Ukraine clings to Bakhmut but time may be running out as Russians advance

  • Kyiv rises to energy challenges after surviving harsh winter
  • War at center of G20 foreign ministers’ meeting

March 2 (Reuters) – Ukrainian forces clung to their positions in the ruined eastern town of Bakhmut early on Thursday under constant attack from Russian troops seeking to secure their first major victory in more than six months.

Russia says capturing Bakhmut would pave the way for full control of the rest of the Donbass strategic industrial region bordering Russia, one of the main goals of its invasion a year ago on February 24.

Ukraine says Bakhmut has limited strategic value but has nonetheless put up fierce resistance. Not everyone in Ukraine is convinced that Bakhmut’s defense can last indefinitely.

“I think that sooner or later we will probably have to leave Bakhmut. It makes no sense to hold him back at all costs…” Ukrainian MP Serhiy Rakhmanin told Ukrainian radio NV on Wednesday evening.

“But for the time being, Bakhmut will be defended with several objectives – first, to inflict as many Russian casualties as possible and to force Russia to use its ammunition and resources.”

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No line of defense should be allowed to collapse, Rakhmanin said, and “there are two ways to approach this – an organized retreat or a simple flight. And we cannot allow the flight to take place under any circumstances. circumstance”.

The battle for Bakhmut began around seven months ago, but in recent weeks Russian advances have left the defenders fighting on three sides, with their only way out to the west.

Thousands of civilians remain inside the ruined city, which had a population of around 70,000 before the war.


A statement issued Wednesday evening by the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said the Russians were trying to advance on Bakhmut “without interruption” and President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said his forces were “keeping every sector of the front under control”. .

Russian forces were preparing for further attacks in the central Zaporizhzhia region and on the southern front in the Kherson region, the military statement said. More than 40 towns and villages were shelled, he added, including the regional center of Kherson and other towns on the west bank of the Dnipro, abandoned by Russian forces in November.

Reuters was unable to immediately verify the latest battlefield accounts.


The war took center stage on the eve of a meeting of G20 foreign ministers in New Delhi. The EU’s foreign policy chief said his success would be measured by what he could do to help end the conflict.

Ukrainians and Russians traditionally mark March 1 as the start of spring. Already, frozen ground has melted across the front, ushering in the season of black mud – “bezdorizhzhia” in Ukrainian, “rasputitsa” in Russian – which has been notorious in military history for destroying attacking armies.

“Winter is over. It was very difficult and every Ukrainian, without exaggeration, felt the difficulties,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly video message, delivered after a meeting devoted to energy issues.

“But we managed to supply energy and heat to Ukraine. The threat to the energy system remains. And work continues to ensure that the energy system continues to function,” Zelenskiy said.

Russia has staged regular waves of missile strikes on power plants in what Ukraine has called a calculated strategy to destroy civilian morale.

Ukraine and its Western allies portray Russia’s war as unprovoked in an effort to crush its European-leaning neighbor, which, like Russia, was part of the Moscow-dominated Soviet Union until its breakup in 1991.

Russia accuses the West of provoking what it calls its “special military operation” to eliminate security threats and prolong the conflict by backing the Kiev government with weapons.

Russia’s top lawmaker said on Wednesday he was introducing amendments to a wartime censorship law that would raise the maximum penalty for discrediting the military from five to 15 years in prison and expand the law to cover mercenary force. Wagner. Learn more

Moscow introduced sweeping censorship laws shortly after sending tens of thousands of troops to Ukraine a year ago.

A Russian Defense Ministry newspaper said Moscow was developing a new type of military strategy using nuclear weapons to protect against possible US aggression, the RIA news agency reported on Thursday.

The article is the latest in a series of combative remarks by Russian politicians and commentators following the invasion of Ukraine a year ago, which hinted that Moscow would, if necessary, be ready to deploy its vast nuclear arsenal. Learn more

Reports from Reuters offices; Written by Grant McCool and Michael Perry; Editing by Diane Craft and Simon Cameron-Moore

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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