Ukraine war: Battle for Bakhmut ‘stabilising’ – Ukraine commander

By Kathryn Armstrong The battle for Bakhmut, the Ukrainian city which Russia has spent months trying to capture, is “stabilising”, says Ukraine’s commander in chief. Earlier this month, Western officials estimated between 20,000 and 30,000 Russian troops had been killed or injured in Bakhmut since last summer. But despite that, Valerii Zaluzhnyi said Ukrainian troops’ “tremendous efforts” were holding back Russia. Moscow is eager for a victory after failing to make major recent gains. Despite this, military analysts believe Bakhmut has little strategic value, with the city’s importance now symbolic. On Facebook, Lt Gen Zaluzhnyi said that while the situation on Ukraine’s frontlines “is the toughest in the Bakhmut direction…due to the tremendous efforts of the defence forces, we are managing to stabilise the situation”. Lt Gen Zaluzhnyi posted after speaking to the UK’s Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, about the situation in Ukraine. His comments are the latest positive signal from Ukrainian officials about the long battle for Bakhmut. On Thursday, Oleksandr Syrsky, commander of the country’s ground forces, said that Russian troops were “exhausted” near Bakhmut. Mr Syrsky added that while Russia “has not given up hope of taking Bakhmut at all costs despite losses in manpower and equipment… they are losing significant strength”. “Very soon we will take advantage of this opportunity, like we did near Kyiv, Kharkiv, Balakliya and Kupiansk,” he said, referring to successful Ukrainian counter-offensives last year. And earlier this week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the frontline near Bakhmut, where he last visited in December. Footage released by his office showed him in an old warehouse giving medals to soldiers, whom he called “heroes”. On Wednesday, the UK said a Ukrainian counter-attack to the west of Bakhmut is likely to relieve pressure on a supply route to the city, and that Russia’s attack on the city could be losing the “limited momentum” it had. But the statement added that “Ukrainian defence remains at risk from envelopment from the north and south”. The Institute for War, meanwhile, said on Thursday that while Ukraine is still outnumbered by the Wagner group, Ukrainian forces “continue to exhaust the mercenaries, which will enable Ukrainian forces to pursue unspecified future offensive operations”. Wagner, a private, mercenary organisation, is at the heart of the Russian assault on Bakhmut. Its leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has staked his reputation on seizing the city. About 70,000 people lived in Bakhmut before the invasion, but only a few thousand remain. Its capture would bring Russia slightly closer to controlling the whole of Donetsk region, one of four regions in eastern and southern Ukraine illegally annexed by Russia last September.