Ukraine Pours Cold Water on Reports of Bakhmut's Imminent Fall to Russia

Ukraine's Armed Forces spokesperson Serhiy Cherevatyi said that his country's troops have not withdrawn in mass from Bakhmut, and Ukraine still has control of the city. Cherevatyi's statement came amid intense fighting and reports from Russia's Wagner Group that the city is surrounded.

Cherevatyi spoke with CNN on Saturday saying, "The fighting in Bakhmut is more on the outskirts, with the city controlled by Ukrainian defense forces: the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the Border Guard and the National Guard."

"There is also no mass withdrawal of Ukrainian troops," he said. "There were 21 enemy attacks with the use of various artillery systems and MLRS near Bakhmut alone, and nine combat engagements. One hundred and thirty-one attacks and 38 combat engagements took place on this front in total," Cherevatyi said.

Volodymyr Nazarenko, a deputy commander in the National Guard of Ukraine similarly said Saturday in comments to Ukrainian broadcaster Kyiv2, that Russia had not yet succeeded in taking Bakhmut. To the contrary, he asserted that Ukraine had "stabilized" the front line, although he admitted Moscow's forces had some success.

"Every hour in Bakhmut is like hell. The enemy had successes in the north, northwest of Bakhmut a week ago. Ukrainian soldiers are fighting back. Over the past few days, the front line has been stabilized thanks to our hard work and efforts," Nazarenko said.

"The Kostiantynivka-Bakhmut road is under the control of Ukrainian forces. They are doing this with enormous efforts," he added.

As Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has vowed to protect the city, he also underscored the importance of fighting but "not at any cost."

Meanwhile, the U.K. Ministry of Defense (MoD) said on Saturday that the Ukrainian defense of the city is "under increasingly severe pressure."

"Ukraine is reinforcing the area with elite units, and within the last 36 hours two key bridges in Bakhmut have been destroyed, including a vital bridge connecting the city to the last main supply route from Bakhmut to the city of Chasiv Yar," U.K. Ministry of Defense continued.

Bakhmut, an eastern city in the Donetsk region, has been fiercely fought over since August 2022. If captured by Moscow's troops, it could represent a long-desired success for Russian President Vladimir Putin, while bringing some limited strategic value. Bakhmut is situated in a desirable location as important roads connecting Luhansk to the east and Sloviansk to the northwest are in the city.

Rajan Menon, Director of the Grand Strategy program at Defense Priorities, told Newsweek on Saturday, "The Russians have been trying to overrun Bakhmut, a small town, for nearly seven months and have yet to succeed despite a massive advantage in soldiers and firepower."

Menon continued: "They have suffered heavy losses and have also largely shelled the town [to] ruin. So although Bakhmut may well fall given the creeping Russian encirclement, that outcome will be a Pyrrhic victory for Russia. And it won't open the road to rapid advances deeper into Donetsk province."

"Ukraine has had abundant time to prepare multiple defense lines beyond Bakhmut, and cities like Kramatorsk are much bigger," he said.

Bakhmut, Zelensky
Ukrainian servicemen fire a 105mm Howitzer towards Russian positions, near the city of Bakhmut, on March 4, 2023. (Photo by Aris Messinis / AFP) (Photo by ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images) This is a split image with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaking to the media during a press conference on February 24, 2023 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Russia's large-scale invasion in 2022 approaches its one-year anniversary on February 24. The Ukrainian President has largely remained in Kyiv since Russia launched its full-scale attack one year ago, making occasional visits to troops in frontline areas and a few high-profile trips to allied countries to lobby for military aid. (Photo by Yan Dobronosov/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images)