Russia steps up efforts to win elusive Ukrainian city award

Kyiv: The Fate of Bakhmut appeared to be in play Monday, as Russian forces continued to encroach on the devastated city in eastern Ukraine, but its defenders were still denying the Kremlin the prize it had been seeking for six months at the cost of thousands of lives .
Intense Russian shelling targeted Donetsk the region’s town and nearby villages as Moscow deployed more resources there in an apparent attempt to end Bakhmut’s resistance, according to local officials.
“Civilians are fleeing the area to escape the ongoing round-the-clock Russian bombardment as additional Russian troops and weapons are deployed there,” the governor of Donetsk said. Pavlo Kyrylenko said.
Russian forces that invaded Ukraine just over a year ago weighed on Bakhmut for months, putting Kyiv’s troops on the defensive but unable to deliver a knockout blow.
More generally, Russia continues to struggle to generate momentum on the battlefield. The full-scale invasion of Moscow on February 24, 2022 quickly stalled, then was repelled by a Ukrainian counteroffensive. During the extremely cold winter months, fighting is largely at a stalemate.
Bakhmut has no major strategic value, and analysts believe that his possible downfall is unlikely to bring a turning point in the conflict.
Its importance has become psychological – for Russian President Vladimir Putin, a victory there will finally bring good news from the battlefield, while for Kyiv, the display of courage and defiance reinforces a message that Ukraine held after a year of brutal attacks to cement support among its Western allies.
Even so, some analysts have questioned the wisdom of Ukraine defenders holding out much longer, with others suggesting a tactical withdrawal may already be underway.
Michael Kofman, director of Russia studies at the CAN think tank in Arlington, Va., said Ukraine’s defense of Bakhmut has been effective because it has exhausted the Russian war effort, but Kiev should now look ahead. ‘coming.
“I think Bakhmut’s tenacious defense did a lot, consuming Russian manpower and ammunition,” Kofman tweeted Sunday night. “But strategies can reach points of diminishing returns, and given that Ukraine is trying to manage its resources for an offensive, this could hamper the success of a larger operation.”
The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, noted that urban warfare favors the defender, but said the smarter option now for Kiev might be to retreat to easier positions. to defend.
In recent days, Ukrainian units have destroyed two key bridges just outside Bakhmut, including one connecting it to the nearby hilltop town of Chasiv Yar along the last remaining Ukrainian supply route, according to British military intelligence officials. and other Western analysts. The demolition of the bridges could be part of efforts to slow the Russian offensive if Ukrainian forces begin to withdraw from the city.
“Ukrainian forces are unlikely to withdraw from Bakhmut at once and may pursue a gradual fighting withdrawal to exhaust Russian forces through continued urban warfare,” the ISW said in an assessment released late Sunday. .
Putin’s stated ambition is to take full control of the four provinces, including Donetsk, which Moscow illegally annexed last fall. Russia controls about half of the province of Donetsk, and to take the remaining half of this province, its forces must pass through Bakhmut.
The town is the only approach to major Ukrainian-held towns since Ukrainian troops recaptured Izium in Kharkiv province in a counteroffensive last September.
But taking at least six months to conquer Bakhmut, which had a pre-war population of 80,000 and was once a popular holiday destination, says a lot about the Russian military’s offensive capabilities and may not bode well for the rest. of his campaign.
“Russian forces currently lack the manpower and equipment to sustain large-scale offensive operations for a new offensive against (neighboring towns of) Kramatorsk and Slovyansk, let alone a campaign of several years to capture all of Donetsk Oblast,” the ISW said.
Bakhmut has taken on an almost mythical importance with his defenders. It has become like Mariupol – the port city in the same province that Russia captured after an 82-day siege that ultimately ended in a gigantic steelworks where determined Ukrainian fighters held out alongside civilians.
Moscow sought to cement its dominance in the areas it occupied and annexed. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Mariupol and toured some of the city’s rebuilt infrastructure, the Defense Ministry reported on Monday.
Shoigu saw a newly built hospital, an emergency ministry rescue center and residential buildings, the ministry said. Meanwhile, Russian forces attacked central and eastern regions of Ukraine overnight with Iranian-made Shahed drones, Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yurii Ihnat told media on Monday. Ukrainians. Of 15 drones launched by Russia, 13 were shot down, Ihnat said. It was not immediately clear if the attack caused any damage.
In addition, the Russian Federal Security Service, or FSB, claimed on Monday that it had foiled an assassination attempt on nationalist businessman Konstantin Malofeyev. He claimed the effort was a plot by Ukrainian security services and the Russian Volunteer Corps, a group that claims to be part of Ukraine’s armed forces.
According to the FSB, the head of the Russian Volunteer Corps, Denis Kapustin, was the mastermind behind the alleged assassination attempt, and the plan was to plant an explosive device under Malofeyev’s car.
No details were given as to exactly how or when the FSB intervened. Footage released by the service showed a man scrambling from a car believed to belong to Malofeyev, then a robot removing an object from under a car in a parking lot.
Malofeyev is a media baron and the owner of ultra-conservative Tsargrad TV which has backed Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine and trumpeted the invasion of Moscow as a “holy war”. It was sanctioned by the United States.


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