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Ukraine says Bakhmut hasn’t been surrounded as Russian pressure intensifies

Ukrainian forces defending Bakhmut are facing increasingly strong pressure from Russian forces, British military intelligence said Saturday, as intense fighting took place in and around the eastern city. 

Ukraine reports repelling numerous attacks in and around eastern city.

Ukrainian soldiers fire a Howitzer towards Russian positions near Bakhmut, Ukraine.

Ukrainian forces defending Bakhmut are facing increasingly strong pressure from Russian forces, British military intelligence said Saturday, with intense fighting taking place in and around the eastern city.

Ukraine is reinforcing the area with elite units, while regular Russian army and forces of the Russian private military Wagner Group have made further advances into Bakhmut’s northern suburbs, the British Defence Ministry said in its daily intelligence bulletin on Twitter.

The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in a Facebook post late on Saturday that Russian troops were trying but failing to surround Bakhmut, adding that defenders had repelled numerous attacks in and around the city.

The battle for Bakhmut has raged for seven months. A Russian victory in the city, which had a pre-war population of about 70,000 and has been blasted to ruins in the onslaught, would give Moscow the first major prize in a costly winter offensive.

Oleh Zhdanov, a prominent Ukrainian analyst of military affairs, said late on Saturday that he could not detect any immediate signs that Kyiv was going to order a retreat from the city.

A Ukrainian tank is seen on the move in Bakhmut.

“At the moment, the situation is more or less stabilized. In terms of the advancement of Russian troops, we practically stopped [it],” he said in a YouTube interview.

The British Defence Ministry said two key bridges in Bakhmut have been destroyed within the last 36 hours, adding that Ukrainian-held resupply routes out of the city are increasingly limited.

One of those bridges connected Bakhmut to the city’s last main supply route from the Ukrainian-held town of Chasiv Yar, about 13 kilometres to the west, it said.

Russian artillery pounded the last routes out of Bakhmut on Friday, aiming to complete the encirclement of the besieged city and bring Moscow closer to its first major victory in the war in six months.

Struggles for those who stay

Amid the fighting, civilians remaining in the area spoke about their daily struggles during near-constant enemy fire.

Bakhmut resident Hennadiy Mazepa and his wife, Natalia Ishkova, both chose to remain in Bakhmut, even as fierce battles reduced much of the city to rubble.

A woman cooks food outdoors in Bakhmut, Ukraine.

Ishkova said on Saturday that they suffered from a lack of food and basic utilities.

“Humanitarian [aid] is given to us only once a month. There is no electricity, no water, no gas,” she told The Associated Press.

“I pray to God that all who remain here will survive.”

Nearby attacks foiled: Ukraine

The Ukrainian General Staff also said Russian attacks had been foiled in the villages of Vasyukivka, Orikhovo-Vasylivka, Dubovo-Vasylivka and Hryhorivka, all of which lie just to the north of Bakhmut’s city centre.

Russia says it would be a stepping stone to completing the capture of the Donbas industrial region, one of Moscow’s most important objectives.

A Ukrainian soldier digs a trench along a frontline stretch outside of Bakhmut, Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has described Bakhmut as a “fortress,” on Saturday thanked defenders in the city in a video message but gave no details of the fighting.

Also on Saturday, Russia’s defence chief travelled to Ukraine’s embattled east to inspect troops and to award them with state decorations, the Russian Defence Ministry said.

Sergei Shoigu visited a command post of Russia’s eastern forces, where he was briefed by regional commander Rustam Muradov, according to a video published by the ministry. The video did not disclose the command post’s location.

Elsewhere, Ukraine’s emergency services reported Saturday morning that the death toll from a Russian missile strike on Thursday that hit a five-storey apartment building in southern Ukraine has risen to 11.

A Ukrainian armoured personnel carrier is seen driving near Bakhmut.

Russian shelling on Saturday also killed two residents of front-line communities in the surrounding Zaporizhzhia region, the local military administration reported in a Telegram post.

A 57-year old woman and 68-year-old man also died in Nikopol, a town further west that neighbours the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, as Russian forces stationed there fired artillery shells and rockets at Ukrainian-held territory across the Dnipro river, regional Gov. Serhiy Lysak reported Saturday.

A view of buildings destroyed amid fighting in Bakhmut, Ukraine. 

With files from The Associated Press

Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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