Russia tries to close ring around Bakhmut as thawing ground turns to mud


Its forces replenished with hundreds of thousands of reservists called up late last year, Russia has intensified its attacks on several locations along the front in the east. Western countries say several of Russia’s assaults have failed at high cost.

But Moscow’s troops have made clear, if slow, progress north and south of Bakhmut, attempting to cut off Ukrainian forces inside the ruined city, which once held around 75,000 people.

“Vicious battles are going on there. The command is doing everything it can to stop the enemy from advancing through our territory,” Serhiy Cherevatyi, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s eastern military command, told Ukrainian television, describing the situation around Bakhmut.

For it’s part, Moscow claimed to have destroyed a Ukrainian ammunition depot near Bakhmut and shot down US-made rockets and Ukrainian drones. Reuters could not verify the battlefield reports.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday described the situation around Bakhmut as increasingly difficult, saying the Russian forces are “constantly destroying everything that can be used to protect our positions for fortification and defence”.


US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen became the latest senior Western official to visit the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, promising assistance and more measures to isolate Russia after meetings with Zelenskyy and other officials. Her boss, President Joe Biden, went there a week ago to mark the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow describes as a “special military operation” to protect Russian security.

Ukraine calls the war an unprovoked attempt to subjugate an independent state.

“America will stand with Ukraine as long as it takes,” Yellen, flanked by sandbags at the Cabinet ministers’ office, told Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal.

Yellen announced the transfer of the first US$1.25 billion from the latest, US$9.9 billion tranche of economic and budget assistance from Washington, and visited a school where teacher salaries are reimbursed by US budgetary support.

She also backed completion of a fully financed program for Ukraine with the International Monetary Fund by the end of March.

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