March 4. 2024. 10:18

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Ukraine: Bakhmut sees intense fighting as pressure from Russian forces grows

Ukrainian forces defending Bakhmut are facing increasingly strong pressure from Russian forces, according to British military intelligence, with intense fighting taking place in and around the eastern city.

Ukraine is reinforcing the area with elite units, while the regular Russian army and forces of the Russian private military Wagner group have made further advances into Bakhmut’s northern suburbs, the UK ministry of defence said in its daily intelligence bulletin on Twitter.

The city’s deputy mayor, Oleksandr Marchenko, told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme: “There is fighting in the city and there are also street fights, but thanks to the Ukrainian armed forces they still haven’t taken control over the city.”

He said of the Russian attack: “Their only goal is killing people and the genocide of the Ukrainian people ... the tactic that the Russians are using is the tactic of parched land. They want to destroy Bakhmut, they want to destroy the city ... and I honestly can’t understand why they’re doing this.”

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He added: “The city is almost destroyed and there’s not a single building that has remained untouched in this war. There are completely destroyed, districts, buildings and apartment blocks.”

Gen Richard Shirreff, a former Nato deputy supreme allied commander for Europe, said if Russia succeeded in taking Bakhmut, it would be a “Pyrrhic victory”.

He told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme: “The Ukrainians have arguably achieved a strategic success thus far in forcing the Russians to expend vast amounts of manpower and equipment in what is likely to be, if they take it, a Pyrrhic victory.”

He urged the supply of equipment and support to Ukraine to be speeded up.

“What we’ve seen from the west and Nato countries is a sort of incremental supply ... It’s dribbled in, rather than coming in in a concentrated way,” he said. “If they’d had the stuff that they need months ago, we probably wouldn’t be where we are now. So this places a real imperative on speeding up the supply, the integration, the logistics support, the training and all the other stuff that needs to be done to give the Ukrainians the tools they need to do the job.”

Two key bridges in Bakhmut had been destroyed within the past 36 hours, the defence ministry said, adding that Ukrainian-held resupply routes out of the city were increasingly limited.

One of the bridges connected Bakhmut to the city’s last main supply route from the Ukrainian-held town of Chasiv Yar, about 13km to the west, it said.

“The enemy does not cease attempts to surround Bakhmut,” said Ukraine’s military command in its morning briefing note on Saturday, adding that over the past day Ukrainian forces had beaten back Russian attacks in the city.

Russian artillery pounded the last routes out of Bakhmut on Friday, aiming to complete the encirclement of the besieged city and bring Moscow closer to its first major victory in the war in six months.

The Ukrainian briefing note also said Russian attacks had been foiled in the villages of Ivanivske and Bohdanivka, both less than five miles west of Bakhmut’s city centre.

The capture of those villages, which flank the crucial Bakhmut-Chasiv Yar road on either side, would leave the city on the brink of total Russian encirclement.

The battle for Bakhmut has raged for seven months. A Russian victory in the city, which had a pre-war population of about 70,000 and has been blasted to ruins in the onslaught, would give Moscow the first major prize in a costly winter offensive, after it called up hundreds of thousands of reservists last year.

Russia says it would be a stepping stone to completing the capture of the Donbas industrial region, one of Moscow’s most important objectives.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has described Bakhmut as a “fortress”.

“Nobody will give away Bakhmut. We will fight for as long as we can. We consider Bakhmut our fortress,” he told a news conference in Kyiv on February 3rd. – Guardian