Ukraine vows to defend ‘fortress’ Bakhmut as Russia claims battle is ‘close to end’


Ukraine has vowed to defend its “fortress” Bakhmut as intense fighting against Russian soldiers continued in the streets this weekend.

Fighting intensified in the fiercely contested city on Sunday, with a Russian military source claiming the battle was “close to its end”.

Ukrainian military officials said attempts were continuing by Vladimir Putin’s troops to encircle the city.

Two civilians were killed over the past day in Bakhmut, governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said.

Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukraine was enduring a “painful and difficult” battle in the eastern Donbas region, which includes Bakhmut.

“I would like to pay special tribute to the bravery, strength and resilience of the soldiers fighting in the Donbas,” Mr Zelensky said.

“This is one of the hardest battles. Painful and difficult.”

Russian forces have spent months trying to capture the city as part of their offensive in eastern Ukraine, and the area has seen some of the bloodiest ground fighting of the war.

In recent days, Ukrainian units destroyed two key bridges just outside Bakhmut, including one linking it to the nearby town of Chasiv Yar along the last remaining Ukrainian resupply route, according to UK military intelligence officials and other Western analysts.

A pontoon bridge was set up by Ukrainian soldiers to help the few remaining residents reach the nearby village of Khromove. Later, at least five houses were set on fire as a result of attacks in Khromove.

Zelensky said fighting in the Donbas region is ‘painful and difficult’


The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, assessed last week that Kyiv’s actions may point to a looming pullout from parts of the city.

It said Ukrainian troops may “conduct a limited and controlled withdrawal from particularly difficult sections of eastern Bakhmut,” while seeking to inhibit Russian movement there and limit exit routes to the west.

Capturing Bakhmut would not only give Russian fighters a rare battlefield gain after months of setbacks but might rupture Ukraine’s supply lines and allow the Kremlin’s forces to press on toward other Ukrainian strongholds in Donetsk province.

Rybar, a blogging unit with close ties to the Russian army, wrote on Telegram on Sunday: “The Armed Forces of Ukraine are withdrawing forces from the central and western regions of Bakhmut.

“These efforts are only intended to buy time and delay the Russian units as much as possible. The battle for Bakhmut is close to its end.”

Rybar’s claims that forces are withdrawing have not been verified.

Ukrainian military officials are vowing they will defend “fortress Bakhmut” but even Kyiv’s supporters in the West are saying that the Russian army and Wagner mercenary group have the upper hand.

Another person has died on Sunday as fighting continues in Bakhmut


In southern Ukraine, a woman and two children were killed in a residential building in the Kherson region village of Poniativka, the Ukrainian president’s office reported. A Russian artillery shell hit a car in Burdarky, another Kharkiv province village, killing a man and his wife, the regional prosecutor’s office said.

Casualties increased from an attack earlier in the week. Ukraine’s emergency services reported on Sunday that the death toll from a Russian missile strike that hit a five-story apartment building in southern Ukraine on Thursday rose to 13.

It also emerged today that Russian troops are likely using shovels for “hand-to-hand” combat in Ukraine because of an ammunition shortage, UK intelligence said.

In its update on the war on Sunday, the UK’s Ministry of Defence said Mr Putin’s troops were ordered to attack a Ukrainian position armed just with “firearms and shovels” late last month.

It said the shovel was an MPL-50 – a tool that was designed in 1869 and has not changed much since. The MoD said it “highlights the brutal and low-tech fighting” that has characterised much of the war.

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