KYIV, March 4 (Reuters) – Ukrainian forces defending Pakmut are facing increasingly strong pressure from Russian forces, British military intelligence said on Saturday, as heavy fighting continued in and around the eastern city.
Ukraine is reinforcing the area with elite units, while the regular Russian army and forces from the private army Wagner Group have advanced further into the northern outskirts of Pakmut, the British Ministry of Defense said in its daily intelligence bulletin.
The General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said in a Facebook post late Saturday that Russian troops had unsuccessfully attempted to encircle Baghmuth, with defenders repelling several attacks in and around the city.
The war lasted for seven months. A Russian victory in the city, which had a pre-war population of around 70,000 and was devastated by the attack, would give Moscow its first major prize in a costly winter offensive.
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Oleh Zhdanov, a prominent Ukrainian military affairs analyst, said late Saturday that he could find no immediate signs of an order to withdraw from Kyiv.
“Now the situation is more or less stabilized. As for the advance of Russian troops, we have practically stopped (it),” he said in a YouTube interview.
The British Ministry of Defense said two key bridges in Bakhmut had been destroyed in the past 36 hours, leaving increasingly limited resupply routes out of the Ukrainian-held city.
One of those bridges connected Bagmut to the city’s last major supply route from the Ukrainian city of Chasiv Yar, about 13 km (eight miles) to the west.
Russian artillery pounded the last exits from Bakhmut on Friday, aiming to bring Moscow closer to its first major victory in the war in six months, ending its encirclement of the besieged city.
Ukrainian civil servants said Russian offensives had been repulsed in the villages of Vasyukivka, Orikhovo-Vasylivka, Dubovo-Vasylivka and Hryhorivka, north of the city center of Pakmutin.
Russia says Pakmut will be a stepping stone towards seizing the Donbass industrial region, one of Moscow’s most important objectives.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who described Bakhmut as a “fortress”, thanked defenders in the city in a video message on Saturday, but gave no details about the fighting.
Reporting by Max Hunter in Kyiv, David Lungren in Ottawa and Jose Joseph in Bangalore; Editing by Frances Kerry and Daniel Wallis
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