Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has suggested that he might order a withdrawal of his troops from the eastern city of Bakhmut if they found themselves in danger of being encircled by Russian forces.
“For me, the most important is not to lose our soldiers and of course if there is a moment of even hotter events and the danger we could lose our personnel because of encirclement—of course the corresponding correct decisions will be taken by generals there,” Zelensky said during a news conference in Poland on Wednesday alongside his Polish counterpart…… CONTINUE READING
But while the Ukrainian president’s statement suggested that he might consider a retreat should the situation escalate, he also hinted that it’s not yet time for withdrawal, declaring that Kyiv’s troops are still holding on to Bakhmut and remain inside the city.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses wellwishers in the courtyard of the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland, on April 5, 2023.
“We are in Bakhmut and the enemy does not control it,” Zelensky said.
The battle for Bakhmut, in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, has been the longest and bloodiest in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, now in its second year.
On Sunday, the head of the Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said his soldiers had raised the Russian flag over Bakhmut’s City Hall, although he acknowledged that Ukrainian troops were still defending positions elsewhere in the city.
The city, which was a popular tourist destination before the war began, is now in ruins after months of shelling and artillery fire. But it remains of strategic importance for Moscow, which now controls only about half of the illegally annexed Donetsk region.
To take the remaining half, Russian troops have to go through Bakhmut, which is still being fiercely defended by the Ukrainian armed forces, despite high casualties on both sides. At the moment, the city remains under the control of the Ukrainian army.
Other Ukrainian officials recently said that military officials will order a withdrawal of troops in Bakhmut when deemed strategically necessary, while also stating that Ukrainian forces are still holding on in the city.
Washington-based think tank The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said that “it remains to be seen whether Ukraine’s defense of Bakhmut and its efficacy in fixing Russian forces in the area is worth Ukrainian losses,” adding that “we will likely be unable to assess this until observing the Ukrainian spring counteroffensive.”
Ukraine is expected to launch a counteroffensive to try to take back land seized by Russian forces in the south and the east of the country in the coming weeks or months, for which Zelensky is asking Western countries for more ammunition.
More ammunition would help the Ukrainian forces unlock a situation which at the moment has seen Ukrainian and Russian troops make very small advances only to be pushed back again.
“There is success in some districts of Bakhmut— we’re going forward. Or there’s no (success) and we’re again leaving for positions,” Zelensky said on Wednesday to describe the situation.
In its latest update, the ISW reported that Russian forces “likely made gains in and around Bakhmut” on Wednesday “and continued offensive operations along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City frontline.”….. CONTINUE READING