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Russian Pressure On Bakhmut Continues Unabated As UN Chief Arrives In Ukraine

By RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service March 07, 2023

Ukrainian leaders have continued to insist that their troops are holding on in Bakhmut -- the scene of months of brutal and costly fighting -- even as the Russian military vowed to capture the city and move farther into Ukraine and the UN chief arrived in the country.

"Capturing [the city] will allow for further offensive operations deep into the defense lines of the armed forces of Ukraine," Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on March 7 during a televised meeting with military officers.

Earlier, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy indicated in a video address that Kyiv was looking to send more troops to the city in the eastern Donetsk region, saying his military commanders agreed with the strategy in the face of comments from some outside the country that Ukraine should consider pulling out before its forces can be cut off and surrounded.

"The command unanimously supported" the decision not to withdraw, Zelenskiy said late on March 6. "There were no other positions. I told the commander in chief to find the appropriate forces to help our guys in Bakhmut."

Russia's Wagner mercenary group is leading the assault on Bakhmut, which had a prewar population of 70,000. The group has suffered massive losses in the battle for the city that U.S. and other Western military leaders say has very little strategic value.

Kyiv's military command claimed that 1,600 Russian soldiers had been killed over the past 24 hours -- which would represent a one-day record for losses in the war.

Ukraine has also suffered heavy losses in the battle, although casualty figures and battlefield claims on both sides are difficult to independently confirm.

As the fighting raged, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres arrived late on March 7 in Ukraine for meetings with Zelenskiy the next day.

Guterres spent March 7 in Poland, where leaders there announced that Warsaw would send 10 Leopard 2 tanks this week to Ukraine.

The Ukrainian military, meanwhile, made public the identity of one of his soldiers that appears to have been executed by the Russians after falling prisoner in Bakhmut.

The video of the purported execution has sparked outrage after being posted on social media, amid calls that a war crimes investigation be opened by the International Criminal Court.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington was aware of the "harrowing" video and added that Moscow should be ashamed of its actions in the war. He said it was not the first evidence of apparent abuses committed by Kremlin forces in Ukraine.

Earlier, an air-raid alert was declared across Ukraine in midmorning, but there were no reports of Russian strikes and the alarm was lifted after less than an hour.

Volodymyr Nazarenko, a commander of Ukrainian troops in Bakhmut, spoke in a Telegram video on March 6 about the difficult situation in and around Bakhmut, but he and other leaders vowed to continue the fight.

"The situation in Bakhmut and around it is utter hell, as it is on the entire eastern front," Nazarenko said.

The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said that Ukrainian defensive efforts had substantially drained Russian military resources but that Kyiv's forces may now be conducting a "gradual fighting withdrawal" from some positions.

Ukrainian commanders, however, have pointed out that holding Bakhmut will prevent Russian forces from advancing deeper into the western part of Donetsk in the direction of Slovyansk and Kramatorsk.

With reporting by Reuters and AP

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/ukraine-bakhmut-utter- hell-zelenskiy-defense-russia-invasion/32306344.html

Copyright (c) 2023. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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