Russian Forces Bombard Ukraine’s Bakhmut as Ukrainian Forces Brace for Assault

By Reuters
February 13, 2023Russia–Ukraine War
Russian Forces Bombard Ukraine’s Bakhmut as Ukrainian Forces Brace for Assault
Ukrainian servicemen fire a mortar shell towards Russian troops at the frontline position near the Vuhledar town, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Donetsk region, Ukraine, on Feb. 11, 2023. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

KYIV—The city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine was coming heavy Russian artillery fire on Monday as Ukrainian forces there braced for possible ground attacks, Ukrainian military officials said.

Positions in Bakhmut have been fortified and only people with a military role were being allowed in, a deputy battalion commander said. Any civilians who still wanted to leave the city would have to brave the incoming fire, he said.

Bakhmut, in the Donetsk region, is a major objective for Russian President Vladimir Putin and months of Russian shelling have already left much of it in ruins.

With the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion approaching and a big new Kremlin offensive anticipated, the situation there has become even more acute.

“The city, the city’s suburbs, the entire perimeter, and essentially the entire Bakhmut direction and Kostyantynivka are under crazy, chaotic shelling,” said Volodymyr Nazarenko, deputy commander of Ukraine’s Soboda battalion.

“Every road is being shelled by artillery in a chaotic way.”

Nazarenko said that although no fighting was taking place in the city centre right now, the defenders were prepared to meet any assault.

“The city is a fortress, every position and every street there, almost every building, is a fortress,” he said.

The capture of Bakhmut would give Putin a new foothold in the Donetsk region. The Russian assault has been spearheaded by mercenaries of the Wagner group, who have made small but steady gains.

Donetsk and Luhansk regions make up the Donbass, Ukraine’s industrial heartland. Russia partially occupies it and wants to win full control.

Earlier on Monday, the Russian defence ministry said its troops had pushed forward a few kilometres along the frontlines, without specifying exactly where in a war zone that encompasses several regions in the south and east.

The Ukrainian military reported Russian shelling all along the frontline and said 16 settlements had been bombarded near Bakhmut. It said that over the past day, its forces had repelled a number of attacks near Bakhmut as well as assaults in Kharkiv, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions.

Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said Russian forces had attacked Bilogorivka from all sides before dawn on Monday.

“But our forces fought back there,” he told Ukrainian television. “It was the same situation in the direction of Kreminna—a lot of them (Russians) appeared there. But they pulled back after the fight with our forces.”

Repeating comments he made last week that Russian attacks have been stepped up ahead of a new offensive, he said: “Preparations for this offensive are already under way, the amount of shelling, air strikes and attacks by small groups has already increased. We are waiting for them to start massive round-the-clock attacks.”

Reuters was not able to independently verify the battlefield reports.

A building burns after shelling in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, on Dec. 4, 2022. (Yevhen Titov/AFP via Getty Images)

Western Support

With Ukraine asking for more weapons and munitions to turn the tide of the war, defence ministers from several NATO countries allied to Kyiv were due to meet in Brussels on Tuesday to discuss possible further military aid.

Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said the main items on the agenda of the talks at NATO headquarters will be air defences, forming a tank coalition, training of troops and logistical support.

As the new Russian offensive looms, Ukraine says it needs fighter jets and long-range missiles to counter this and to recapture lost territory.

Also on Monday, Energy Minister German Galushchenko said Ukraine was meeting consumers’ energy needs after carrying out repairs to the national power network following the latest wave of Russian air strikes on Friday.

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