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Zelensky vows to defend eastern Ukraine’s Bakhmut

07.03.2023 11:30
Ukraine’s president has pledged that his country’s forces will continue to defend the besieged eastern city of Bakhmut against Russian assaults.
Volodymyr Zelensky.
Volodymyr Zelensky.PAP/EPA/Mykola Tys

Volodymyr Zelensky made the declaration in an address to Ukrainians late on Monday, as quoted by his office.

The Ukrainian president said: “Today at the Staff meeting, I directly asked both Khortytsia commander, General Syrskyi, and Commander-in-Chief Zaluzhny about their view of the further defence operation in the Bakhmut sector. Either withdrawal or continuation of defence and reinforcement of the city.”

Zelensky stated: “Both generals replied: do not withdraw and reinforce. And this opinion was unanimously backed by the Staff. There were no other opinions.”

Zelensky announced: “I told the Commander-in-Chief to find the appropriate forces to help the guys in Bakhmut. There is no part of Ukraine about which one can say that it can be abandoned.”

Meanwhile, the Institute for the Study of War, a US think tank, published maps showing that Russian troops had captured 40 percent of Bakhmut, following a nine-month-long campaign. 

Russia engaged in costly fight for Bakhmut: ISW

However, the ISW said on Monday that Russia would not be able to make any "operationally significant gains" even if it seized Bakhmut, while Ukraine’s defence sets “robust conditions for Ukrainian counteroffensive operations.”

Ukraine’s continued defence of Bakhmut is forcing Russian forces to engage in an expensive battle for a city that “isn’t intrinsically important operationally or strategically”, the US think tank stated in its latest report.

It observed that “Ukraine’s fight for Bakhmut has become strategically significant because of the current composition of Russian forces arrayed in the area.” 

The ISW said that, although there was a danger of Ukraine “expending its own elite manpower and scarce equipment on mainly Wagner prison recruits who are mere cannon fodder,” it stressed that the ranks of convicts that Wagner has recruited were “not limitless” and “the permanent elimination of tens of thousands of them in Bakhmut means that they will not be available for more important fights.”

Moreover, the US think tank added, “Russian forces fighting in Bakhmut are now drawn from the elite elements of the Wagner Group and from Russian airborne units as well as from lower-quality troops.”

The ISW assessed that “the opportunity to damage the Wagner Group’s elite elements, along with other elite units if they are committed, in a defensive urban warfare setting where the attrition gradient strongly favors Ukraine is an attractive one.”

Destroying Russia’s Wagner group would have 'positive ramifications'

According to the ISW, the destruction “of the elite Wagner fighting force” would have “positive ramifications beyond the battlefield”.

The US think tank said that, during the nine-month assault on Bakhmut, the Wagner Group “has ostentatiously ramped up efforts to disseminate Wagner’s militarism and ideology throughout Russia.”

The ISW added: “Badly damaging [Wagner financier Yevgheny] Prigozhin’s power and reputation within Russia would be an important accomplishment from the standpoint of the long-term prospects for restoring sanity in Russia. That is an aim in America’s interests as well as in Ukraine’s, and it raises the stakes in the Battle of Bakhmut beyond matters of terrain and battlespace geometry.”

Prigozhin’s recent statements about concerns over a lack of ammunition suggest “he fears that the Russian Ministry of Defence is fighting the Battle of Bakhmut to the last Wagner fighter and exposing his forces to destruction,” the US think tank reported

Tuesday is day 377 of Russia’s war on Ukraine. 


Source: PAP, president.gov.ua, understandingwar.org