Ukraine today admitted it may need to withdraw its troops from Bakhmut as Russia has launched a bloody, months-long offensive to take the besieged Ukrainian city.
Vladimir Putin’s troops are they continued their relentless attacks on the small mining town in eastern Ukraine in an attempt to surround the defending forces and force them to surrender or retreat.
If successful, it would give Putin his first major victory in more than half a year and pave the way for the conquest of the last remaining urban centers in the Donetsk region.
And now Alexander Rodnyansky, an economic adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, admitted that Ukrainian troops may be withdrawing from the city.
“Our military will clearly weigh all options,” Rodnyansky told CNN. “So far they have held the city, but if necessary, they will retreat strategically. We are not going to sacrifice all our people for nothing.’
Ukrainian soldiers from the 80th Brigade fire targets with a mobile howitzer outside Bakhmut, Ukraine, on Tuesday.
Ukrainian 80th Brigade soldiers prepare to fire targets from a mobile howitzer outside Bakhmut on Tuesday
A Ukrainian soldier from the 80th Brigade is seen in a mobile howitzer outside Bakhmut on Tuesday
The battle for Bakhmut, in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance as defenders hold out against relentless shelling and waves of Russian troops taking heavy casualties in a months-long campaign to take Bakhmut.
Rodnyansky noted that Russia used the best troops of the Wagner group to try to encircle the city, while Zelensky accused Moscow of throwing waves of men at Bakhmut with no regard for their lives.
Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, a rogue millionaire with longstanding ties to Putin, said on Wednesday that he has so far seen no signs of a Ukrainian withdrawal from the city. He claimed that Kiev has in fact strengthened its positions there.
“The Ukrainian army is deploying additional troops and doing what it can to maintain control of the city,” Prigozhin said. “Tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers put up fierce resistance and the fighting is getting bloodier by the day.”
Recent drone footage shows the extent of the devastation in the city, while Zelensky has said it is “devastated.”
Flames and smoke rise into the sky from burning buildings, while constant gunfire and explosions echo from the city’s crumbling walls.
Thousands of residents remain in the devastated city of a pre-war population of about 70,000.
“It is terrifying indeed,” said a middle-aged man clad in a coat and woolen hat on the steps of his apartment building.
“I can barely move my legs — they barely move — from the stress of the situation,” he said. “As long as my house is intact and I’m not hurt, I’ll stay here.”
Vladimir Putin’s forces continue their relentless attacks on the small mining town in eastern Ukraine. Pictured: Ukrainian soldiers near Bakhmut on Tuesday
Ukrainian soldiers from the 80th Brigade are on duty outside Bakhmut, Ukraine, on Tuesday
A Ukrainian soldier was seen in the mobile howitzer just outside Bakhmut on Tuesday
An elderly woman stands in her backyard after shelling in Chasiv Yar, near Bakhmut on Tuesday
The Battle of Bakhmut, in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance as defenders hold out against relentless shelling and waves of Russian troops suffer heavy casualties in a months-long campaign to take Bakhmut
The area around Bakhmut has been the only part of the front where Moscow has made significant gains in a winter offensive that has led to what both sides describe as the bloodiest fighting of the war.
“Russia generally does not take people into account and sends them in constant waves against our positions, the intensity of the fighting is only increasing,” Zelensky said in an overnight speech, describing the fighting in Bakhmut as “the most difficult.” but the defense as essential.
After the loss of a large area in the second half of 2022, Russian troops have been replenished with hundreds of thousands of reservists.
Kiev, for its part, has been mostly holding on to defense for the past three months, hoping that the Russian attack will exhaust Moscow’s troops before Ukraine launches a counterattack with new weapons promised by the West.
The fighting near Bakhmut was led by Wagner, who recruited tens of thousands of convicts from prisons. His boss Prigozhin has accused the regular Russian army of treason for failing to supply his men adequately.
A view of the city of Bakhmut, the place of the heaviest battles with the Russian troops, in the Donetsk region
Vladimir Putin’s forces continue their relentless attacks on the small mining town in eastern Ukraine
Bakhmut was left devastated as a result of heavy shelling by Russian troops
Wagner clearly received support from the Kremlin on Wednesday as Russia’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma, discussed expanding censorship laws to include a 15-year prison sentence for those who discredit “volunteer formations.”
“This initiative will protect everyone who risks their lives today to ensure the security of the country and our citizens,” Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin wrote on social media. “The punishment for offenders will be severe.”
In Ukraine, at least nine civilians were killed nationwide on Tuesday and 12 others injured, the Ukrainian president’s office reported Wednesday morning.
Fierce fighting continued in the eastern province of Donetsk, with the towns of Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Vuhledar, along with 17 other towns and villages, coming under heavy Russian shelling. “Firing does not stop all along the front line,” the presidential office said in a regular update.
In the easternmost province of Luhansk, regional governor Serhiy Haidai said the Ukrainian army blew up a warehouse in Russian-occupied Kadiivka on the site of a factory where Russian troops stored trucks of munitions.
The Russian army tried to break through the Ukrainian defenses in Bilohorivka and near Kreminna, “but the Russian attack was repulsed,” Haidai said.