An aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukraine decided to fight in the ruined town of Bakhmut because the battle there was stressful and humiliating for the best Russian units ahead of the planned Ukrainian counter-offensive in the spring.
Mykhailo Podolak’s comments were the latest sign of change from Kiev this week to continue defending the small eastern town, which has seen one of the bloodiest battles of the war as Moscow tries to secure its first victory in six months.
Podolak said in an interview published by the Italian newspaper La Stampa: “Russia has changed its tactics.” It converged on Bakhmut with a large section of its trained military personnel, the remnants of its professional army, as well as private companies. »
We therefore have two aims: to reduce their numbers as much as possible, to reform them in a few large exhausting battles, to disrupt their offensive and to concentrate our means elsewhere, for the spring counterattack. Therefore, today Bakhmut is working at full capacity, even going beyond its main tasks.
Russia made Bakhmut the main target of a winter offensive involving hundreds of thousands of reservists and mercenaries. He succeeded in capturing the eastern part of the city and its northern and southern suburbs, but has so far failed to complete the circle around the Ukrainian defenders.
Kiev, which appeared in early March to consider withdrawing to positions west of the city, announced earlier this week that its generals had decided to reinforce its forces in Bakhmut and fight.
In a morning update, the Ukrainian General Staff reported a large number of attacks along the front and said, “The enemy does not stop its attacks on Bakhmut.”
Moscow claims that capturing Bakhmut would be a step towards capturing the entire industrial Donbass region, which is a major goal. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday that capturing the city would punch a hole in Ukraine’s defenses and allow Moscow to advance deeper.
Intense trench warfare, described by both sides as a meat grinder, took its toll. But Kiev’s decision to stay and fight rather than withdraw was a sign of his belief that Russia’s losses were far worse than his own.
Murat Yukselir / The World and the Post, Source: Graphic News
After making gains in the second half of 2022, Ukrainian forces have been mostly on the defensive since mid-November, while Russia has gone on the offensive, calling for its first mobilization since World War II.
Outside Bakhmut’s encirclement, however, the Russian winter offensive largely failed. Meanwhile, Kiev is awaiting a surge in Western military aid expected in the coming months to launch an offensive once the muddy ground dries up in late spring.
Kiev and the West also saw signs of fatigue in Russia’s recent massive missile attack on Ukrainian targets.
Russia fired hundreds of millions of dollars worth of missiles across Ukraine on Thursday, including the unprecedented six Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, which have been described as a superweapon for which NATO has no answer. It is only believed that he owns a few dozen kanazals.
Civilians, including a family, were killed, buried under the rubble while they slept in their homes near Lviv, 700 kilometers from the battlefield. But other than that, it doesn’t seem to get much done, with damaged electrical systems mostly quickly restored.
The worst damage appeared to be in the eastern city of Kharkiv, where the region’s governor said some 500,000 people were still without power on Friday morning.
It has been three weeks since the last similar Russian offensive, the longest lull since those strikes began in October. Previously, Moscow launched such attacks almost every week, challenging Ukraine’s ability to repair infrastructure before the next attack.
The British Ministry of Defense said, on Friday, that the reason for the longer calm may be that Moscow has run out of missiles, and it must now wait between volleys until its factories can produce them.
“The lag between waves of strikes is likely to increase as Russia now must stockpile a critical mass of newly produced missiles directly from industry before it can deliver a strike large enough to overwhelm Ukraine’s air defences,” she added.