Kiev / Moscow (EFE) , surrounded almost entirely by Russian forces.
The head of the Russian Wagner group, Yevgueni Prigozhin, assured this Wednesday that his units have taken control of the eastern part of Bakhmut, the epicenter of the fighting in Donbas.
“Wagner units have taken over the entire eastern part of Bakhmut, everything east of the Bakhmutka River is under the control of the Wagner private military company,” Prigozhin said in a message released by his press service.
The day before, Prigozhin affirmed that in Bakhmut between 12,000 and 20,000 Ukrainian soldiers still remain, offering a fierce resistance to the Russian forces.
The head of the mercenary group praised the enemy, saying that “day and night” there is fierce fighting and “the Ukrainians do not run away.”
“They die en masse for Bakhmut and surrender only in extreme cases,” he said.
Zelensky warns that if the Russians take Bakhmut, they will have “the road open” to other cities
If Russian troops manage to take Bakhmut, they will have the “open path” to capture other key cities in the east of the country, Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky has warned in an interview with CNN.
The president defended his decision to keep his country’s troops in this battered city, where dozens of soldiers from both sides have already died and whose population has fallen from 70,000 to less than 5,000 inhabitants.
“It’s a tactical issue for us,” Zelensky said, before insisting that his top military commanders unanimously support prolonging their defense of the city after weeks of continuous Russian attacks.
“We understand that after Bakhmut (the Russians) could go further. They could go to Kramatorsk, they could go to Sloviansk, it would be an open path for the Russians after Bakhmut to reach other cities in Ukraine, in the direction of (the) Donetsk region,” Zelensky explained to the US chain.
The president said his motivations for keeping the city are “very different” from Russia’s goals, adding that if the Kremlin were to put its flag on the city, it would help “mobilize their society to create this idea that they are such a mighty army.”
A “butcher’s shop”
Ukraine decided on Tuesday to maintain the defense of the city of Bakhmut and send additional reinforcements, despite the risk that Wagner’s mercenaries manage to close the siege around the city.
According to testimonies collected by the Ukrainian newspaper The Kyiv Independent, the battle for Bakhmut is “a carnage”.
The Ukrainian military claims that poorly trained and unprepared battalions have been thrown onto the front lines, with little support from armor, mortars, artillery, drones and tactical information.
Some analysts point out that Russian soldiers are also suffering enormous wear and tear to control an enclave that for the Kremlin has more symbolic than strategic value.