April 13. 2024. 5:07

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Russian attack on Bakhmut intensifies as civilians flee on foot

Pressure is mounting on Ukrainian troops and civilians in Bakhmut, as Kyiv’s forces tried to help residents flee the beleaguered eastern city amid what Western analysts suspect may be preparations for a Ukrainian withdrawal.

A woman was killed and two men were badly wounded by shelling while trying to cross a makeshift bridge out of Bakhmut on Saturday, according to Ukrainian troops who were assisting them.

A Ukrainian army representative said it is now too dangerous for civilians to leave the city by vehicle, with people fleeing on foot instead.

Bakhmut has for months been a key target of Moscow’s eastern offensive, with Russian troops, including large forces from the private Wagner Group, inching closer to Kyiv’s key eastern stronghold.

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Russian attack on Bakhmut intensifies as civilians flee on foot


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The city’s deputy mayor, Oleksandr Marchenko, said to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme 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.”

Meanwhile, comments by Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, were met with laughter at an international conference in India, when he said that the Ukraine war had been “launched against” his home country.

Speaking at the Raisina Dialogue, a politics and economics event in Delhi, Lavrov also claimed that Russia was trying to stop the war.

“The war, which we are trying to stop, which was launched against us using Ukrainian people, of course, influenced the policy of Russia, including energy policy,” he said, briefly stumbling over his words as people in the audience laughed.

Mr Lavrov continued: “And the blunt way to describe what changed: we would not any more rely on any partners in the west. We would not allow them to blow the pipelines again,” in a reference to the explosions that damaged the Nord Stream pipeline in the Baltic Sea in September.

‘Fortress’

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 big 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 8km west of Bakhmut’s city centre.

[ Russian warlord says ‘pincers closing’ on Bakhmut as Ukraine partially evacuates liberated town ]

[ Ukraine one year on: ‘Why should I leave my home, my world, my country?’ ]

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 big 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 said to a news conference in Kyiv on February 3rd. – Guardian service / AP