Bachmut has been contested since last summer. In view of the fighting that has been going on for months, with heavy casualties on both sides, the city in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk now has a high symbolic importance.
On the Russian side, the mercenaries of the Wagner group are particularly involved in the battle for Bakhmut. Wagner boss Prigozhin said in an audio message that his units had now "taken the entire eastern part of Bakhmut, everything east of the river Bakhmutka, which divides the city in two".
According to Zelensky, a complete capture of Bakhmut would have not only symbolic but also strategic importance for Russia. "We are aware that they could go further after Bakhmut," the Ukrainian president told US broadcaster CNN. The Russian troops would then have "free access to other Ukrainian cities, in the direction of Donetsk".
The Ukrainian armed forces are therefore determined to hold Bakhmut. "Everyone says that we have to stay strong in Bakhmut," said Zelenskyj, referring to a meeting with the army leadership on Tuesday. Of course, Kiev must also think about the lives of its soldiers, the president said. "But while we wait for weapons and supplies and the army prepares for the counteroffensive, we must do everything in our power."
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, however, warned against taking Bachmut in the near future. "We cannot rule out that Bachmut will fall in the next few days," he said on the sidelines of consultations with the EU defense ministers in Stockholm. According to him, this would be "no turning point" in the Russian war of aggression. But it shows "that we should not underestimate Russia and that we must continue to support Ukraine."
At the meeting, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov called for four times more ammunition than previously promised by the EU. Ukraine urgently needs "a million rounds of ammunition" to defend itself against Russia, he said.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has called on the EU countries to supply Ukraine with ammunition worth initially one billion euros from their own army stocks. According to EU information, this could only deliver around 250,000 rounds of ammunition to Ukraine. Borrell's proposal is therefore "not enough," said Resnikov. Estonia's Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur called on the EU partners to supply ammunition worth four billion euros.
In the meantime, Selenskyj received UN Secretary-General António Guterres in Kiev. During his third visit to the Ukraine since the beginning of the war, he wanted to campaign for an extension of the agreement negotiated by the UN on the export of Ukrainian grain. Extending the deal, which expires on March 18, is "crucial," he said.
Guterres also commented on a video circulating on the Internet that, according to Kiev, shows the shooting of a Ukrainian prisoner of war. Guterres said the "shocking images" were a "tragic" reminder to strictly comply with international law. The UN Human Rights Office had previously announced that the video appeared to be "authentic".