By taking Bakhmout, Moscow would have “the free way” in eastern Ukraine
BETTING À DAY
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warns that if Bakhmout, the epicenter of particularly deadly fighting for months, is taken, the Russian army would have “the free way” to seize cities in the eastern Ukraine, in an interview with CNN that aired on Wednesday.
“We understand that after Bakhmout they could go further. They could go to Kramatorsk, they could go to Sloviansk, the way would be clear for the Russians (…) to other cities in Ukraine,” he told CNN.
“It is strategic for us”, insisted the Ukrainian president, stressing that his troops were determined to defend the city.
The Russian army is committed to seizing Bakhmout, judging the crucial city for the continuation of its offensive despite the relentless defense of the Ukrainians.
Bakhmut “is an important node (of the lines) of defense of the Ukrainian soldiers in the Donbass”, declared Tuesday the Russian Minister of Defence, Sergei Shoigu.
“His capture will allow for further offensive operations in depth,” he added during a meeting.
But the Ukrainian president told CNN that his armed forces were determined to remain in Bakhmout.
“I had a meeting with the Chief of Staff yesterday and the Chief Military Commanders (…) and they all said we have to stay strong in Bakhmut,” he said in this exclusive interview.
“Of course, we have to think about the lives of our soldiers. But we must do all we can while we receive weapons, supplies, and our army prepares for the counteroffensive.”
While the strategic value of Bakhmout is disputed, the city has took on symbolic and tactical importance, given the heavy losses suffered by both sides. It is the longest and deadliest battle since the outbreak of the Russian invasion in February 2022.
The city, which has a population of just 4,000 compared to 70,000 before the invasion , was largely destroyed.