Russian forces are struggling to gain control of villages in eastern Ukraine near the besieged city of Bakhmut over the weekend, the latest flashpoint in a battle that Moscow sees as crucial in its bid to capture it. the entire eastern Donbas region.
Ukraine’s General Staff said Sunday that its troops repelled attacks on the small village of Blahodatne and several other settlements in the region. The statement came a day after Russia’s Wagner group, a private military company that has waged most of the fighting on behalf of Moscow around Bakhmut, announced that its forces had captured Blahodatne. .
“Blahodatne is under our control,” Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian businessman and head of the Wagner group, said Saturday in a statement posted on the website of one of his companies. . The Russian Defense Ministry has not confirmed the report and the claim cannot be independently verified. Mr. Prigozhin managed to quit his mercenary is the most effective fighting force in the region and previously claimed credit for battlefield advances before the Kremlin confirmed.
Blahodatne lies between Soledar, a salt mining town recently captured by Russian forces after weeks of intense fighting, and a road running north from the city of bakhmut. The road served as an important supply route for Ukrainian forces defending the city.
Since the summer, Bakhmut has been at the center of the fighting in eastern Ukraine and the most important target of Moscow’s offensive.
Military analysts suggest that Moscow wants to surround Bakhmut, cut off supply routes and then take it. Despite some recent successes, Russia’s progress in the campaign starting this summer is slow and both sides suffered heavy casualties in the fierce fighting.
But since capturing Soledar earlier this month, Russian forces have increased their shelling of villages to the west of it, including Blahodatne.
Many civilians obeyed the government’s directive in Kyiv to leave Donetsk, home to Bakhmut and one of the two regions that make up the Donbas region. The civilians who remained remained vulnerable to shelling, with dozens killed in recent weeks. Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of Donetsk’s military junta, said on Sunday that five civilians had been killed a day earlier in the area.
Nearly a year after Russia launched an all-out invasion of Ukraine, both sides are expected to launch new attacks in the coming months, as Kiev uses heavy weapons sent from the West. and Russia deployed a large number of troops they had deployed last time. year.
Amid warnings that Russian forces are regrouping for an anticipated spring offensive, Ukraine’s allies have pledged to supply sophisticated new weapons to the war.
Germany and the United States announced last week that they would send battle tanks to Ukraine, a move that comes after weeks of tension. negotiating channels after tension among Western officials. But maybe a few months before tanks roar on the battlefield.
The British Ministry of Defense said on Sunday that the first Ukrainian soldiers had arrived in Britain for training on Challenger 2 tanks as promised earlier this month.
In a speech on Saturday, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine expressed gratitude for the latest promises of military aid, but said his country’s allies should still do more.
“In particular, Ukraine needs long-range missiles to eliminate the possibility of the occupiers placing their missile launchers somewhere far from the front lines and together with them,” he said in an overnight speech. they destroy the cities of Ukraine.
The Kremlin has placed full control of the Donbas, where it has held significant land since 2014, as an immediate military goal. To that end, they have mobilized tens of thousands of recruits, although they have failed to gain much territory in the region in recent months.
Military authorities in Ukraine say that Moscow’s advances in the Donbas region have come at the expense of heavy casualties, especially among the ranks of the private Wagner military company.
The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said in a report Saturday that Russia’s conventional forces are “potentially replacing” the exhausted Wagner force “to maintain attack at Bakhmut” after capturing Soledar.
But Russia may be less willing to suffer heavy losses among regular conscripts than among Wagner fighters, the report said. “The ability of the Russians to launch large-scale rapid attacks on multiple axes this winter and spring is highly questionable,” the report said.