KYIV: The Ukrainian military was preparing on Sunday for an upcoming Ukraine counter-offensive, with a top commander saying his forces’ ongoing defense of Bakhmut in the face of fierce and sustained Russian attacks was necessary to “buy time” for that push.
The remarks came as British intelligence said the frontline had shifted in the fight for Bakhmut — the longest and bloodiest battle of Moscow’s year-long invasion — but that any further Russian advance in the devastated town would be “highly challenging”.
Some military experts have questioned the sense of continuing to hold the city, but the commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, Oleksandr Syrsky, said that it helped win time in preparation for the coming counteroffensive.
“The real heroes now are the defenders who are holding the eastern front on their shoulders, and inflicting the heaviest possible losses, sparing neither themselves nor the enemy,” Syrsky was quoted as saying in a statement on Saturday.
“It is necessary to buy time to build reserves and launch a counteroffensive, which is not far off.” In a video released on Saturday, Yevgeny Prigozhin, chief of the Russian mercenary group Wagner, said that his forces were close to the administrative center of the city.
Standing on the rooftop of a high-rise building in what is said to be Bakhmut, Prigozhin is seen pointing towards a building in the distance.
“This is the building of the town administration, this is the center of the town,” he said, clad in full military gear.
“It is one kilometer and two hundred meters away.” Speaking as artillery boomed in the background, Prigozhin said the most important thing now was to receive more ammunition from the army and “move forward”. Wagner has been spearheading offensives against cities in eastern Ukraine including Bakhmut. Both sides have suffered heavy losses.
Published in Dawn, March 13th, 2023