KYIV, Ukraine — Russia is pounding the Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine ever more fiercely with aerial attacks and artillery strikes, but Ukrainian forces remain in control of the embattled city, the commander of Kyiv’s ground forces, Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky, said on Tuesday.
“The Bakhmut sector remains the epicenter of the fighting,” General Syrsky said on the Telegram messaging app, referring to broader fighting in the east of the country.
“This is where the enemy is concentrating most of its efforts and is determined to take control of the city at any cost,” he said. “Currently, the enemy is increasing the activity of heavy artillery and the number of airstrikes, turning the city into ruins.”
He also said that Moscow was attacking Bakhmut from several directions simultaneously.
Russian forces have steadily advanced on Bakhmut in months of bloody fighting, and Ukrainian troops are now defending a section of the western part of the city. The Russian Defense Ministry said on Monday that its assault troops had captured two more areas in the south and northwest of the city, although it was not possible to confirm the claim independently.
Russia began its assault on Bakhmut last summer, and it has involved some of the heaviest and most protracted fighting of the invasion. Both sides have sustained heavy casualties, though military experts and Ukrainian officials say that Russian losses have been significantly higher.
The city, which had about 70,000 residents before the war, has seen all but a few thousand people flee. If Russian forces capture all of Bakhmut, it would mark their first seizure of a city in months, amid setbacks elsewhere in their efforts to mount an offensive in eastern Ukraine.
Most experts say that the struggle for Bakhmut matters because of the longevity of the battle and the loss of life for each side, rather than for its intrinsic military value. Holding Bakhmut has become a byword for Ukraine’s resistance to Russian aggression, while Moscow seeks a victory to celebrate domestically and to extend its territory in Ukraine’s east.
At the same time, the months of fighting for one small city illustrate how difficult it would likely be for either side to win total control in a region where fighting has been ongoing since 2014 and both sides have dug significant defenses.
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