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World News | Ukrainian officials: Troops may withdraw from key city of Bahmut


The LATAM Airlines plane hit the vehicle on the runway (Image: Twitter / @AirCrash_)

KIEV, March 2 (AP) — The Ukrainian military may withdraw from the key stronghold of Bahmut, an adviser to Ukraine’s president said Wednesday, suggesting Russia could seize the city that has become a symbol of the Ukrainian resistance.

Kremlin forces have launched a bloody, months-long offensive to capture Bakhmut, a salt and gypsum mining town in eastern Ukraine that has become a ghost town.

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“Our military will obviously weigh all options. So far they have control of the city, but they will retreat strategically if needed,” said Alexander Zelensky, an economic adviser to Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky. Rodnisky told CNN. “We’re not going to just sacrifice all of our people for nothing.”

The battle for Bakhmut exemplified Ukraine’s resolve as the city’s defenders held out against relentless shelling while Russian troops suffered heavy casualties.

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Bachmut is in Donetsk province, one of four provinces that Russia illegally annexed last fall. Moscow controls half of Donetsk province. To capture the remaining half of the province, Russian forces must pass through Bakhmut, the only route to the larger Ukrainian-controlled city since Ukrainian forces recaptured Igum in Kharkiv province in September.

The fall of Bahmut would be a blow to Ukraine and provide Russia with a tactical advantage, analysts said, but would not be decisive in the outcome of the war.

Rodnyansky noted that Russia is using the best Wagner Group forces to try to encircle the city. The private military company, known for its brutal tactics, is headed by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a rogue millionaire with longstanding ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Prigozhin said on Wednesday that he saw no signs of a Ukrainian withdrawal and that, in fact, Kiev had been strengthening its position.

“The Ukrainian army is sending additional troops and is doing what it can to retain control of the city,” Prigozhin said. “Tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers have put up fierce resistance, and the fighting is getting bloodier by the day.”

Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hannah Malial said earlier this week that reinforcements had been sent to Bakhmut.

Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov told The Associated Press that the reinforcements may have been sent to “buy time” to strengthen Ukrainian fire lines on Chasiv Yar hill, 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) west of Bakhmut.

The possible withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from Bakhmut “will not in any way affect the course of the war” due to firing positions at Chasiv Yar, Zhdanov said.

Bakhmut is now partially surrounded and all roads, including the main supply line, are within range of Russian fire, Zhdanov said. The city is in ruins and “is no longer of strategic or operational importance”.

“In Bakhmut, the Russians lost so much strength — soldiers and equipment — that the city had already fulfilled its function,” Zhdanov said.

Recent drone footage has shown the extent of the devastation in the city, which Zelensky described as “destroyed”.

Since invading Ukraine a year ago, Russia has bombed every town it wants to occupy. It also carried out missile strikes on Ukraine’s electricity supply ahead of winter, in an apparent attempt to dent the morale of residents.

Ukrainian officials celebrated Wednesday as their traditional first day of spring, despite warnings from Western analysts that warmer weather could give Moscow an opportunity to renew its offensive.

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba declared his country had escaped Putin’s “winter terrors”.

“We’ve had the toughest winter in our history,” Kuleba wrote on Facebook.

Zelensky added in his evening video speech: “This winter is over. It is very difficult and every Ukrainian feels it quite literally. However, we can still provide Ukraine with energy and heat.”

If the war turns into a protracted conflict, Latvia’s Prime Minister Kris Janis Karins said it would require a response from Kiev’s Western allies.

“For many years to come, we may have to realign our military, our military industry, to be able to meet bigger, bigger challenge.” .

Meanwhile, Mikhailo Podolak, one of Zelensky’s top advisers, denied on Wednesday that Ukraine had used drones to strike Russian territory, following official Russian statements that Ukraine had targeted infrastructure on Russian soil.

“Ukraine did not attack the territory of the Russian Federation. Ukraine is waging a defensive war with the aim of de-occupying all its territories,” Podolak tweeted, suggesting that the targeting of Russian infrastructure was the result of an “internal attack” .

Ukraine’s Western allies have dissuaded Ukraine from attacking targets in Russia to avoid escalating the conflict, and Podoglyak’s statement may reflect Kiev’s attempt to maintain a level of denial given Western concerns.

In the past, Ukrainian officials have not claimed responsibility for attacks on Russian soil, but have also insisted they have the right to strike any target inside Russia in response to Russian aggression.

Asked about Podolak’s denial, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, “We don’t believe it.”

Photos of a drone that crashed near the village of Gustovo, less than 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Moscow, show it was a small Ukrainian-made drone with a reported range of 800 kilometers (nearly 800 kilometers). 500 miles), but does not have the capacity to carry many explosives.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Wednesday it prevented a massive drone attack on Crimea. According to Russian state media, the air defense system shot down six drones, while the electronic warfare system shot down four others.

Also on Wednesday, Belarusian state television tried to dismiss claims of another attack.

A Russian A-50 early warning and control aircraft was badly damaged in an attack on the Machulishchy air base outside the country’s capital Minsk on Sunday, pro-Ukraine Belarusian activists said.

Belarusian state television called the report “false” on Wednesday, saying: “The A-50 is safe and sound! The liner performed and will continue to perform its work within the framework of the Belarusian-Russian alliance and is ready to take off.”

State television showed nighttime video of the plane taxiing down the runway, but did not say when it was recorded or whether the plane was damaged and then repaired.

Satellite photos from Planet Labs PBC and Maxar Technologies on Tuesday appeared to show the plane largely intact, except for a discoloration of the circular rotating dome above the fuselage, which could indicate damage.

In other developments, the Office of the President of Ukraine reported that at least nine civilians were killed and 12 others were wounded.

Three people, including a 1-year-old boy, were wounded Wednesday by Russian shelling in southern Ukraine’s Kherson province, regional officials reported.

Heavy fighting also continued in Donetsk province, with the cities of Bakhmut, Avdivka and Vuldar, as well as 17 towns and villages, all under heavy Russian shelling. (Associated Press)

(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a Syndicated News feed, the content body may not have been modified or edited by LatestLY staff)


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