Ukraine decided on Monday to maintain the defense of the city of Bakhmut, in the eastern region of Donetsk, and send additional reinforcements, despite the risk that Wagner’s mercenaries, the spearhead of the Russian forces in the east of the country, could close the fence around the city.
The President of Ukraine, Volodimir Zelensky, met on Monday with the General Staff of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief to discuss the situation at the front, which was “in favor of continuing the defensive operation and further strengthening our positions in Bakhmut”, informed the Ukrainian Presidency.
Keep Bakhmut despite everything
This opinion was expressed by the commander of the Ukrainian Land Army Oleksandr Syrskyi and the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Valery Zaluzhny, who also discussed the supplies of weapons and war equipment to the front.
The decision to maintain the defense of Bakhmut comes hours after the German newspaper Bild stated that Zaluzhny and Zelensky were in a dispute over the matter.
The first was supposedly in favor of a withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from the city for several weeks, which has more symbolic than strategic value and in whose battle both Ukraine and Russia suffer heavy casualties, although the attacker seven times more, according to Kiev.
The Ukrainian outlet The Kyiv Independent collected testimonies from more than a dozen Ukrainian soldiers describing the battle for Bakhmut as “carnage.”
The Ukrainian military told the outlet that poorly trained and unprepared battalions were thrown into the front line “to survive as best they could” with little support from armor, mortars, artillery, drones and tactical intelligence.
Testimonials from more than a dozen Ukrainian soldiers describing the battle for Bakhmut as “carnage”. Photo: AP
Zelensky has recognized the difficult situation his Army is going through in Bakhmut, a communications hub whose control would allow the Russians to advance in the direction of Sloviansk and Kramators, the main Ukrainian strongholds in Donetsk, a place that he wants to maintain, although not at any price.
Prevent the siege of the city
In order to encourage the troops, Syrskyi visited the city for the second time in three days the day before.
He affirmed that the “soldiers courageously defend the positions in the north of Bakhmut, in an attempt to prevent the siege of the city”, although he admitted that “the fighting has reached its greatest intensity”.
Russian forces, led by Wagner’s mercenaries, have advanced in recent weeks towards their goal of completely encircling Bakhmut from the north, east and south.
According to Russia, the Ukrainian troops defending the city have only one route left to receive supplies.
According to British military intelligence, the destruction of two important access bridges to the city have made the situation of the Ukrainian forces even more difficult.
The spokesman for the Eastern Military Command, Serhiy Cherevaty, assured, however, that the Army still has “various routes” of supply.
“The defense forces maintain the defense in Bakhmut, there is an opportunity to deliver ammunition, supplies, medicines and get the wounded out of there,” he stressed.
Wagner denounces lack of supply
Meanwhile, Wagner’s boss, Yevgueni Prigozin, again denounced the lack of ammunition at the front for his mercenaries, and warned that if his troops withdraw from Bakhmut “the entire front will collapse” and could reach “as far as the borders of Russia and maybe beyond.”
He indicated that his men are still not receiving the ammunition promised by the Russian Defense Ministry.
“Regarding the ammunition: on the afternoon of February 22, the documents were signed, on February 23 the shipping orders were issued,” but the bulk of the ammunition has still not reached the front, he said on Telegram.
Prigozhin indicated that he is trying to find out the cause of this delay, whether it is “simple bureaucracy or betrayal.”
A Ukrainian tank drives along a street in Bakhmut, Ukraine. Photo: AP
He also denounced that a representative of his was denied access to the headquarters of the group of Russian troops in Ukraine on Monday after urgently requesting ammunition.
Despite everything, he stressed that his mercenaries continue to “crush the Armed Forces of Ukraine near Bakhmut.”
The US Institute for the Study of War (ISW) warned on Monday that “it is unlikely that Russian forces will quickly secure significant territorial gains during urban fighting in Bakhmut.”