Russia is advancing in eastern Ukraine. Bakhmut ‘destroyed’

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) – Russian forces destroyed the city of Bakhmut in eastern UkrainePresident Volodymyr Zelensky said, as the Ukrainian military announced on Saturday missile, missile and air strikes in multiple parts of the country that Moscow is trying to overcome after months of resistance.

The last battles of the Russian war that took place 9 and a half months ago In Ukraine it centered on four provinces that Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed triumphantly — and illegally — to have annexed in late September. The fighting refers to Russia’s struggle to assert control over those areas And Ukraine’s insistence on restoring it.

Zelensky said the situation was “still very difficult” in several frontline cities in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Together, the provinces make up Donbass, a vast industrial region on the border with Russia that Putin has identified as a focus. Since the beginning of the war and where the Moscow-backed separatists have fought since 2014.

“Bakhmut, Solidar, Marinka, Kremina. There is no longer a place to live on the land of these areas that were not damaged by shells and fire,” Zelensky said in his nightly video address, referring to the cities that again found themselves in the crossfire. “The occupiers were devastated. Indeed, Bakhmut, another city in the Donbass, has been turned into burnt ruins by the Russian army.

Zelensky didn’t specify what he meant by “destroyed” — some buildings still stand and residents still roam the city’s streets.

The General Staff of the Ukrainian Army reported that there were about 20 airstrikes and more than 60 missile attacks across Ukraine between Friday and Saturday. The spokesman, Oleksandr Shtabun, said that the most active fighting was in the Bakhmut region, where more than 20 populated places were subjected to fire. He said Ukrainian forces had repulsed Russian attacks in Donetsk and neighboring Luhansk.

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Russia’s grinding eastern offensive succeeded in capturing almost all of Luhansk during the summer. Donetsk escaped the same fateUkrainian officials and analysts said that in recent weeks the Russian military has poured manpower and resources around Bakhmut in an effort to encircle the city.

After Ukrainian forces retook the southern city of Kherson nearly a month ago, the battle around Bakhmut has raged, demonstrating Putin’s desire for clear gains after weeks of apparent setbacks in Ukraine.

Capturing Bakhmut would rupture Ukrainian supply lines and open a path for Russian forces to advance towards Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, Ukraine’s main strongholds in Donetsk. Russia destroyed Bakhmut with missiles for more than half of the year. The ground offensive accelerated after Ukrainian forces were forced to withdraw from Luhansk in July.

But some analysts have questioned Russia’s strategic logic in relentlessly seeking control of Bakhmut and its surrounding areas, which have also been heavily bombed in recent weeks, with Ukrainian officials reporting that some residents were living in damp cellars.

“The costs associated with six months of brutal, grinding, attrition-based fighting around Bakhmut far outweigh any operational advantage the Russians could gain from capturing Bakhmut,” the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank, tweeted Thursday.

On Friday, Putin criticized recent comments by former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said the 2015 peace deal for eastern Ukraine negotiated by France and Germany had bought Ukraine time to prepare for war with Russia this year.

The deal was meant to calm tensions after pro-Russian separatists seized territory in the Donbass a year ago, sparking a war with Ukrainian forces that ballooned into a war with Russia itself after the February 24 full-scale invasion.

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On Saturday, the Ukrainian military also reported strikes in other provinces: Kharkiv and Sumy in the northeast, Dnipropetrovsk in central Ukraine, Zaporizhia in the southeast, and Kherson in the south. The latter two, along with Donetsk and Luhansk, are the four regions Putin now claims are Russian territory.

The head of the local government, Maxim Marchenko, said the drone attacks in Odessa, a major port city on the Black Sea to the west, had left most of its districts without electricity.

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Follow AP coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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