Ukraine Russia war: Kyiv admits it may have to withdraw troops from Bakhmut

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Ukraine today admitted it may have to withdraw its troops from Bakhmut as Russia pursued a bloody, months-long offensive to capture the besieged Ukrainian city.

Vladimir Putin’s forces are¬†continuing their relentless attacks on the small mining city in eastern Ukraine in their bid to encircle the defending forces and force them to surrender or withdraw.

If successful, this would give Putin his first major victory in more than half a year and open the way to the capture of the last remaining urban centres in the Donetsk region.

And now, Alexander Rodnyansky, an economic adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, admitted Ukrainian troops might pull back from the city. 

‘Our military is obviously going to weigh all of the options,’ Rodnyansky told CNN. ‘So far, they’ve held the city, but if need be, they will strategically pull back. We’re not going to sacrifice all of our people just for nothing.’¬†

Ukrainian servicemen of the 80th Brigade fire targets from a mobile howitzer outside of Bakhmut, Ukraine, on Tuesday

Ukrainian servicemen of the 80th Brigade prepare to fire targets from a mobile howitzer outside of Bakhmut on Tuesday

Ukrainian servicemen of the 80th Brigade prepare to fire targets from a mobile howitzer outside of Bakhmut on Tuesday

Ukrainian serviceman of the 80th Brigade is seen on duty in a mobile howitzer outside of Bakhmut on Tuesday

Ukrainian serviceman of the 80th Brigade is seen on duty in a mobile howitzer outside of Bakhmut on Tuesday

The battle for Bakhmut, in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance as defenders hold out against relentless shelling and waves of Russian troops taking heavy casualties in a months-long campaign to capture it.

Rodnyansky noted that Russia was using the best troops of the Wagner Group to try to encircle the city, while Zelensky accused Moscow of throwing waves of men into Bakhmut with no regard to their lives. 

Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, a rogue millionaire with longtime links to Putin, said on Wednesday that he so far had seen no signs of a Ukrainian withdrawal from the city. He claimed that Kyiv has in fact been reinforcing its positions there.

‘The Ukrainian army is deploying additional troops and is doing what it can to retain control of the city,’ Prigozhin said. ‘Tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers are offering fierce resistance, and the fighting is getting increasingly bloody by day.’

Recent drone footage shows the scale of devastation in the city, while Zelensky has said it has been ‘destroyed.’¬†

Flames and smoke rise into the sky from blazing buildings while constant gunfire and explosions ring out from within the city’s crumbling walls.

Thousands of residents remain inside the ruined city from a pre-war population of around 70,000.

‘It is frightening indeed,’ said a middle-aged man bundled in a coat and woolly hat on the steps of his apartment block.

‘I can hardly move my legs – they barely move – from the stress of the situation,’ he said. ‘As long as my home is intact and I am not hurt, I will stay here.’

Vladimir Putin's forces are continuing their relentless attacks on the small mining city in eastern Ukraine. Pictured: Ukrainian soldiers near Bakhmut on Tuesday

Vladimir Putin’s forces are continuing their relentless attacks on the small mining city in eastern Ukraine. Pictured: Ukrainian soldiers near Bakhmut on Tuesday¬†

Ukrainian servicemen of the 80th Brigade are on duty outside of Bakhmut, Ukraine, on Tuesday

Ukrainian servicemen of the 80th Brigade are on duty outside of Bakhmut, Ukraine, on Tuesday

A Ukrainian soldier is seen inside the mobile howitzer just outside of Bakhmut on Tuesday

A Ukrainian soldier is seen inside the mobile howitzer just outside of Bakhmut on Tuesday 

An elderly woman stands in her backyard after shelling in Chasiv Yar, near Bakhmut on Tuesday

An elderly woman stands in her backyard after shelling in Chasiv Yar, near Bakhmut on Tuesday

The battle for Bakhmut, in Ukraine's Donetsk region, has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance as defenders hold out against relentless shelling and waves of Russian troops taking heavy casualties in a months-long campaign to capture it

The battle for Bakhmut, in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance as defenders hold out against relentless shelling and waves of Russian troops taking heavy casualties in a months-long campaign to capture it

The area around Bakhmut has been the one part of the front where Moscow has made substantial gains during a winter offensive that has seen what both sides describe as the bloodiest fighting of the war.

‘Russia in general takes no account of people and sends them in constant waves against our positions, the intensity of the fighting is only increasing,’ Zelensky said in an overnight address, describing the fighting in Bakhmut as ‘most difficult’ but its defence as essential.¬†¬†¬†

After losing extensive territory in the second half of 2022, Russian forces have been replenished by hundreds of thousands of reservists. 

Kyiv, for its part, has stuck mainly to defence over the past three months, hoping Russia’s assault will exhaust Moscow’s forces before Ukraine launches a counter-attack with new weapons promised by the West.

Fighting near Bakhmut has been led by Wagner, which has recruited tens of thousands of convicts from prisons. Its boss Prigozhin has accused the regular Russian army brass of treason for inadequately supplying his men.

Wagner received an apparent show of Kremlin support on Wednesday when Russia’s rubber-stamp lower house of parliament, the State Duma, discussed extending censorship laws to include a 15-year jail sentence for those who discredit ‘volunteer formations’.

‘This initiative will protect everyone who today is risking their lives to ensure the security of the country and our citizens,’ Duma chairman Vyacheslav Volodin wrote on social media. ‘The punishment for violators will be severe.’

In Ukraine, at least nine civilians were killed and 12 others were wounded across the country on Tuesday, the Ukrainian president’s office reported Wednesday morning.

Fierce fighting continued in the eastern Donetsk province, with the cities of Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Vuhledar, along with 17 other towns and villages, coming under intense Russian shelling. ‘Shelling does not stop along the entire front line,’ the presidential office said in a regular update.

In the country’s easternmost Luhansk province, regional Gov. Serhiy Haidai said that the Ukrainian military blew up a warehouse in Russian-held Kadiivka on the site of a factory where Russian forces were storing trucks packed with ammunition.

The Russian army attempted to break through Ukrainian defenses in Bilohorivka and near Kreminna, ‘but the Russian attack was repelled,’ Haidai said.