The Ukrainian military’s top commander has announced that his forces are successfully pushing back against a Russian assault on the city of Bakhmut in the Donbas region. The city has been the focus of the biggest battle of Russia’s war in recent months, and the situation on the front line is currently “the toughest in the Bakhmut direction,” according to Valery Zaluzhny, commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces. Despite months of fierce fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces, some residents remain in the virtually emptied city, which has surpassed any military significance due to its symbolic importance.
Russian forces have been making incremental gains around Bakhmut, but according to the latest intelligence update from the British Ministry of Defence, Russia’s assault on the city “has largely stalled.” The update suggests that this is likely due to extreme attrition of the Russian forces, although Ukraine has also suffered heavy casualties. Senior Ukrainian military commander Oleksandr Syrsky has said that a counterattack could be launched soon against “exhausted” Russian forces near Bakhmut. However, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that a counteroffensive cannot happen now because Ukraine lacks weapons, equipment, and ammunition.
Zelenskyy made this assessment after visiting troops near the Bakhmut front line on Wednesday. He stated that “no brave soldiers” can be sent to the front without tanks and artillery. The head of Russia’s Wagner private militia, Yevgeny Prigozhin, had earlier claimed that his forces were in control of about 70 percent of Bakhmut. Meanwhile, around 10,000 Ukrainians, many elderly and people with disabilities, remain in and around Bakhmut and are suffering “very dire conditions,” according to the International Committee of the Red Cross. The aid group’s Umar Khan said at a news briefing that they are “spending almost the entire days in intense shelling in the shelters,” and that “all you see is people pushed to the very limits of their existence and survival and resilience.”