Ukrainian soldiers guard their positions around Bakhmut (via Reuters)
The Ukrainian army celebrated the recent advances around Bakhmut on Monday, which would be its first successful counterattack in its fight against the Russian army for control of the eastern Ukrainian city.
But kyiv also said that the situation in Bakhmut is difficult. The Russian government has warned that Moscow has not changed its goal of capturing the city, saying it is assembling stormtroopers on the outskirts of Bakhmut.
The Ukrainian military said last week that it had begun pushing back Russian forces in and around Bakhmut after months of heavy fighting. Moscow acknowledged that its forces had fallen back north of the city.
“The advance of our troops in Bakhmut is the first success of offensive actions in the defense of the city,” Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander of the Ukrainian land forces, said in a statement posted on the Telegram messaging app.
“The last few days have shown that we can advance and destroy the enemy even in such extremely difficult conditions,” Syrskyi said. “We are fighting with fewer resources than the enemy. At the same time, we are capable of ruining their plans.”
Ukrainian troops review Russian positions after a clash (via Rueters)
kyiv is expected to launch a large-scale counter-offensive soon to try to retake Russian-occupied territory. However, some Ukrainian leaders have indicated that the developments around Bakhmut do not mark the start of this campaign.
Ukrainian Secretary of State for Defense Hanna Maliar said that heavy fighting in and around Bakhmut continues, stating that “everything” there is difficult.
“The Russians have not changed their targets. They are sending stormtroopers to the outskirts of Bakhmut,” Maliar wrote on Telegram.
Reuters could not independently verify this information about the battlefield.
Moscow, which began its invasion of Ukraine almost 15 months ago, sees Bakhmut as a springboard to attack other Ukrainian cities. kyiv has previously said that maintaining the Bakhmut defense allows the military to prepare its long-awaited counteroffensive.
Much of the fighting in the city is being led by the Wagner Group mercenary group. In a Telegram post, founder Yevgeny Prigozhin said his men had advanced up to 550 meters in some directions on Saturday and said Ukrainian forces controlled less than 1.78 square kilometers of the center.
Prigozhin is embroiled in a public relations war with the Russian Defense Ministry over what he says is its refusal to provide enough ammunition.
A Wagner employee tried to deliver a personal letter from Prigozhin to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Saturday but was unsuccessful, Wagner’s press service said in a separate Telegram post. The letter dealt with what Prigozhin says is the poor performance of regular troops on Wagner’s flanks.
Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky, on tour in Europe, did not answer directly when asked when the counter-offensive would begin. “I cannot answer this question, but the results will be seen and Russia will notice them,” he told Italian television.
(With information from Reuters)
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