The future of Ukraine depends on the outcome of the ongoing battle over Bakhmut and other key cities and settlements in the east of the country, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky has stated.
Zelensky said in a video message late Monday that Ukraine’s future depends on the destruction of Russian forces attacking Bakhmut and other war-torn areas in the country’s eastern Donetsk region.
“It is very difficult, very painful in the East. We must destroy the enemy’s military power, and we will do it,” Zelensky said.
“Bilohorivka and Marinka, Avdiivka and Bakhmut, Vuhledar and Kamyanka,” Zelensky said, pointing to the key battlegrounds and adding, “and all other places where our future is decided. Where they fight for our future, the future of all Ukrainians.”
“I am grateful to all those who are now in combat … to all who never let down those who are with them on the front lines.”
Russia has said the capture of Bakhmut paves the way for taking control of the entire Donetsk region, a central war objective for Moscow.
After weeks of crushing and bloody fighting, the Ukrainian military says it has not retreated from Bakhmut and intends to stay to fight to inflict serious losses on Russian offensive forces, which are said to have thrown huge numbers of troops into the area. fight without casualties.
Russian forces, led by Wagner’s mercenary army, have captured eastern Bakhmut, but have so far failed to encircle the city, despite statements in recent weeks that Ukrainian defeat is imminent.
NATO also warned last week that Bakhmut could fall within days.
Ukrainian forces have exhausted and worn down Russian forces in Bakhmut by continuing to fight, which has also diverted Russia’s focus and firepower from a planned counteroffensive in the spring, Ukrainian officials said.
A Ukrainian counterattack is expected to free Bakhmut.
According to Russian information, several Ukrainian brigades have gathered between the cities of Sloviansk and Kostiantynivka for this purpose. So far, however, the slush typical of this time of year as winter snow melts in Ukraine has prevented rapid progress from paved roads.
Ukrainian soldiers stationed near Kreminna, north of Bakhmut, said on Monday they were pushing back intensified Russian attacks.
In a wooded area about 8 km (5 mi) from the Bakhmut front, Ukrainian artillery advanced, shelling Russian positions to the northeast, while heavy battlefield explosions continued in the distance.
Mykhailo Anest, a 35-year-old Ukrainian doctor, told the Reuters news agency that there was still a lot of artillery and mortar fire, but that the fighting had decreased compared to last month.
“Two or three weeks ago, the fighting was at its peak, but it has calmed down a little,” he said.
The battle for Bakhmut is also being waged on social networks, as Russia is spreading disinformation, Kiev claims.
Ukraine’s Center for Strategic Communications reported on Monday that Russia is spreading ads on Facebook about alleged successes of Russian troops through anonymous channels.
Among other things, it claims that the struggle for Bakhmut is “lost from the Ukrainian perspective” and that “the West does not believe in Ukraine.”
Other reports include that the US is cutting arms supplies because “Ukrainian authorities were caught stealing.”
“The occupiers want to undermine the Ukrainian public’s trust in the government, claiming that the battle for Bakhmut has been lost and that our allies have left us to fend for ourselves,” the communications department wrote.
Bakhmut officials said Monday that more than 4,000 people were still living in the town, including 33 children.