kyiv says Russia continues ‘attempts to encircle’ Bakhmut

Kyiv: Kyiv said on Sunday that he was repelling attacks by Russian troops who were still trying to encircle Bakhmuta town in now-destroyed eastern Ukraine that Moscow has been trying to capture for months.
Ukraine has sworn to defend ‘Fortress Bakhmut’ but faced Russian troops determined to take the city which has turned into a political prize as the battle drags on.
The Ukrainian General Staff said “more than 130 enemy attacks” had been repelled over the past day, including in Kupiansk, Lyman, Bakhmut and Avdiivka.
“The enemy is continuing its attempts to encircle the city of Bakhmut,” he said on Sunday morning.
Bakhmut was largely reduced to rubble during the longest and bloodiest battle of the invasion.
Sergiy Cherevaty, spokesman for the Ukrainian forces, said on Saturday that the situation was “difficult but under control” in the city which he described as a “priority target for the enemy”.
There is fighting in and around the city, the US Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said, warning that with Ukraine supply routes are narrowing.
“The Russians may have intended to encircle the Ukrainian forces at Bakhmut, but the Ukrainian command has signaled that they are likely to withdraw rather than risk encirclement,” the ISW said on Saturday.
Ukraine and Russia have since the summer fought bitterly for the city, whose symbolic importance exceeded its military scope.
Pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk region released a video claiming to show Wagner fighters in the northern suburb of Bakhmut taking over Stupki railway station.
Wagner, a private army led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, took center stage in the fight for the city, which revealed rivalries with Russian conventional forces.
On Friday, Prigozhin said his fighters had “virtually surrounded” Bakhmut, and only one road remained under Ukrainian control.
Prigozhin has been publishing the progress of his men towards the eastern city for weeks.
Prigozhin regularly posts videos of himself alongside mercenaries, on the ground or even in a fighter plane, unlike Russian generals criticized for fleeing the front.
In a rare exception, Russia on Saturday released a video of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu inspecting troops in frontline regions in Ukraine.
The ministry said Sergei Shoigu inspected a forward command post in the southern direction of Donetsk without specifying exactly where or when.
He was seen traveling in a helicopter and talking to a soldier in front of damaged buildings.
The ISW think tank said Shoigu traveled there “likely to assess the extent of Russian losses around Vugledar and the possibility of a new offensive in that direction”.
While the epicenter of the fighting is in eastern Ukraine, the results of a strike this week in a building in the south Zaporizhia has now increased to 13.
Zaporizhzhia is one of four regions – along with Donetsk, Lugansk and Kherson – which Russia claims to have annexed but never fully controlled.
Yet Moscow forces have held the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant since March 4, 2022.
The plant has repeatedly made headlines and rekindled fears of nuclear disasters similar to the deadly Chernobyl disaster that rocked Ukraine in 1986.
The exiled mayor of Energodar, which houses the plant, told AFP that Russia was using the plant as a “nuclear shield” for its troops and equipment.
kyiv and Moscow accused each other of bombing the plant and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) posted observers there.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday that Russia took the nuclear plant “hostage” a year ago, and “turned the territory of the (power plant) into a de facto military training ground”.
Zelensky also met with European Parliament President Roberta Metsola on Saturday, who urged Ukraine to be allowed to start EU membership talks this year.
The United States on Friday announced a new $400 million security assistance package for Ukraine, including a range of munitions for Kiev forces.


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