Kiev says Russia is pursuing ‘attempts to encircle Bakhmut’ – Times of India

Kyiv: Kiev said on Sunday it held back attacks from Russian troops still trying to encircle Bakhmuta now-devastated eastern Ukrainian city that Moscow has been trying to conquer for months.
Ukraine has vowed to defend “fortress Bakhmut” but it has faced Russian troops determined to take the city which has turned into a political prize as the battle continues.
The Ukrainian General Staff said “more than 130 enemy attacks” had been repelled in the past day, including in Kupiansk, Lyman, Bakhmut and Avdiivka.
“The enemy continues its efforts to encircle the city of Bakhmut,” it said on Sunday morning.
Bakhmut has been largely reduced to rubble in the longest and bloodiest battle of the invasion.
Sergiy Cherevaty, a spokesman for the Ukrainian armed forces, said on Saturday that the situation was “difficult but under control” in the city he described as a “priority target for the enemy”.
Fighting is raging in and around the city, the US-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said, warning that Ukrainian supply routes were shrinking.
“The Russians may have intended to encircle Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut, but the Ukrainian command has indicated it will likely withdraw rather than risk encirclement,” ISW said on Saturday.
Ukraine and Russia have fought fiercely since the summer over the city, whose symbolic importance transcends military significance.
Pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk region posted a video supposedly showing Wagner fighters in the suburbs north of Bakhmut taking control of the Stupki train station.
Wagner, a private army led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, is at the center of the battle for the city, which has revealed rivalries with Russia’s conventional forces.
On Friday, Prigozhin said his fighters had “virtually surrounded” Bakhmut and only one road remained under Ukrainian control.
Prigozhin has been publishing his men’s advance to the eastern city for weeks.
Prigozhin regularly posts videos of himself next to mercenaries, on the ground or even in a fighter jet, in contrast to Russian generals who are criticized for avoiding the front lines.
In a rare exception, Russia on Saturday released video of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu inspecting troops in front-line areas in Ukraine.
The ministry said Sergei Shoigu inspected a forward command post in the direction of South Donetsk without specifying exactly where or when.
He was seen traveling in a helicopter and talking to a soldier in front of damaged buildings.
The ISW think tank said Shoigu went there “probably to assess the magnitude of Russian losses around Vugledar and the possibility of a further offensive in this direction”.
While the epicenter of the fighting is in eastern Ukraine, the death toll from a strike this week on an apartment building in the south Zaporizhia has now risen to 13.
Zaporizhzhia is one of four regions – along with Donetsk, Lugansk and Kherson – that Russia claims to have annexed but never fully controlled.
Nevertheless, Moscow forces have occupied the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant since March 4, 2022.
The plant has repeatedly made headlines and revived fears of nuclear disasters similar to the deadly Chernobyl disaster that struck Ukraine in 1986.
The exiled mayor of Energodar, where the plant is located, told AFP that Russia is using the plant as a “nuclear shield” for its troops and equipment.
Kiev and Moscow have blamed each other for shelling around the plant and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has placed observers there.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday that Russia “held the power plant hostage” a year ago and “turned the territory of the (power plant) into a de facto military training ground”.
Zelensky also met with European Parliament President Roberta Metsola on Saturday, who pushed for Ukraine to be allowed to start EU membership negotiations this year.
The United States on Friday announced a new $400 million security aid package for Ukraine, which included a range of ammunition for Kiev’s armed forces.

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