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Now largely ravaged, the pre-war city of 70,000 has become the epicenter of fighting in eastern Ukraine, with heavy artillery fire, slow advances and high casualties on both sides .
Bakhmout has also become a major political issue and symbol. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the frontline in December, just before his trip to meet Joe Biden at the White House and address Congress in Washington.
However, according to this senior official in the administration of Joe Biden, the priority given to the fighting in Bakhmout is hampering Ukraine in its essential task of preparing for a strategic offensive against the Russians in the south of the country in the spring.
In Bakhmout, the longer the fighting lasts, the more the situation could work in favor of Russia, which has greater artillery resources and a numerical advantage in terms of troops, he justified , speaking on condition of anonymity and asking not to be quoted directly.
The senior US official added that a Russian victory in Bakhmout would not lead to a significant turn in the war, as Ukrainian forces could withdraw to positions that were easier to defend.
On the other hand, still according to him, Ukraine would benefit from assigning these very exposed soldiers to equipment and training programs directed by the United States, in order to form more technical and heavily armed units, capable of launching an offensive in the south.
The senior official noted that weapons for a counter-offensive were already flowing into Ukraine, including several hundred armored vehicles this week – the kind of equipment that will be needed for a mobile offensive force.