Pentagon: Fall of Bakhmut would not mean Russia has changed tide of Ukraine war

United States Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has said the war-torn eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut is symbolically important to Russia, rather than operationally, and its capture would not signal Moscow has regained momentum in its yearlong war effort.

Over the past week, fighting near Bakhmut has intensified, with Russian forces attacking from nearly all sides.

If Russia were to capture the city with a pre-war population of about 70,000, Moscow would laud its first major victory in a costly winter offensive, having called up hundreds of thousands of reservists last year.

The head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, which is spearheading the longest battle of Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine, complained his forces still lack ammunition, blaming possible “betrayal”.

Kremlin-ally Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose recruits have been fighting for months to capture Bakhmut, has been entangled in a power struggle with the defence ministry and accused them of withholding supplies.

Ukraine’s military said late on Sunday Russian forces were attempting to advance on Bakhmut, shelling the city and nearby settlements of Ivanivske, Chasiv Yar, Kurdyumivka and Orikhovo-Vasylivka.

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