The end of the stalemate in the long dispute over Bakhmut appears to be approaching. While Russian soldiers, especially the Wagner group, proclaimed each step as a victory on the approach to the city of Donetsk, Ukraine remained certain that it would successfully defend it. Bakhmut is today “virtually surrounded”.
“The enemy does not give up the hope of conquering Bakhmut and continues to accumulate forces to occupy the city”, wrote this Thursday the Minister of Defense of Ukraine, Oleksii Reznikov, in Telegram, about “the most difficult” of battles, such as the described Volodymyr Zelensky.
In a gesture of celebration of recent advances — progress that was almost a mirage for Russia in the last semester — members of the Wagner paramilitary group climbed this Thursday to the top of a ruined building, two kilometers from the center of the city they want to conquer. , and raised the flag that represents them. “The boys are having a party. They brought this from Bakhmut this morning, practically in the center of the city”, commented the leader of the group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, quoted by his press service in Telegram.
This Friday, the same choice of words, in a necessary ambiguity when a conquest is announced even before having it in one’s hands: the city is “practically surrounded”.
Bakhmut is valuable for several reasons, none of which determine the outcome of the war. But it could be vital for Yevgeny Prigozhin and Vladimir Putin: Prigozhin needs to prove his military might, mainly to hoist the Wagner group’s flag in the face of a weakened Russian army; Putin needs to herald a new Russian conquest in Ukraine, and renew hope for control of Donbass.
For this reason, attacks on the routes that cross the city have not ceased, in an attempt to stop Ukrainian movements, since surrender does not seem to be an option for Kiev, and the Russian strategy has failed to overthrow the opposing battalions.
Just this Friday, videos of an explosion on a bridge very close to the city center were released, but it was not a Russian maneuver. It was, even if the information is not independently confirmed, provoked by the Ukrainians, which generated (new) rumors about the preparation of a withdrawal, allegations that Kiev has always denied.
This time was not different. “The bridge that is being held up as proof that we are retreating has long since exploded. Those in Bakhmut know that”, explained the 46th brigade of the Ukrainian Army, which is fighting in this ruined city. “Don’t feed the panic. And yes, you can cross the river there without a bridge.”
There is still no sign of withdrawal, but that was the will of Prigozhin, who this morning appealed to Volodymyr Zelensky to order his troops to leave Bakhmut.
“Bakhmut is currently surrounded by units of the private military group Wagner. Only one road remains (open to Ukrainians). The pincers are tightening”, he warned, in a video recorded in Paraskoviivka (as indicated by geolocation), seven kilometers north of “the most desired city in Ukraine”, a location that the mercenaries announced they had occupied on February 17th.
“Ukrainians are fighting, but their lives in the Bakhmut area will be short – a day or two. Give them an opportunity to leave town. The city is indeed surrounded,” he insisted. O “chef from Putin”addressing the Ukrainian president.
Instead of retreat orders, soldiers on the front lines ensure that troops are being reinforced; even in the face of the “most experienced” fighters in Moscow, as described by the commander of the Ukrainian Army, Oleksandr Syrskyi, who visited his soldiers in Bakhmut this Friday.
“They don’t count their losses in attempts to take the city. The task of our forces in Bakhmut is to inflict as many losses as possible on the enemy,” admitted Volodymyr Nazarenko, Deputy Commander of the National Guard of Ukraine. “Each meter of Ukrainian terrain will cost the enemy hundreds of lives.”