Volodymyr Zelenskyy said his top military commanders pledged to continue defending the beleaguered eastern city of Bakhmut in the face of intense Russian pressure.
THE Ukrainian The president said the generals had agreed in a meeting to strengthen the defenses and that the senior brass would “find the appropriate forces to help our guys” there.
It comes as footage circulating on social media purports to show an unarmed Ukrainian POW being shot and executed by Russian troops.
Putin ‘doubles down’ on avoiding unrest in Russia – latest war updates
The man in Ukrainian uniform smokes a cigarette and says “Glory to Ukraine” before a hail of bullets is fired at him.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called the video “horrifying” and said it was further proof that the war was “genocidal”.
He called on the International Criminal Court to open an immediate investigation into the alleged shooting, calling it a “war crime” and adding that its perpetrators “must be brought to justice”.
Mr Zelensky said his advisers had unanimously agreed to continue the fight at Bakhmut and “not to retreat” despite Russia’s six-month attempt to capture him and the thousands of his soldiers who lost their lives in the process.
Moscow targeted the beleaguered city of Donbass with heavy bombardment in a three-way assault, but its forces were unable to deliver a knockout blow that would allow them to seize it and finish off the resistance.
A few days ago, one of Mr Zelenskyy’s advisers admitted that Ukrainian troops might have to retreat and fall back to nearby positions.
But on Monday, the president’s top adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, said the forces had crushed the invaders, reinforced their positions and trained tens of thousands of troops for a possible counteroffensive.
The city’s importance is mostly symbolic as analysts say it is not strategically essential in the war and capturing Russia would be unlikely to mark a turning point. But that would mean President Vladimir Putin could bring good news to his people back home.
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However, the Battle of Bakhmut exposed Russian military shortcomings and bitter divisions.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the millionaire owner of the Wagner mercenary group that led the Bakhmut offensive, has been at odds with Russia’s Defense Ministry for months, accusing it of deliberately depriving its men of ammunition – an allegation he rejects.
On Friday, Mr Prigozhin said his units had “virtually surrounded Bakhmut”.
But in a video posted on Saturday, he warned: “If Wagner withdraws from Bakhmut now, the whole front will collapse. The situation will not be smooth for all military formations protecting Russian interests.”
And on Monday he admitted that Ukraine had been building up its own forces in surrounding towns and regions in an attempt to drive Wagner out of Bakhmut and that he needed help to take the town for Russia.
“I am knocking on all doors and sounding the alarm about ammunition and reinforcements, as well as the need to cover our flanks,” Prigozhin said in a statement released by his press service.
“If everyone coordinates, without ambition, without confusion or tantrums, and does this job, then we will block the Ukrainian armed forces. Otherwise, everyone will be screwed.”
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Meanwhile, Mr Putin is delaying an announcement of a second mobilization amid fears of unrest in Russia, according to the US think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW).
Last September, Mr Putin ordered a partial mobilization in Russia in what appeared to be an admission that Moscow’s war in Ukraine was not going to be planned.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said at the time that Russia would recruit 300,000 reservists.
However, the ISW said Mr Putin had “delayed announcing the second wave of mobilization since January and would have doubled down on his ‘silent mobilization’ to avoid generating possible unrest in Russia”.