Ukraine’s ground forces commander said on Monday his troops were continuing to repel heavy Russian attacks on the eastern city of Bakhmut and that defending it was a “military necessity”.
Ukraine’s military said Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi had acted during a visit to the eastern front line to solve “problematic issues that prevent effective execution of combat tasks” and taken “operational decisions aimed at strengthening our capabilities to deter and inflict damage on the enemy.”
It gave no details, and did not say when the visit took place, but Syrskyi’s comments signaled Ukraine’s intention to keep fighting in Bakhmut despite the heavy death toll there.
“The most intense phase of the battle for Bakhmut continues. The situation is constantly difficult. The enemy suffers significant losses in human resources, weapons and military equipment but continues to conduct offensive actions,” he said.
Praising Ukrainian forces’ resilience in “extremely difficult conditions”, he said: “The defense of Bakhmut is due to military necessity…. We are calculating all possible options for the development of events, and will react adequately to the current situation”.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy also visited the Bakhmut area last week and handed out medals to troops in a morale-boosting trip as Ukraine prepares for a possible counter-offensive after 13 months of war.
Commander-in-Chief General Valery Zaluzhniy said on Saturday the situation was being “stabilized” around Bakhmut.
Moscow sees capturing the city as vital to completing the capture of the Donbas industrial region in eastern Ukraine, one of its main war goals.
Reminiscent of World War One, the battle has been fought from trenches with relentless artillery and rocket strikes across a heavily mined battlefield described as a “meat grinder” by commanders on both sides.