UKRAINE: Russia kept attacking Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region of Ukraine, and both sides reported more deaths on the other side as they fought across a small river that runs through the destroyed town that is now the front line.
The president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said late on Sunday that his troops had killed more than 1,100 Russian soldiers while fighting for control of Bakhmut.
In his nightly video address, Zelenskiy said that “in less than a week, starting from the 6th of March, we managed to kill more than 1,100 enemy soldiers in the Bakhmut sector alone, Russia’s irreversible loss, right there, near Bakhmut.”
“Russian troops sustained 1,500 sanitary losses, soldiers who suffered injuries severe enough to prevent them from action,” Zelenskiy stated.
“More than ten Russian ammunition depots were also destroyed, along with dozens of pieces of enemy equipment,” he added.
The Russian defence ministry said earlier in the day that Russian troops had killed more than 220 Ukrainian soldiers in the direction of Donetsk in the past 24 hours.
British intelligence said over the weekend that Ukrainian troops control the western part of the almost empty mining town of Bakhmut, while the Russian Wagner mercenary group controls most of the eastern part. The Bakhmutka River, which runs through the town, is the front line.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of Wagner, stated on Sunday that the situation in Bakhmut was “tough, very tough.”
“The closer we are to the center of the city, the harder the fighting… The Ukrainians throw in endless reserves. But we are advancing, and we will be advancing,” Prigozhin stated in an audio statement released by his press service.
He also stated that Russian army personnel provided his forces with ammunition. Prigozhin had said before that Russia’s top leaders were keeping his troops from getting ammunition on purpose. The defence minister said that this was not true.
Prigozhin says that once Bakhmut is caught, Wagner will “start to reboot” and start hiring. He also said that Wagner wanted to turn his private military company into an “army with an ideology” that would fight for justice in Russia.
To replenish its ranks, Wagner has already established recruitment centers in 42 cities.
Waiting for Western tanks
Even though Bakhmut’s strategic importance isn’t clear, Russia sees taking it as a step towards achieving one of the main goals of the war, which is to take over all of the industrial areas of Donbas in Ukraine. The Donbas consists of the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Even though it seemed at first like Ukraine was going to leave Bakhmut, it has decided to keep fighting there to wear down Russia’s best units in preparation for a spring counteroffensive.
Analysts predict that as the weather improves and more military aid, such as powerful Leopard and Challenger tanks, comes in April and May, the Ukrainian counteroffensive will start in earnest.
A veteran Ukrainian tank brigade leader who was honored with the Hero of Ukraine award less than a month after Russia’s full-scale invasion, Leonid Khoda, told the media that the use of Western tanks will fundamentally alter the way that armies fight.
“Everyone is waiting, 1st Tank Brigade is waiting too. Not long ago, we sent personnel to learn to operate (Leopard) 2A6,” stated Khoda, commander of the 1st Siversk Tank Brigade, which is engaged in combat in the southern region of Donetsk.
Zelenskiy said that Russia’s shelling killed three civilians who were going grocery shopping in Kherson, a city in the south, on Saturday. He called what happened “brutal terrorist attacks” by pro-Moscow forces.
The targeting of civilians is denied by Russia. In an interview that came out on Sunday, Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, asked Germany to speed up the delivery of weapons and start teaching Ukrainian pilots how to fly Western fighter jets.
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