Zelensky Says the Situation in Bakhmut Is ‘Getting More and More Difficult’


FEBRUARY 28, 2023

Buildings damaged by a Russian military strike in the frontline city of Bakhmut, on Monday.Alex Babenko/Reuters

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has issued a stark warning about the battle for the eastern city of Bakhmut, saying in an overnight speech that Russian forces were shattering anything that could be used to shield Ukrainian defenders from Moscow’s onslaught.

“The situation is getting more and more difficult,” Mr. Zelensky said late Monday night. “The enemy is constantly destroying everything that can be used to protect our positions, to gain a foothold and ensure defense.”

Bakhmut, which had a prewar population of around 70,000 people, has become a focus of the fighting in Ukraine. Much of the city has been battered, though little ground has changed hands recently even as both sides pour in troops and take significant losses.

The commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky, on Tuesday described the situation around the city as “extremely tense” in a post on the Telegram messaging app.

For months, fighting has centered on towns and villages around Bakhmut as Moscow attempts to encircle the city and try to cut off supply routes, though there have been increasing reports of battles within the city itself. Denis Pushilin, the pro-Russian head of a breakaway republic in Donetsk Province, said on Tuesday that Russian forces had taken Stupky, a neighborhood on the outer edge of the city. There was no independent confirmation of his claim.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been immensely costly, leaving the country diplomatically isolated in Europe and facing sanctions, but Moscow has also suffered significant losses on the battlefield. The country has sustained more combat deaths in the war’s first year than in all the conflicts it has fought since World War II combined, including Chechnya and Afghanistan, according to a new report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a research organization based in Washington.

Even as Russia has faced setbacks, it aims to seize the whole of the eastern Donbas region, according to military analysts. Russia illegally annexed the region’s two provinces, Donetsk and Luhansk, in October and holds significant territory there, including the regional capitals. But the months of fighting over Bakhmut suggests that it would be difficult for Russia to make further rapid gains.

At the same time, Ukraine may try to attack in the southern region of Zaporizhzhia in a bid to approach the port city of Melitopol and drive a wedge between Russian forces in the Crimean Peninsula and the ground that Moscow holds in Donbas.

“The next three months on the front will be very active and decide the further course of events,” said Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence in an interview with the Voice of America. He said further deliveries of military aid to Ukraine, including attack aircraft, could prove decisive for his country.

Away from Bakhmut, Russian forces were pounding areas along the 600-mile front line on Monday and Tuesday, unleashing more than 100 shells in the east and in the Kherson region, in the country’s south.

Four people were killed in Kherson on Tuesday, according to local officials, and another civilian died in Kurakhivka, a town in the eastern Donetsk region around 50 miles southwest of Bakhmut, officials said. Nine others were injured in the Donetsk region.

In a separate attack on a building used by the emergency services in the town of Sviatohirsk in the Donetsk region, a person died and four others were injured. Photos posted by the head of the regional military administration, Pavlo Kyrylenko, showed a blackened crater in a street and a partially destroyed building made of bricks and corrugated iron nearby.

Courtesy/Source: NY Times