Russia wants to use the Wagner mercenaries to break through the defenses of the Ukrainian troops and surround Bakhmut, commander Syrskyj said. The situation is "extremely tense". In his video speech on Monday evening, Zelenskyi emphasized: "The enemy is destroying everything that can help hold our positions."
Aerial photos taken by AFP photographers show destroyed buildings in the eastern Ukrainian city and smoke rising above rubble. According to the governor of Donetsk, Pavlo Kyrylenko, only around 5,000 civilians, including 140 children, live in Bakhmut, which once had 70,000 inhabitants.
Ukrainian soldiers in Bakhmut told AFP news agency that Russian soldiers were planning heavy attacks. The opposing side is making progress and "Bachmut will most likely fall," a soldier told AFP. "They say the Russian soldiers are idiots and drug addicts," said the 40-year-old. "But they have smart people there who know how to fight. They're learning, just like us."
The Russian army and the Russian mercenary group Wagner have been besieging Bakhmut for months. The battle for the industrial city in the Donetsk region is the longest-lasting battle of the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine. The city has been largely destroyed, and there have been numerous fatalities on both sides.
Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin had previously stated that his fighters were leading the offensive in the region and had captured several villages around Bakhmut in the past few days. Rivalries had arisen between the mercenaries and the Russian army - Prigozhin accused the army of wanting to "steal" the victories of the Wagner troops.
According to analysts, Bakhmut is of little strategic importance - a revenue would therefore have primarily symbolic value for Moscow. Zelenskyy recently announced that the Ukrainian army would try to hold the city for as long as possible.
Russian authorities reported on Tuesday the destruction of several combat drones over their own territory - including one in the region of the capital Moscow. Since the beginning of the war, towns and infrastructure in Russia - especially in border regions - have repeatedly been hit by attacks, especially with drones. Several people died as a result.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry and regional governors, the drones were part of a Ukrainian attack on "civil infrastructure facilities" in four southern Russian regions bordering Ukraine and "probably" on civilian infrastructure in Gubastovo, about 100 kilometers southeast of Moscow.
NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg meanwhile has given Ukraine the "long-term" prospect of being included in the military alliance. "The NATO allies agree that Ukraine will become a member of the alliance," Stoltenberg said in Helsinki on Tuesday. However, this is "a long-term perspective". At the moment, the most important thing is to support Ukraine in the Russian war of aggression, explained Stoltenberg. But when the war is over, "we have to make sure history doesn't repeat itself".