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Russian forces in Bakhmut have been semi-encircled as Ukraine created conditions to retake the city, Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi told the BBC on July 20.
"At the moment, the deployment of Russian troops resembles an arch, concentrated in Bakhmut. And they are under semi-encirclement. Well, it's impossible not to take advantage of that," the commander of Ukrainian forces in the east said in the interview.
Syrskyi noted that recapturing the city, taken by Russia in late May, has not only symbolic but also strategic value, as it represents a significant transport hub, allowing Russian forces further advances.
According to the general, the Wagner Group contractors who led the efforts to take the city suffered such heavy losses that they have been rendered unusable in combat. Ukraine will be able to capture Bakhmut with ten times smaller losses, Syrskyi said.
While admitting there is no clear timeframe for retaking the city, the general says it will be attempted as soon as possible.
Syrskyi noted that his troops are facing the concentration of Russian troops on the eastern front. Moscow has an advantage in artillery, air forces, and other hardware, the general listed the obstacles to Ukraine's swift advance.
Russia is also redeploying units from Zaporizhzhia Oblast, currently facing a major thrust of Ukrainian counteroffensive, to the east, illustrating the strategic value of the region for the Kremlin, the general commented.
In spite of this, Syrskyi's troops advance 500 m to 1 km every day, recapturing land and preventing Russian forces from taking the initiative, he said.
While Western observers and even President Volodymyr Zelensky noted a relatively slow advance of Ukraine's campaign, Syrskyi told ABC News on July 5 that the counteroffensive is developing according to plans.
The General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces reported on July 19 that Russian troops have been forced to retreat from positions near the village of Orikhovo-Vasylivka northwest of Bakhmut.
Earlier, the military reported advances also on Bakhmut's southern flank. Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said on July 17 that the Ukrainian troops liberated 7 square kilometers in the Bakhmut direction over the past week.