U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Monday that if Russian troops manage to seize control of the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, that would not represent a decisive shift in the conflict.
"I think it is more of a symbolic value than it is strategic and operational value," Austin told reporters during a visit to Jordan.
Bakhmut has been the site of months of intense fighting with Russia pushing to take control of the area in Ukraine’s Donetsk province.
Austin said Monday he would not view a Ukrainian decision to reposition its troops to the west of the city as a strategic setback for Ukraine.
Also Monday, Ukraine’s military reported a fresh round of Russian attacks using Iran-made drones.
The Ukrainian defense ministry tweeted that its forces shot down 13 of 15 drones.
Russia has used the Shahed drones to crash into targets in areas across Ukraine, including infrastructure sites.
Meanwhile, Russia said Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Russian soldiers and a medical center Monday in southern Ukraine.
The defense ministry said Shoigu’s visit to Mariupol included a tour of the city, which Russia leveled last year, in order to oversee reconstruction efforts. The ministry did not specify when the visit took place. (KB/VOA)