The Ukrainian army refuses to abandon its positions in Bakhmout | War in Ukraine
A Ukrainian army soldier near the Bakhmout frontline in the northeast of the country.
Ukraine's military on Monday announced its intention to “reinforce” its positions in Bakhmout, the epicenter of the fighting in the east of the country, refuting speculation of a withdrawal in the face of Russian troops trying to encircle this area. symbol city.
This announcement comes at a time when the boss of the Russian paramilitary group Wagner, Yevgeny Prigojine, has once again complained of a lack of ammunition for his men, on the front line in this battle that has been going on since the summer.
Far from backing down, while rumors of a withdrawal have been rife for a week, the commanders-in-chief of the Ukrainian armed forces have come out in favor of the continuation of the defensive operation and a strengthening [their] positions in Bakhmout, during a meeting on Monday with the head of state, Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian presidency said.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), an American think tank, for its part estimated on Sunday evening that the Ukrainian army was probably in the process of carrying out a tactical retreat scale limited to Bakhmout.
Fighting is still raging in Bakhmout, eastern Ukraine. The Russian forces claim to have practically surrounded the city. For its part, the paramilitary group Wagner challenges Moscow and still denounces a lack of ammunition. The story of Lise Villeneuve.
A city of some 70,000 inhabitants before the war, Bakhmout became, because of the length of the battle and the heavy losses suffered by both sides, the symbol of the struggle between Russians and Ukrainians for control of the industrial region of Donbass.
Russian troops have advanced in recent weeks north and south of the city, cutting off three of the four Ukrainian supply routes and leaving only the one that leads further west towards Chassiv Iar as an exit route. .
Near Chassiv Iar, sitting inside his BMP-2 combat vehicle, his face marked with fatigue, a Ukrainian soldier told the ;AFP that he had just spent a month in Bakhmout and had to repair his tank.
“Bakhmut will fall. We're almost surrounded. Units are gradually withdrawing in small groups. »
— A Ukrainian soldier
He points out that the only way to leave Bakhmout is on dirt tracks, and if armored vehicles get stuck, they are the target of Russian artillery fire.
Despite the threat of encirclement and the city's limited strategic importance, the Ukrainians continue to fiercely defend Bakhmut, where President Zelensky visited in December and vowed to hold out as long as possible.
Ukrainian soldiers near the Bakhmout front in the Donbas region.
While some analysts question the interest of Ukrainians clinging to this now devastated city, the ISW said in a note that the defense of Bakhmout remains strategically sensible, as it continues to deplete Russian manpower and equipment.
On the Russian side, Yevgeny Prigojine, Wagner's boss, accused, for the second time in fewer two weeks, the Russian army for not sending enough ammunition to its mercenaries. He mentioned two possible reasons for the delay: ordinary bureaucracy or betrayal.
He assured in a second message to knock on all doors and sound the alarm. The Ukrainian army will fight for [Bakhmut] until the end, he believed.
Last month, Mr. Prigojine had multiplied the virulent criticism of the Russian command.
A sign that tensions persist, in a video published over the weekend, Mr. Prigozhin appeared to warn the Russian army, saying that if Wagner withdraws from Bakhmut now, the whole front will collapse.
Excerpt from a video with Wagner's boss, Yevgeny Prigojine, where he asks the Ukrainian president to withdraw his Bakhmout's troops.
According to the press service of the Ukrainian army, the commander of the ground forces Oleksandre Syrsky visited Bakhmout on Sunday and saw heavy fighting there. ;great intensity.
“The enemy has sent additional Wagner forces into the battle. Our soldiers bravely defend their positions north of Bakhmout, trying to prevent the encirclement of the city.
— Oleksandre Syrsky, Commander of Ground Forces
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited the martyr city of Mariupol, devastated by a destructive siege led by his army last spring. According to the Russian army, he inspected reconstruction work in the port city.
For this third visit to the conflict zone, Mr. Shoigu notably visited a center medical, another emergency and a new residential area comprising 12 buildings.
The Russian government presented a plan last summer to rebuild Mariupol in three years, a goal that seems ambitious, given the scale of the destruction.
Overnight from Sunday to Monday, the Ukrainian Air Force reported shooting down 13 out of 15 Iranian-made explosive drones launched by Russia. It did not report any human casualties or material damage.
Last week, Russia reported several Ukrainian drone attacks on its territory and in Crimea annexed. She also denounced an incursion of Ukrainian saboteurs in the Bryansk region, bordering Ukraine.