Oleksandr Syrskyi, the commander of Ukraine’s Ground Forces, said that the defense of Bakhmut was necessary for the start of the spring counteroffensive, which is "not far off," the Ground Forces reported on March 11.
Kremlin-backed paramilitary Wagner Group forces have reportedly taken control of most of the eastern part of Bakhmut, according to the U.K. Defense Ministry’s daily intelligence update published on March 11, but they face a new challenge with the Bakhmutka River that divides the city in two and now marks the front line.
Ukrainian forces have demolished key bridges over the north-south rive, which runs through a strip of open ground 200-800 meters wide, according to the U.K. Defense Ministry. The area has become a killing zone and highly challenging to cross for Wagner forces, in the line of fire of Ukrainians from fortified buildings to the west, the update reads.
However, Ukrainian forces and supply lines to the west remain vulnerable to the continued Russian attempts to outflank them from the north and south, according to the report.
Yet, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry acknowledged on March 10 that the battle for Bakhmut is becoming more difficult as Russia keeps up its offensive and continues trying to “break through the defenses of our troops.”
Eight-month-long battle for Bakhmut has reduced the eastern Ukraine city into rubble.
Ukraine’s reports of tough battles in the Bakhmut area come a day after the military leadership warned that “every move and decision can radically change” the situation, and the battle remains “very difficult.”
Russia has been intensifying its offensive on the Bakhmut front since mid-January, slowly capturing settlement after settlement to encircle the city.
Capturing Bakhmut would mark Russia’s biggest victory since early summer when it seized the last Ukrainian strongholds of Luhansk Oblast.