KYIV (Reuters) – British military intelligence said on Saturday that Ukrainian forces defending Bakhmut were facing increasingly strong pressure from Russian forces, with heavy fighting taking place in and around the eastern city.
The British Ministry of Defense said in its daily intelligence bulletin that Ukraine is reinforcing the area with elite units, while the regular Russian army and the forces of the Wagner Special Military Group have made more advances in the northern suburb of Bakhmut.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in a post on Facebook late on Saturday that Russian forces were trying to surround Bakhmut but failed, adding that the defenders repelled several attacks in and around the city.
The battle has been raging for seven months. A Russian victory in the city, which had a pre-war population of about 70,000 and was ravaged by the offensive, would give Moscow the first major prize in a costly winter offensive.
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Britain’s Ministry of Defense said two major bridges in Bakhmut were destroyed in the past 36 hours, adding that Ukrainian-controlled resupply routes outside the city were becoming increasingly limited.
It added that one of those bridges was connecting Bakhmut with the city’s last major supply route from the Ukrainian-controlled town of Chasev Yar, about 13 kilometers to the west.
On Friday, Russian artillery bombarded the last exit routes from Bakhmut, with the aim of completing the encirclement of the besieged city and bringing Moscow closer to achieving its first major victory in the war in six months.
Ukraine’s General Staff said Russian attacks were thwarted in the villages of Vasyukivka, Orekhovo-Vasilivka, Dubovo-Vasilivka and Hryorivka, all north of Pakhmut city centre.
Russia says Bakhmut will be a stepping stone to complete control of the Donbass industrial region, one of Moscow’s most important goals.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who called Bakhmut a “fortress”, on Saturday thanked the city’s defenders in a video message but gave no details of the fighting.
Additional reporting by Max Hander in Kiev, David Ljungren in Ottawa and Jose Joseph in Bengaluru; Editing by Frances Kerry and Daniel Wallis
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