Despite a recent easing of combat in Bakhmut, clashes around the obliterated city in eastern Ukraine continue with Moscow suffering significant losses, Kyiv’s armed forces said on Sunday.
Ukraine’s top military command said in its daily report on Sunday that Russian forced had carried out two unsuccessful operations around Bakhmut and launched a number of air strikes and artillery shelling on nearby villages.
The head of Russia’s mercenary Wagner Group said on Saturday that 99% of his fighters had left Bakhmut after their months-long assault in the war’s longest and bloodiest battle.
Ukraine said late last month that fighting had eased in the area, but the commander of the nation’s ground forces, Oleksandr Syrskyi, said on Saturday that Ukrainian forces continued their fight there.
“The enemy continues to suffer significant losses in the Bakhmut direction,” Syrskyi said on the Telegram messaging app after what he said was a visit to troops around Bakhmut. “Defence forces continue to fight. We will win.”
Reuters could not independently verify the reports.
Bakhmut, once home to 70,000 people, has no strategic value, according to military analysts. But Moscow has said capturing it would be a stepping stone to advance deeper into the industrial region of Donbas, which it claims to have annexed from Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has compared Bakhmut’s destruction to the U.S. atomic bomb attack on Japan’s Hiroshima in World War Two.
The Ukrainian daily report on Sunday said some 23 combat clashes had taken place over the past day in the Donetsk region, home to Bakhmut, and the neighbouring Luhansk region, which together make up the Donbas.
British defence intelligence said on Saturday that Russia continued to redeploy regular military units to the Bakhmut sector, replacing Wagner fighters.
Zelenskiy said in an interview published on Saturday that his forces were ready to launch the long-expected counteroffensive to reclaim territory now occupied by Russia.
Kyiv hopes the counteroffensive will change the dynamics of the war that has raged since Russia invaded its smaller neighbour 15 months ago.
Russia now controls nearly all of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions as well as swaths of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions.