The fight for Bakhmut | Gallery News

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Ukraine’s military leaders are determined to hold on to Bakhmut, Kyiv officials said Monday, even as Russian forces continued to pound the devastated eastern Ukrainian city they have tried to be captured for months at the cost of thousands of lives.

The office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he was chairing a meeting with military officials when the country’s top brass proposed strengthening Ukraine’s position there.

Intense Russian shelling targeted the city of Donetsk region and nearby villages as Moscow deployed more resources there in an apparent attempt to end the Bakhmut conflict, according to local officials.

“Civilians are fleeing the area to escape the Russian shelling that continues around the clock as additional Russian troops and weapons are deployed there,” said Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko.

Russian forces that invaded Ukraine just over a year ago have been occupying Bakhmut since August, putting Kyiv’s troops on the defensive but unable to deliver a crushing blow.

Some analysts say the potential collapse is unlikely to be a turning point in the conflict.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin backed up that view on Monday, saying during a visit to Jordan that Bakhmut has “more symbolic value than… strategic and operational value”.

In recent days, Ukrainian units destroyed two major bridges just outside Bakhmut, including one connecting it to the nearby hilltop town of Chasiv Yar on the way to re- last remaining Ukrainian supply, according to UK military intelligence officials and other Western analysts.

The demolition of the bridges could be part of efforts to reduce the Russian offensive if Ukrainian forces begin to withdraw from the city.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the millionaire owner of the Wagner Group arms company that oversaw the Bakhmut attack, has been at the head of a logger with the Russian defense ministry and has repeatedly been accused of not providing weapons to his forces.

On Sunday, he again criticized the army’s top brass for moving slowly to deliver the promised weapons, questioning whether the delay was caused by “red tape or betrayal”.

Putin’s stated goal is to seize full control of the four regions, including Donetsk, that Moscow illegally annexed last year. Russia controls about half of the Donetsk province, and to take the other half of that province its forces have to go through Bakhmut.

Ukraine and its Western allies do not recognize any of the moves linked to Russia, dismissing them as meaningless attempts to grab territory.

Bakhmut is the only approach to larger Ukrainian-controlled cities since Ukrainian troops retook Izyum in Kharkiv region during a counter-offensive last September.

Bakhmut has taken on an almost mythical weight for his defenders.

It has become like Mariupol – the port city in the same province that Russia captured after an 82-day siege that ended in a mammoth steel mill where determined Ukrainian fighters held a -out with civilians.

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