Ukraine: Tensions in Bakhmout and Russian Defense Minister's Frontline Visit | War in Ukraine
The battle is raging in the Ukrainian town of Bakhmut, which the paramilitary group Wagner claims to have virtually surrounded.
Russia's Defense Minister conducted a frontline inspection in the eastern Ukraine, his ministry said on Saturday, as the battle for the iconic city of Bakhmout rages on and Washington announced new military aid to Kiev.
The Russian Ministry of Defense indicated that Sergei Shoigu had inspected a command post on the front, in the Donetsk-South direction, without specifying the exact place or the date of this visit.
The ministry released a video showing Mr. Shoigu traveling in a helicopter, then speaking with a military man in front of damaged buildings, under the guard of a soldier.
The day before, the paramilitary group Wagner, which regularly accuses the Russian army command of not providing enough support, claimed to have “virtually surrounded” Bakhmout, in the Donetsk region, and called President Volodymyr Zelensky to sound the withdrawal of his troops.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu claims to have inspected a command post on the front in eastern Ukraine.
Amid fierce fighting in the area, President Joe Biden announced $400 million in new military aid to Ukraine on Friday, during a visit to Washington by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
< p class="e-p">Western military aid to Ukraine was crucial in enabling Kiev to resist Russian troops and even regain ground, but the Kremlin said such aid would only prolong the conflict.
Washington nevertheless announced this new military support, including ammunition, notably for the Himars rocket system that Ukrainian forces used with devastating effect on Russian troops and logistics lines.
On Twitter, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov thanked the United States and hailed a solid new investment for the future successes of the Ukrainian military on the battlefield.
For his part, Volodymyr Zelenski met on Saturday in Lviv, in western Ukraine, the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola. Ukraine aims […] to start negotiations to join the EU this year, he said, in a message on Telegram.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov shakes hands with US President Joe Biden during the latter's surprise visit to Ukraine on February 20.
The battle for Bakhmout, an industrial city whose strategic importance is disputed, has been going on since the summer. The city has become a symbol, as it has been the epicenter of fighting between Russians and Ukrainians for months.
In recent weeks, Russian forces have advanced, cutting off three of the four Ukrainian supply routes and making the position of the defenders increasingly precarious.
Wagner's units have virtually surrounded Bakhmout, there is only one road left to get out of it, Wagner boss Evgeny Prigojine said on Friday in a video published by his press service.
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In combat gear, Mr. Prigozhin called on Mr. Zelensky, who had sworn to defend Bakhmout as long as possible, to order Ukrainian troops to withdraw from the city.
On Saturday, the Ukrainian army general staff said it had repelled more than 150 Russian attacks in the past 24 hours and specified that, in the Bakhmout area, the enemy did not keep trying to surround the city.
The Russian military did not mention the situation in Bakhmut in its briefing on Saturday, stating only that active operations continued in the direction of Donetsk, where the city is located.
For its part, the British Ministry of Defense stressed on Saturday that Ukrainian defenders of Bakhmout were under increasing pressure, with intense fighting in and around the city.
According to this source, the Russian regular army and the Wagner group have advanced on the northern outskirts of the city, which is now a salient vulnerable to attacks from three sides.
“Ukraine is reinforcing the area with elite units and in the past 36 hours two key bridges in Bakhmout have been destroyed, including a vital bridge linking the city to the last main supply route.
— UK Ministry of Defense
Kiev also said on Saturday that the head of Ukraine's special forces, General Viktor Khorenko, had inspected units defending Bakhmout.
The city, now largely destroyed, had some 70 000 inhabitants before the Russian offensive. There are now 4,500 left, according to local authorities.
At the same time, several officials from Ukrainian regions in the south and east of the country have reported new shootings forces against civilian infrastructure in the past 24 hours.
Ukrainian emergency services also said on Saturday that the death toll from the strike on an apartment building in Zaporizhia, on the night of Wednesday to Thursday, had risen to 10 dead, including a child, and that search operations continued in the rubble.
The authorities in this region also announced the death of two civilians during a Russian artillery strike on Saturday morning on the town of Gulyai Pole.