ANATOLII STEPANOV / AFP
The Ukrainians have not yet given up on the strategic city of Bakhmout, described by the Russians as an “important node (of the lines) of defense of the Ukrainian soldiers in the Donbass”.
WAR IN UKRAINE – The capture of Bakhmout could be irreversible for Ukraine. In any case, this is the fear expressed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky about this city which has become the epicenter of particularly deadly fighting for several months in Ukraine. A martyr city, which could fall in the next few days “, to hear the estimates of NATO.
“We understand that after Bakhmout they could go further. They could go to Kramatorsk, they could go to Sloviansk, the way would be clear for the Russians (…) to other cities in Ukraine”estimated Volodymyr Zelensky in an interview with CNN broadcast this Wednesday, March 8.
Because faced with the fear of leaving a boulevard for the Russians to seize cities in eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainian president has again made it known that his army would not let go of the slightest centimeter in Bakhmout. “I had a meeting with the chief of staff yesterday and the chief military commanders (…) and they all said that we must remain strong in Bakhmut”said the President of Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says in an interview with CNN that Russian troops will have “open road” to c…
— CNN (@CNN)
“Of course, we have to think about the lives of our soldiers. But we must do all we can while we receive weapons, supplies and our army prepares for the counter-offensive”, he added. And this at a time when the Russians say they are progressing in their capture of this city which has become the scene of the longest and deadliest battle since the start of the Russian invasion, more than 12 months ago now. The BBC also reports 20,000 to 30,000 Russian victims, according to Western officials about the fighting in Bakhmout, which began in the summer of 2022.
A locality even described as ” important node (of the lines) of defense of the Ukrainian soldiers in the Donbass » in the words of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Tuesday. “His capture will allow us to carry out new offensive operations in depth”he added during a meeting.
However, the risk of seeing the city fall into the hands of the Russians is becoming clearer, explained Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary General of NATO, on Wednesday. ” We cannot exclude that Bakhmout will finally fall in the next few days. “, he declared on the sidelines of a meeting of European defense ministers in Stockholm. And to qualify all the same the importance that such an event would have. ” This does not necessarily reflect any turning point in the war. But it underlines that we should not underestimate Russia. We must continue to support Ukraine. »
Moscow wants victory
However, if the strategic value of Bakhmout is still disputed in theory, the city has taken on an undeniable symbolic and tactical importance, given the heavy losses suffered by both sides. The city, which has barely 4,000 inhabitants compared to 70,000 before the invasion, has been largely destroyed.
And Volodymyr Zelensky’s fears about Russian advances seem well founded, as evidenced by recent statements by Yevgeny Prigojine, founder of the paramilitary group Wagner. “Wagner units have taken the entire eastern part of Bakhmout, everything east of the Bakhmoutka River” crossing the city, said the boss of the group, still recently in open conflict with the Russian military hierarchy, which he accuses of not delivering enough ammunition to his men.
Map of the front line around the town of Bakhmut, in Donetsk Oblast, which Russian forces seek to take to conquer more towns in eastern Ukraine.
In its latest report, published on Tuesday, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a group of American experts, indeed estimated that the Kremlin troops had “presumably” captured this eastern part, after a “controlled withdrawal” Ukrainian forces.
NEW: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated on March 7 that the hypothetical #Russian capture of #Bakhmut wo…
— ISW (@TheStudyofWar)
Moscow, still in search of a victory since its bitter setbacks in the fall, now appears to control access to the city to the north, south and east, threatening encirclement. However, Evguéni Prigojine, relatively upset against the Russian army for several weeks, believes that the Russian lines would collapse if his troops were to withdraw from Bakhmout. What suggest that the balance of power is still fragile.
On Tuesday, he even allowed himself to make fun of the Russian Defense Minister, indicating that he “not having met him” on the battlefield, while his ministry said on Saturday without saying more that Sergei Shoigu had gone to the combat zone.
Hold to counterattack
On Tuesday, Volodymyr Zelensky had meanwhile challenged speculation about a possible tactical withdrawal of his men and ordered to send reinforcements to this practically destroyed city, despite recent Russian advances.
However, Wagner’s troops carried out this attack at the cost of very heavy losses, even by Yevgeny Prigojine’s own admission. A situation that pushes kyiv to continue the confrontation in Bakhmout to further wear out the Russian offensive forces. And if kyiv holds out long enough, it will allow it to prepare and launch its counter-offensive, planned thanks to the modern heavy and armored weapons promised by the West.
On this subject, the Ministers of Defense of the European Union will meet on Wednesday in Stockholm in the presence of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and their Ukrainian counterpart Oleksiï Reznikov to discuss the human and military cost of the battle for Bakhmout.
The objective of this meeting is to prepare a three-part plan for the delivery of ammunition to Ukraine with a view to its adoption on March 20, during a meeting of the heads of European diplomacy. The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, also demanded on Tuesday, before the Parliament of Canada “unwavering military and economic support”.
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