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Russia claims progress in battle for Bakhmut

2023-04-23T22:49:50Z

Russia’s defence ministry on Sunday said its forces had advanced in Bakhmut, while a top Ukrainian commander posted photographs with his forces saying they were holding the frontline that runs through the city, all but destroyed in some of the bloodiest combat of the 14-month war.

The Telegram post by Ukrainian Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi followed a statement by the Russian ministry that its troops had secured two blocks in western districts, and airborne units were providing reinforcements to the north and south. Russia sees Bakhmut as a stepping stone to more advances in eastern Ukraine.

“We hit the enemy, often unexpectedly for him, and continue to hold strategic lines,” the post on Syrskyi’s Telegram channel said, under images of him poring over a map with three other uniformed men and with the caption “Bakhmut frontline. Our defense continues.”

Reuters was unable to verify battlefield reports.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the private Wagner military force which is leading the Bakhmut assault, has claimed 80% control of the city. Kyiv has repeatedly denied claims its troops are poised to withdraw.

Also on Sunday, the Russian-installed head of Ukraine’s southern Kherson region denied a report by a U.S. think tank that Ukrainian forces had taken up positions on the Dnipro river’s eastern bank.

“There is no enemy foothold on the left (eastern) bank of the Dnipro river … our military completely controls that territory,” Vladimir Saldo wrote on his Telegram channel.

“There may be cases of enemy sabotage groups making landings to take a selfie, before being … destroyed or pushed into the water by our fighters.”

Citing Russian military bloggers embedded with Moscow’s forces, the Institute for the Study of War said Ukraine had “established positions” on the eastern bank, though it was not clear “at what scale or with what intentions”.

Russia withdrew forces from the western bank last year as part of a series of withdrawals that signified a shift in momentum in Kyiv’s favour.

Natalia Humeniuk, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s southern command, neither confirmed nor denied the report, which she told Ukrainian television foreshadowed “very powerful shelling” in districts around the west bank cities of Kherson and Beryslav.

“Reacting to such information, the enemy has significantly intensified its attacks on the opposite bank,” she said. Civilians had been injured and about 30 buildings destroyed, including a school, she said.

She also called for “informational silence” to ensure operational security. “I want everyone to understand that it is very difficult work to cross an obstacle like the Dnipro, for example – when the front line runs along such a wide, powerful river,” she said. “It’s necessary to gather up some patience.”

Related Galleries:

A Ukrainian service member walks near residential buildings damaged by a Russian military strike, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in the front line town of Bakhmut, in Donetsk region, Ukraine April 21, 2023. REUTERS/Anna Kudriavtseva

An aerial view shows smoke rising in the front line town of Bakhmut, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Donetsk region, Ukraine in this screengrab obtained from a video released on April 22, 2023 by 93rd Mechanized Brigade ‘Kholodnyi Yar’. 93rd Mechanized Brigade ‘Kholodnyi Yar’/Handout via REUTERS

A Ukrainian service member walks near residential buildings damaged by a Russian military strike, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in the front line town of Bakhmut, in Donetsk region, Ukraine April 21, 2023. REUTERS/Anna Kudriavtseva

A view shows a flat in apartment building damaged by a Russian military strike, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in the front line town of Bakhmut, in Donetsk region, Ukraine April 21, 2023. REUTERS/Anna Kudriavtseva