Shelling knocks out power at Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant: Ukraine war live updates

Ukrainian soldiers on top of a tank moving towards the front line near Pakmut last week.debt…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

KYIV, Ukraine — Russian forces are engaged in operations to clear the remaining Ukrainian soldiers from the ruins of Bagmut, a senior Ukrainian official said Monday, as Kyiv’s military commanders seek to focus on the lost city. to the battle for its outskirts.

General Oleksandr Chirsky, the commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, acknowledged over the weekend that only a small group of Ukrainian soldiers were now inside Baghmut, a tacit acknowledgment of Russia’s near-year-long campaign to capture the city. General Sirski said some of those troops would continue to defend their ground to provide “opportunities to enter the city should the situation change.”

The comments signal a shift in how Ukraine portrays the war’s worst campaign, as Russia claims its first significant battlefield victory since last summer. For months, Ukraine will insist on a tough fight to prevent the Russians from taking the city, even if its hold on Pakmut has shrunk to a few western blocs. Officials now seem to agree that their focus is shifting from securing Bagmouth to making it harder for the Russians to hold it.

While many of Kiev’s battlefield claims remain unverified, it is clear that Ukrainian forces have made small gains north and south of Pakmut in recent weeks, breaking Russian defensive positions in a major battle that began on May 6.

Speaking during a visit to Ukrainian troops in the east on Sunday, General Chirsky said on Sunday that Ukrainian forces continued to advance on the outskirts of Pakmut and were “close to tactically encircling the city”. But Ukraine’s military has not given details on where it is advancing.

On Monday, the commander of the Ukrainian 3rd Assault Brigade, Major Rodion Kudryashov, said the Ukrainians were continuing to make small but important gains around the city.

“We are trying to feel the enemy’s weak spots, step by step, we are trying to dislodge him, occupy positions favorable to us and take the initiative,” he said in an interview with Ukrainian broadcaster RBC-Ukraine.

Some analysts said the Ukrainian claims appeared to be a glitzy attempt to backfire on Pakmut.

“Talk of a tactical encirclement would be premature and reflect an emergency response to the fall of the city,” security analyst Konrad Musica of Rochon Consulting wrote on Monday.

However, that doesn’t mean Russia’s grip on the city is firm. Much may have depended on the plans of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the mercurial and bombastic leader of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, whose fighters spearheaded the Russian attack on Pakmut. Hours after declaring “victory” over the weekend, Mr. Prigozhin said he would withdraw his militia from Friday.

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“From June 1, not even a single Wagner PMC fighter will be on the front line until we re-form, re-equip and receive additional training,” he said.

An image taken from a video released by the press service of Wagner founder Yevgeny V. Prigozhin purports to show him with his fighters in Bakhmut, Ukraine, on Saturday.debt…Prigogine Press Service, via The Associated Press

Withdrawing forces from an active front is no easy task, and Russia is vulnerable to attacks by Ukrainian troops on high ground on the outskirts of the city. Given widely reported tensions between Wagner and Russia’s military leadership and communication problems within Russian ranks, analysts say Ukraine could be looking to exploit the rift.

Mr. Military analysts have noted that even if Prigozhin does not pull his fighters out now, Russia will face challenges in controlling Baghmuth, especially as Ukrainian forces prepare a counteroffensive that could escalate fighting along the rest of the 600-mile front.

“Russian forces will need additional reinforcements to hold Bagmud and its flanks at the expense of operations in other directions,” wrote the Institute for War Studies. Its latest analysis On Sunday.

Both the Ukrainians and British military intelligence have reported evidence that the Russian military has sent thousands of troops to the area.

Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said on Monday that Ukraine was continuing a “struggle for dominant heights” around the city “while the enemy is clearing areas of the city under its control.”

For now, he said, Ukrainian soldiers have fulfilled their primary objective in the Battle of Bagmuth.

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“The enemy’s offensive capability has been significantly reduced,” he said. “The enemy have suffered great losses, and we have gained time for some action, which can be described later.”

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