The situation for Russian forces trying to capture the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut is “difficult,” because there are no signs Kyiv is ready to order a withdrawal of its troops, the Russian-installed leader of Ukraine’s Donetsk region said on Thursday.
Russian forces — led by the private Wagner militia — have been trying to encircle and capture the eastern Ukrainian city for months in what has turned into one of the bloodiest battles of the year-long war.
Russia, which refers to the city by its Soviet-era name of Artyomovsk, says capturing the city will allow it to launch more offensives deeper into Ukrainian territory which it says it is fighting to “liberate.”
“The situation in Artyomovsk remains complex and difficult,” Denis Pushilin, the Russian-installed head of Ukraine’s Donetsk region, said in an interview on state TV on Thursday.
“That is, we do not see that there is any premise that the enemy is going to simply withdraw units,” he added.
Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin has said his forces are in control of practically half the city and only one exit road remains available to Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly said he will not withdraw his forces from Bakhmut, even as Kyiv and Western officials have downplayed the strategic significance of the city, which has been decimated by months of artillery shelling and urban combat.