Bakhmut: Ukraine clings to Bakhmut, but time is running out as Russians advance – Times of India

KYIV: Ukrainian forces hold on to their positions in the devastated eastern city Bakhmut was under constant attack early Thursday by Russian troops trying to claim their first major victory in more than half a year.
Russia says the capture of Bakhmut paves the way for full control of the rest of the strategic Donbas industrial region bordering Russia, one of the main objectives of the invasion a year ago on Feb. 24.
Ukraine says Bakhmut has limited strategic value, yet offers fierce resistance. Not everyone in Ukraine is convinced that the defense of Bakhmut can go on indefinitely.
“I believe that sooner or later we will probably have to leave Bakhmut. There is no point in holding on to it at any cost…” Ukrainian MP Serhiy Rakhmanin told Ukraine’s NV radio on Wednesday night.
“But for now, Bakhmut will be defended for several purposes — first, to inflict as many Russian losses as possible and allow Russia to use its munitions and resources.”
No defense lines should collapse, Rakhmanin said, and “there are two ways to approach this: an organized retreat or a simple flight. And we cannot allow flights to take place under any circumstances.”
The battle for Bakhmut began about seven months ago, but in recent weeks the Russian advance has left defenders fighting on three sides, with the only way out to the west.
Thousands of civilians remain in the devastated city, which had a population of about 70,000 before the war.
‘Under control’
A statement on Wednesday evening by the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said the Russians were trying to advance on Bakhmut “without interruption” and the President Volodymyr Zelensky said his troops are “controlling every sector of the front”.
Russian troops prepared for new attacks in the central region of Zaporizhzhia and on the southern front in the Cherson region, the military statement said. More than 40 towns and villages were shelled, it said, including the regional center of Kherson and other towns on the west bank of the Dnipro River abandoned by Russian forces in November.
Reuters was unable to immediately verify the latest battlefield reports.
Conference of foreign ministers
The war took center stage on the eve of a meeting of G20 foreign ministers in New Delhi.
Ukrainians and Russians traditionally mark March 1 as the beginning of spring. The frozen ground at the front has already melted, ushering in the season of sucking black mud – “bezdorizhzhia” in Ukrainian, “rasputitsa” in Russian – notorious in military history for destroying attacking armies.
“The winter is over. It was a very difficult one and every Ukrainian, without exaggeration, felt the difficulties,” Zelensky said in his nightly video message, delivered after a meeting devoted to energy issues.
“But we managed to provide energy and heat to Ukraine. The threat to the energy system remains. And work is underway to ensure that the energy system continues to function,” Zelenskyy said.
Russia regularly launched waves of missile strikes against power plants in what Ukraine says was a calculated strategy to destroy civilian morale.
Ukraine and its Western allies describe Russia’s war as unprovoked with the aim of crushing its European-leaning neighbour, which, like Russia, was part of the Moscow-dominated Soviet Union until its breakup in 1991.
Russia accuses the West of provoking what it calls its “special military operation” to remove security threats and of prolonging the conflict by backing the Kiev government with arms.
Russia’s top lawmaker said on Wednesday he was introducing amendments to a wartime censorship law that would increase the maximum sentence for discrediting the military from five to 15 years in prison and extend the law to Wagner’s mercenaries.
Moscow introduced sweeping censorship laws shortly after tens of thousands of troops commandeered Ukraine a year ago.
A magazine from Russia’s defense ministry said Moscow was developing a new kind of military strategy that would involve using nuclear weapons to defend against potential US aggression, the RIA news agency reported Thursday.
The article is the latest in a string of belligerent remarks from Russian politicians and commentators after the invasion of Ukraine a year ago, who suggested that Moscow would be ready to deploy its massive nuclear arsenal if necessary.

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