As the first anniversary of the conflict draw closer, the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut was subjected to intense artillery bombardment on Monday, according to the chief of NATO.
According to Ukrainian military authorities, the Ukrainian troops, who have previously resisted for several months, were preparing for further ground assaults.
A deputy battalion commander said positions in Bakhmut have been strengthened and that only those in military uniform are allowed in. He warned that any civilian who still wanted to flee the city would have to risk being shot at.
Vladimir Putin of Russia has put a top priority on capturing Bakhmut because doing so would give Russia a foothold in the Donetsk region and a rare victory after several months of losses. The Donbas, or the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk, is the industrial center of Ukraine and is now partially under Russian control.
“… The reality is we have seen the start (of a Russian offensive) already because we see now what Russia does now – President Putin does now – is to send thousands and thousands more troops, accepting a very high rate of casualty,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels.
Mercenaries from the Wagner group have been spearheading the Russian attack on Bakhmut and have made slow but steady progress. The situation there became much worse as a result of the repeated Russian bombardments.
According to Volodymyr Nazarenko, deputy commander of Ukraine’s Svoboda battalion, “the city, the city’s suburbs, the entire perimeter, and essentially the entire Bakhmut direction and Kostyantynivka are under crazy, chaotic shelling.”
Although there isn’t currently any fighting in the city center, Nazarenko said the defenders are ready to repel any attack.
“The city is a fortress, every position and every street there, almost every building, is a fortress,” he said.
Without providing any specifics, the Russian defense ministry said that its soldiers had advanced along the frontlines a few kilometers.
According to the Ukrainian military, 16 communities close to Bakhmut were attacked by Russian artillery along the battle line. It said that over the previous day, its troops had thwarted a number of assaults in the vicinity of Bakhmut as well as attacks in the districts of Kharkiv, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia.
Russian soldiers attacked Bilogorivka from all sides before dawn on Monday, according to Serhiy Haidai, the governor of Luhansk.
He said this in reference to the Russian offensive: “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.”