Ukraine’s military continues to push to retain control of the eastern Ukrainian city of Bahmut, which is under increasing pressure from the Russian mercenary group Wagner, and is preparing for a counteroffensive, according to its commander.
Both Ukraine and Russia claim hundreds of soldiers from the opposing sides were killed in the fighting for Bahmut on Saturday, while Kiev is asking the West for more aid in ammunition and to start training Ukrainian pilots for Western fighter jets.
Bakhmut in the Donetsk region has been the scene of fierce fighting between the Ukrainian and Russian armies for the past six months, but without much success for either side. In recent weeks, Russian forces have managed to partially surround the city from the south, east and north, but the center is still in Ukrainian hands.
Ukrainian military spokesman Sergiy Cherevatji said 221 Russian soldiers had been killed and more than 300 wounded in the past 24 hours. Russia is also citing heavy losses on the opposing side, and according to the Russian Defense Ministry, at least 210 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in the greater Donetsk area.
According to British military intelligence, the Russian military mercenary is Wagner the group took control of most of the eastern part Bahmutwhich was also confirmed by mercenary leader Yevgenij on Wednesday Prigozhin. “There is now a river in the center of the city Bahmutka marks the battle line,” wrote the British Ministry of Defense in its daily review of the situation on the Ukrainian battlefields.
Prigozhin said on Saturday that his soldiers are 1.2 kilometers away from the administrative center of the city, which is on the west bank of the Bahmutka.
In the video, he is standing on the roof of a tall building and pointing towards a building in the distance. “This is the city administration building, this is the center of the city. It is a kilometer and 200 meters away,” he said while drumming can be heard in the background.
Ukraine has continued to insist that Bahmut is in its hands and that its forces are successfully repelling Russian attacks, with the commander of the Ukrainian defenses of the city asserting that the defense of the city is key to a Ukrainian counter-offensive. “It is necessary to gain time to accumulate reserves and start a counter-offensive, which is not far away,” said Colonel General Aleksander Sirski. “The greatest heroes now are the defenders who hold the Eastern Front on their shoulders and inflict the greatest possible losses. They spare neither themselves nor the enemy,” he said in a statement on Saturday.
In Moscow, they are convinced that the capture of Bahmut would make a hole in the Ukrainian defense and allow the capture of the entire Donetsk basin. In Kiev, on the other hand, they believe that the best Russian soldiers fall in the battle for the city, which means that Russia cannot use them on other battlefields.
British military intelligence noted that the open area where the Bahmutka flows had now become a field of death, likely posing a major challenge to Wagner’s troops in their push westward. The situation is also dangerous for Ukrainian defenders, as their supply lines to the west remain vulnerable to constant Russian attacks.
Lack of ammunition on both sides
According to Prigožin, the most important thing right now is that they get more ammunition so that they can “move forward”. The head of the Wagner group is an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, but he got involved in a power struggle with the Russian Ministry of Defense. He repeatedly declared victories on the battlefield against the Russian army and accused it of not wanting to share ammunition with Wagner’s mercenaries.
The Ukrainian side also lacks ammunition. The commander of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Valery Zaluzhny telephoned the Chief of Staff of the United States Armed Forces Mark Milley to warn him about the urgent delivery of ammunition and technical equipment. In addition, the country’s air defense needs to be strengthened, he said.
Speaking to the German weekly Bild am Sonntag, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba called on Germany to speed up the supply of ammunition and start training Ukrainian pilots. According to him, the lack of ammunition is the “number one” problem in the Ukrainian army’s clashes with Russian forces. “Germany could really help more with ammunition. With artillery ammunition,” he said.
Kuleba told a security conference in Munich last month that he had received assurances from manufacturers that they were ready to supply ammunition, but that they were waiting for the signing of contracts with the German government. “So the problem is with the government,” Kuleba is convinced.
The Ukrainian minister also made it clear that he does not expect deliveries of fighter jets from the West in the near future, but he believes that Ukrainian pilots should still be trained so that they will be ready when this decision is made. If Germany starts training Ukrainian pilots, it will be a clear message of its commitment, he is sure.
Regarding Bahmut, Kuleba asserted that the Ukrainian army will continue to defend the city. “If we withdraw from Bahmut, what would that change? Russia would take Bahmut and then continue its offensive against Chasiv Yar, so every city behind Bahmut could suffer the same fate,” he said.
Shelling of Kherson
The shooting is also reported from the city of Kherson in the south of Ukraine. After the Russian withdrawal at the end of last year, the Russian army is still regularly shelling the city, according to Ukrainians. Three people died and two people were injured, Ukrainian representatives announced on Saturday.
Kherson is the capital of one of the regions that Russia unilaterally annexed last September, but does not yet fully control. The separatist mayor of the Donetsk region, Alexei Kulemzin, announced on Saturday that two people had been killed in Ukrainian shelling.