Bakhmut defense fulcrum for Ukraine counter-attack
Ukrainian troops exhaust Russian forces in the war’s bloodiest battle
Ukraine is intensely defending Bakhmut to build momentum for a planned spring counter-offensive against the Russians, according to its military commander.
Oleksandr Syrsky, commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, said Sunday the defenders have kept the best Russian troops and firepower engaged in Bakhmut, killing them and bogging down their many of westward push while giving his forces precious time to prepare for the counter-attack aimed at retaking enemy-occupied areas in the east.
“The real heroes now are the defenders who are holding the eastern front on their shoulders, and inflicting the heaviest possible losses, sparing neither themselves nor the enemy,” Syrsky was quoted as saying in a statement on Saturday, according to Agence France-Presse.
The Ukrainians are putting up a good fight in Bakhmut in the face of fierce and sustained Russian attacks, some military experts say.
However, the leader of the Russian mercenary group Wagner which is spearheading the attack for the takeover of Bakhmut and other Ukrainian cities, claimed of virtually capturing the contested city.
Standing on the rooftop of a high-rise building in what is said to be Bakhmut, Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin is seen pointing towards a building in the distance.
“This is the building of the town administration, this is the center of the town,” he said, according to AFP.
“It is one kilometer and two hundred meters away.”
Prigozhin continues to call for more Russian artillery shells to finish the job.
The Ukrainian defense ministry on Saturday reported that its forces had repelled “more than 100 enemy attacks” over the last day along the eastern front.
A British military intelligence officer said Ukrainian troops have demolished key bridges in the Bakhmutka River to prevent the Russians from advancing.
Both sides have suffered heavy losses in Bakhmut which has been reduced to rubble by the battle.
“Thousands of Russian soldiers died at a considerable rate in this battle,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Olga Stefanishyna said in an interview with the French newspaper Journal du Dimanche.
But even if it did capture the “small town”, she added, “it will not impact the strategic corridors we still control in the region.”
Meanwhile, Russian shelling of Kherson killed three people and wounded two others, Ukrainian officials said Saturday.
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