President Volodymyr Zelensky and Commander-in-Chief of Ukraine’s Armed Forces Valerii Zaluzhnyi have conflicting views on how the military should handle the situation in Bakhmut, according to unnamed sources within the Ukrainian political leadership cited in a report by Bild.
Bild writes that Zaluzhnyi was deliberating a tactical withdrawal from Bakhmut weeks ago over concern for the wellbeing of his troops.
The Ukrainian government told Bild that remaining in Bakhmut was the right decision due to the serious damage it inflicted on Russian military personnel and equipment. However, according to other sources cited by the publication, the situation is at risk of becoming untenable.
"The vast majority of soldiers in Bakhmut do not understand why the city is being held," a Ukrainian military analyst told Bild on condition of anonymity.
Another Ukrainian military analyst told Bild that the current ratio of casualties between the Ukrainians and Russians is 1:7, which is why the Ukrainian military pushed to hold Bakhmut. However, they added that "the troops should have been withdrawn three weeks ago when the Russians took Krasna Hora. The decision to keep Bakhmut was a good one, but they overdid it.”
Meanwhile, the President's Office reported on March 6 that a meeting took place between Zelensky, Zaluzhnyi, and other officials regarding the situation in Bakhmut. According to the press release, they spoke in favor of continuing defensive operations and strengthening the Ukrainian military's position in Bakhmut.
U.S. Defense Secretary Loyd Austin told journalists during a trip to Jordan on March 6 that Bakhmut was more of "symbolic" than "strategic" value for the Ukrainian military and that he didn't think Ukraine's potential troop withdrawal would cause any major setbacks for the course of the war.
Ukrainian infantrymen recently told the Kyiv Independent of unprepared, poorly-trained battalions being sent to the front line to survive as best they could with little support from armored vehicles, mortars, artillery, drones, and tactical information.
The battle for Bakhmut, a city in Donetsk Oblast, has been raging for the past seven months. The Russian military is attempting to increase its grip over the entirety of the oblast, around half of which it currently occupies.