KYIV (Reuters) – British military intelligence said on Saturday that Ukrainian forces defending Bakhmut were facing increasingly strong pressure from Russian forces, with heavy fighting taking place in and around the eastern city.
The British Ministry of Defense said in a daily intelligence bulletin on Twitter that Ukraine is reinforcing the area with elite units, while the regular Russian army and the forces of the Russian special military Wagner Group have made more advances in the northern suburb of Bakhmut.
It added that two major bridges in Bakhmut were destroyed in the past 36 hours, adding that Ukrainian-controlled resupply routes outside the city were becoming increasingly limited.
It added that one of those bridges was connecting Bakhmut with the city’s last major supply route from the Ukrainian-controlled town of Chasev Yar, about 13 kilometers to the west.
The Ukrainian military leadership said that Russia is still trying to besiege Bakhmut, but added that the Ukrainian forces repelled Russian attacks in the city during the past day.
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“The enemy does not stop attempts to surround Bakhmut,” it said in its morning briefing note on Saturday, adding that over the past day, Ukrainian forces repelled Russian attacks in Bakhmut.
On Friday, Russian artillery bombarded the last exit routes from Bakhmut, with the aim of completing the encirclement of the besieged city and bringing Moscow closer to achieving its first major victory in the war in six months.
The Ukrainian briefing note also said that Russian attacks had been thwarted in the villages of Ivanivsky and Bohdanivka, both less than eight kilometers west of Bakhmut city centre.
Capturing those villages, which flanked the crucial Bakhmut-Chasev Yar road on both sides, would leave the city on the cusp of a full Russian siege.
The Battle of Bakhmut has been raging for seven months. A Russian victory in the city, which had a pre-war population of around 70,000 and was razed to rubble in the assault, would give Moscow its first major prize in a costly winter offensive, having finally called up hundreds of thousands of reservists. year.
Russia says it will be a stepping stone to complete control of the Donbass industrial region, one of Moscow’s most important goals.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called Bakhmut a “fortress”.
“No one will give up Bakhmut,” he told a news conference in Kiev on Feb. 3. “We will fight for as long as possible. We consider Bakhmut as our fortress.”
Additional reporting by Max Hander in Kiev and Jose Joseph in Bengaluru. Editing by Frances Kerry
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