Russia-Ukraine War: Battles raging in Bakhmut, but the city still holding

Ukrainian troops holding out in Bakhmut face increased pressure Saturday from Russian forces as they help civilians flee the besieged eastern city.
A Ukrainian serviceman in Bakhmut, Ukraine, fires an automatic grenade launcher as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, March 3, 2023. (Reuters)

A Ukrainian serviceman in Bakhmut, Ukraine, fires an automatic grenade launcher as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, March 3, 2023. (Reuters)

Bakhmut

Ukrainian troops holding out in Bakhmut face increased pressure Saturday from Russian forces as they help civilians flee the besieged eastern city.

It is now too dangerous to leave Bakhmut by vehicle, a Ukrainian army representative told The Associated Press, so civilians must flee on foot. Ukrainian soldiers set up a pontoon bridge Saturday to help civilians reach the nearby village of Khromove, the AP said.

One woman was killed and two men were badly wounded while trying to escape over the makeshift bridge, according to the Ukrainian troops helping them.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>A Ukrainian police officer helps an elderly woman evacuate to a safe area in Chasiv Yar near Bakhmut, Ukraine, March 4, 2023. (AP)</p></div>

A Ukrainian police officer helps an elderly woman evacuate to a safe area in Chasiv Yar near Bakhmut, Ukraine, March 4, 2023. (AP)

Ukrainian troops have destroyed two key bridges just outside the city, including one to Chasiv Yar, cutting off their last remaining resupply route, according to U.K. military intelligence officials and other Western analysts.

Destroying the bridge could be a sign that Kyiv is preparing to leave. The Institute for the Study of War said that by taking out the Chasiv Yar bridge, Ukrainian troops might “conduct a limited and controlled withdrawal from particularly difficult sections of eastern Bakhmut,” while making it more difficult for Russians to pursue them.

If Russian fighters do capture Bakhmut, it would be a rare battlefield gain after months of setbacks and it might allow them to cut Ukraine’s supply lines and press toward other Ukrainian strongholds in the Donetsk region.

Ukrainian National Guard Deputy Commander Volodymyr Nazarenko told Ukrainian broadcaster Kyiv24 Saturday the city remains under Ukrainian control despite intense and ongoing attacks by Russian forces.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>A Ukrainian police van drives on the highway for evacuation civilians in Khromove near Bakhmut, Ukraine, March 4, 2023. (AP)</p></div>

A Ukrainian police van drives on the highway for evacuation civilians in Khromove near Bakhmut, Ukraine, March 4, 2023. (AP)

“Every hour in Bakhmut is like hell,” he said. "The enemy had successes in the north, northwest of Bakhmut a week ago. Ukrainian soldiers are fighting back. Over the past few days, the front line has been stabilized thanks to our hard work and efforts.”

Bakhmut’s deputy mayor, Oleksandr Marchenko, confirmed to the BBC that “Thanks to the Ukrainian armed forces, they still haven’t taken control of the city.”

<div class="paragraphs"><p>A resident walks on an empty street in the front line city of Bakhmut, Ukraine, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, March 3, 2023. (Reuters)</p></div>

A resident walks on an empty street in the front line city of Bakhmut, Ukraine, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, March 3, 2023. (Reuters)

City all but destroyed

Marchenko said about 4,000 civilians remain in what was a city of 70,000 that is all but destroyed. They live in shelters without gas, electricity or water, he said.

Responding to reports of the withdrawal of some Ukrainian troops, Serhiy Cherevatyi, the spokesperson of the eastern grouping of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, told CNN on Saturday that Ukrainian soldiers are rotating positions in Bakhmut in controlled, planned cycles.

Cherevatyi said there have been hostilities around Bakhmut, in the villages of Vasiukivka and Dubovo-Vasylivka to the north of the city and in the villages of Ivanivske and Bohdanivka to the west.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of Russia's Wagner Group mercenary force, posted a video Saturday allegedly showing coffins he said contained bodies of Ukrainian soldiers being sent to territory held by Kyiv.

In the video, Prigozhin, wearing military gear, said, "We are sending another shipment of Ukrainian army fighters home. They fought bravely and perished. That's why the latest truck will take them back to their motherland."

The British intelligence update on Twitter said Bakhmut is vulnerable to Russian attacks on three sides but said Ukraine is reinforcing the areas with elite units.

Meanwhile, Russia’s defense minister visited Russian soldiers in Ukraine on Saturday.

The ministry said in a statement on the messaging app Telegram that Sergei Shoigu “inspected the forward command post of one of the formations of the Eastern Military District in the South Donetsk direction."

Shoigu has been criticized for Russia’s poor performance in its war against Ukraine. In a video released Saturday, the military chief was seen handing out medals to Russian military forces.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin, left, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, center, and National Prosecutor of Poland Dariusz Barski, right, meet in Lviv, Ukraine, March 3, 2023, with a group of international prosecutors to discuss allegations of war crimes committed in Ukraine during Russia's ongoing attack on Ukraine. (Reuters)</p></div>

Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin, left, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, center, and National Prosecutor of Poland Dariusz Barski, right, meet in Lviv, Ukraine, March 3, 2023, with a group of international prosecutors to discuss allegations of war crimes committed in Ukraine during Russia's ongoing attack on Ukraine. (Reuters)

Zelenskyy in Lviv

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spent a second day in Lviv on Saturday, in a meeting of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, he said in his nightly address Saturday.

He said they discussed security, energy, social protection, financial issues and anti-corruption.

The United for Justice conference continued for a second day and included discussion on the investigation, punishment of Russian fighters for abuse, rape, and other violent crimes committed in the occupied territory. (KB/VOA)

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