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Official: Russia trying to undermine trust in Ukraine's decisions about Bakhmut

by The Kyiv Independent news desk March 29, 2023 4:52 PM 3 min read
Ukrainian soldiers at their artillery position in the direction of Bakhmut, Donetsk oblast, on March 27, 2023 as Russian-Ukrainian war continues. (Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
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Ukraine's Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said on March 29 that Russia is conducting a psychological operation to undermine Ukrainians' trust in the leadership's decisions regarding the defense of Bakhmut.

Russian propaganda presents the battle for Donetsk Oblast's city of Bakhmut "as an apocalyptic event," which will ultimately affect the course of the war, according to Maliar.

"Overwhelmed by the approach of 'the end,' the frightened society would begin pressuring the country's leadership to stop defensive operations, according to the enemy's plan," explained the official.

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Ukraine’s military has likely pushed Russia’s Wagner Group fighters back from Donetsk Oblast’s 0506 route, which has become a critical supply line for Ukrainian defenders, the U.K. Defense Ministry reported on March 29.

Among other goals of Russia's psychological operation reportedly are demotivating and lowering the Ukrainian army's morale and provoking Ukraine's military leadership into wrong actions.

According to Maliar, to achieve this, Russia is spreading the following narratives:

  • "The decision to defend Bakhmut is political";
  • "There is no point in holding Bakhmut as almost the whole city is allegedly encircled";
  • "The heroism of Ukrainian defenders is inflated by Ukrainian propaganda."

Doing this, Russian propagandists "endlessly exploit" the names of President Volodymyr Zelensky and the Commander of the Ground Forces Oleksandr Syrskyi, silencing the fact that military decisions are not made by one or two people but the whole command, said Maliar.

She emphasized that Ukraine's defense of Bakhmut is currently justified by "operational and tactical expediency."

It aims to maintain regained positions, prevent Russia from advancing deeper into the Ukrainian territory, inflict significant losses on its troops, and create conditions for Ukraine's counterattack, according to the military official.

"Bakhmut will be defended as long as it is necessary for us in order to fulfill military defense tasks," she added. "And it is our military command, not the Russian psychological operations, that will determine how long Bakhmut will be held."

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Editor’s note: In this story, the Kyiv Independent is not disclosing the Ukrainian soldiers’ full names or their deployed positions due to security concerns amid the ongoing war in Ukraine. Donetsk Oblast – At an abandoned building about 20 minutes drive from Bakhmut, wounded Ukrainian soldiers pou…

The battle for Bakhmut, a city in Ukraine's Donbas region, 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.

Western officials, including NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, claimed a possible loss of the city would not be a critical juncture in the war.

According to the latest assessment by the Institute for the Study of War, Russian forces have advanced another five percent of Bakhmut in the last seven days and currently occupy roughly 65 percent of the city.

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AVDIIVKA, Donetsk Oblast – Avdiivka is an eerie city to drive into in March 2023. One year into Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine, but nine years into the Donbas war, the compact city just 10 kilometers from the center of occupied Donetsk is barely holding on. There is little choice
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6:47 AM

ISW: Russia holds offensive initiative.

"Russian forces have regained the theater-wide initiative and will be able to pursue offensive operations when and where they choose as long as they hold the initiative," the ISW said.
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