Russian forces intensified their multi-week campaign on Tuesday to encircle the city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, where the Ukrainian land forces’ commander described the situation as “extremely tense.”

The city has been the site of some of the fiercest engagements of the war, and Russian forces, including mercenary fighters from the Wagner Group, are attempting to cut off the supply lines of the Ukrainian defense.

This would be Russia’s first big victory in almost six months. It would clear the way for conquering the other metropolitan centers in the Donetsk area, which Moscow claims to have annexed together with three other regions of Ukraine.

“Despite significant losses, the enemy launched the most prepared assault units of Wagner, who are trying to break through the defenses of our troops and encircle the city,” Ukrainian Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi said on a military messaging platform.

The Russian news agency RIA released a video showing Russian Su-25 fighters flying over Bakhmut. “We are glad that they are ours,” says a man identified as a Wagner fighter in the video, adding that the fighters have helped them “psychologically.”

After declaring in a late-night radio speech that Russian forces were approaching Bakhmut, which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has called “our fortress” and “must be defended to the end.” constantly destroy everything that can serve to protect our fortification and defense positions.”

Settlements around Bakhmut, which had a population of roughly 70,000 before the war, have been shelled by the Russian military, according to the Ukrainian armed forces.

Ukrainian forces repelled Russian strikes on the villages of Yadhidne and Berkhivka, located on the northern approaches to Bajmut, the army reported early on Tuesday, referring to Bakhmut and the surrounding eastern territories.

Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said Russian forces had driven a wedge between those villages.

“The southern part of Bakhmut is the only area that can be described as under Ukrainian control. In all other districts, the situation is unpredictable… It is impossible to say where the front line is,” he said in a video commentary.

The Russians tighten the siege in Bakhmut


Ukrainian soldiers from the Donetsk region take cover in muddy trenches after warmer weather is thawing the frozen ground.

“Both sides remain in their positions because, as you can see, spring means mud. It’s impossible to move forward like that,” said Mykola, 59, a frontline commander of a Ukrainian battery of rocket launchers, looking at a tablet screen for coordinates to fire.

The Russians tighten the siege in Bakhmut

As the spring thaw (or “rasputitsa”) transforms highways into rivers and fields into the muck, it has a history of thwarting invasion plans for armies across Ukraine and western Russia.

According to Reuters, many military trucks were stuck in the mud. Volodymyr, a platoon commander of only 25 years of age, boasted that his soldiers were ready to carry out missions in any condition as they dug a zigzag trench.

“When they give us a target, that means we have to destroy it.”

Russia has increased its attacks along the eastern front after recruiting hundreds of thousands of new soldiers, but the cost to Ukraine has been enormous.

According to Moscow, Russian forces damaged a Ukrainian munitions storage close to Bakhmut and fired down rockets built in the United States and Ukrainian drones.

Reuters was unable to verify the reports on the battlefield.

The Russian Defense Ministry, without providing evidence, said the United States was planning a provocation in Ukraine using toxic chemicals. There was no immediate response from the United States.

YELLEN in Kyiv

After meeting with Zelenskiy and other authorities, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen became the most recent senior Western official to visit the capital of Ukraine, where she pledged assistance and additional measures to isolate Russia.

The Russians tighten the siege in Bakhmut

President Joe Biden commemorated the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine there a week ago.

“The United States will be with Ukraine for as long as it takes,” Yellen told Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal on Monday, flanked by sandbags at Cabinet headquarters.

Yellen announced the transfer of the initial $1.25 billion to the final $9.9 billion tranche of economic and financial help from the United States and backed the completion of a fully funded package for Ukraine with the International Monetary Fund by the end of March.

Zelenskiy, whose forces are poised to launch a counteroffensive in the coming months, emphasized once more the need for F-16 fighter jets, which his Western partners have been unwilling to deliver.

“We will be able to fully protect our skies when the taboo on aviation in relations with our partners is fully lifted,” Zelenskiy said in his radio address. On the first anniversary of the Russian invasion, on February 24, both sides tried to show their resolve for a second year of the war.

The Russians tighten the siege in Bakhmut

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has accused the West of seeking Russia’s destruction and announced that his country would withdraw from the final remaining nuclear arms limitation deal with the United States.

In a speech in Kyiv on February 20, Biden claimed that Ukraine “remains strong” and that Moscow would never defeat him. Outnumbered Ukrainian troops repelled a Russian attack on Kyiv early in the war and later recaptured significant territory, but Russia still occupies almost a fifth of Ukraine.