President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Bakhmut in Donetsk Oblast remains the "hottest point" out of the entire 1,300-kilometer front line as Russian forces relentlessly try to break Ukraine's defenses in the city.
"Since May, the occupiers have been trying to break our Bakhmut, but time goes on, and Bakhmut is already breaking not only the Russian army but also Russian mercenaries who came to replace the lost soldiers of the occupiers," he said in his nightly address.
The mercenaries Zelensky refers to are from the Wagner Group, a Russian-backed private military group led by Evgeniy Prigozhin, a long-time close ally of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. Wagner Group mercenaries have been fighting in Ukraine alongside Russian forces.
Zelensky commented on the enormous losses on the Russian side, saying, "Just think about it: Russia has already lost almost 99 thousand of its soldiers in Ukraine. Soon there will be 100,000 losses. For what? No one in Moscow has an answer to this question."
In early December, the spokesman for Ukraine's Eastern Military Command, Serhii Cherevaty, reported that Russia was losing between 50 to 100 soldiers each day in the battle of Bakhmut, and about as many Russian soldiers were being wounded in action near the city daily.
Bakhmut, a city with a pre-war population of around 70,000, is one of Russia's main targets as it looks to capture the entirety of Ukraine's eastern Donetsk Oblast. Bakhmut is one of Ukraine's key strongholds in the area.
Zelensky said Russian forces are "destroying (Bakhmut) to the ground."