Russians Intensify Assault on Bakhmut, Ukrainian Forces Try to Dig in

REUTERS/Yevhen Titov
Ukrainian service members ride BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, near the frontline city of Bakhmut, Ukraine February 27, 2023.

Russian forces carried out continuous attacks on the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut in their quest for a breakthrough in the year-long war, and one U.S. official predicted few short-term territorial gains for Russia.

Ukrainian aircraft launched three strikes on areas of concentration of Russian forces, according to a statement by the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces on Tuesday night.

Bakhmut had a pre-war population of around 70,000 but has been ruined during months of fighting as a focal point of Russian assaults and determined Ukrainian defense.

“The most difficult part, as before, is Bakhmut and the fighting that is essential for the city’s defense,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address.

“Russia in general takes no account of people and sends them in constant waves against our positions, the intensity of the fighting is only increasing,” Zelenskiy said.

A Russian takeover of Bakhmut would open the way to seizing the last remaining urban centers in the industrial Donetsk province.

While most of the Russian attacks were focused on Bakhmut and other towns and villages in Donetsk, the military statement said Russian forces shelled more than 20 settlements in northern regions near the Russian border: Chernihiv, Sumy and Kharkiv.

Reuters was not able to verify battlefield reports.

Russia’s state-run RIA news agency released a video clip it said showed Russian Su-25 fighter jets roaring over Bakhmut.

“We are glad they are ours,” says a man in the clip identified as a fighter of the mercenary Wagner Group, adding the jets helped them “psychologically.”


In Washington, senior U.S. defense official Colin Kahl told a congressional hearing on Tuesday that the front lines of the war were a “grinding slog” and there was nothing to suggest “the Russians can sweep across Ukraine and make significant territorial gains anytime in the next year or so.”

Kahl spoke during a hearing focused on oversight of the nearly $32 billion in military aid President Joe Biden’s administration has provided to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24 last year, including drones, long-range artillery systems, and air defense capabilities.

Ukraine has sought weaponry to protect itself from waves of Russian missile and drone attacks that in the depths of winter damaged the power grid and other infrastructure, killed hundreds of civilians and left millions with no electricity or water.

As part of an investigation into whether the attacks contravened the Geneva conventions on military conflict, the International Criminal Court’s top prosecutor Karim Khan was in Ukraine on Tuesday.

“Generally we see clearly a pattern, I think, in terms of the number, scale and breadth of attacks against the power grids of Ukraine and we need to look at why that’s taking place; are they legitimate targets or not?” Khan said to reporters in the town of Vyshhorod just north of the capital Kyiv.


Elsewhere, foreign ministers from around the world will meet in New Delhi on Wednesday and Thursday in the shadow of Russia’s war in Ukraine and spiraling U.S.-China tensions.

The meeting will be attended by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Britain’s James Cleverly, while China is expected to send its foreign minister, Qin Gang.

India does not want Ukraine to dominate the event, but it will top the agenda, said an Indian foreign ministry official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Tuesday repeated Moscow’s stance that it is open to peace negotiations but Ukraine and its Western allies must accept Russia’s annexation of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions after referendums last September that most governments said were illegal.

Despite several battlefield setbacks in what Moscow describes as a “special military operation” to protect Russian security interests, Russian forces still control about a fifth of territory in its European-leaning neighbor Ukraine.

Zelenskiy’s government has so far ruled out talks with Moscow and has demanded that Russian troops withdraw to Ukraine’s borders in 1991 – the year the Soviet Union collapsed.