Ukraine is preparing for a counteroffensive. The commander of Ukraine's ground forces, Oleksandr Syrskyj, said the fierce battle for Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine was helping buy time to prepare a counteroffensive against the Russian army. Meanwhile, according to their chief, the fighters of the Russian mercenary group Wagner were already near the center of Bakhmut.
"The real heroes now are the defenders who carry the Eastern Front on their shoulders," Syrskyj said. The Defense Ministry in Kiev said on Saturday that Ukrainian soldiers had repelled "more than 100 enemy attacks" along the eastern front the previous day.
Some experts had previously questioned the point of further fighting over Bakhmut. While observers doubt the city's strategic importance, the battle has now acquired symbolic value for both sides.
The Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told the "Bild am Sonntag" newspaper that the political and military leadership agreed to continue to defend the city. "If you withdraw from Bakhmut, what does that change? Russia would capture Bakhmut and continue its offensive on Chasiv Yar, so that any next town behind Bakhmut could suffer the same fate as Bakhmut," Kuleba stated.
But the longer Bachmut is defended, the greater the "probability that other cities will not suffer the same fate," added the Foreign Minister.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Olha Stefanishyna admitted in the French newspaper "Journal du Dimanche" that it would be "complicated for us to resist." But she referred to Moscow's losses. "We estimate that since last year the Russian army has already lost 150,000 men in its military offensives on our soil. The mass of its infantry is a terrifying weapon, it seems inexhaustible in scope and time," Stefanishyna added.
The mercenaries of the Wagner group play a central role in the battle for Bachmut. This week, the mercenary troop declared that they had taken the eastern part of Bakhmut.
Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin announced renewed progress by his fighters in a video released on Saturday. "This is the building of the city administration, this is the center of the city," says Prigozhin in the video published in the online service Telegram, while pointing to a building from the roof of a house allegedly in Bakhmut. "It's one kilometer and 200 meters away. This is the area where fighting is taking place," Prigozhin explains. His statements could not initially be independently verified.
The most important thing now is getting ammunition and "moving forward," said Prigozhin. For weeks, the Wagner boss has been accusing the Russian army leadership of not supplying its fighters with sufficient ammunition. In his video, he again attacked Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov, ironically calling them "extraordinary military commanders."
The British Ministry of Defense confirmed on Saturday that the Wagner mercenaries had brought "most of the east" of Bachmut under their control in the past four days. According to the ministry, Ukrainian forces still control the west of the city and have destroyed key bridges over the Bakhmutka River, which flows through the heart of the city.
At least three people were killed in a Russian attack in the southern Ukrainian city of Cherson, according to authorities, and two others were injured. The pro-Russian mayor of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine said Ukrainian shelling killed two people, including a child.