Russian forces have made progress in the frontline hotspot of Bakhmut but their attack will be hard to sustain without further harsh losses, UK military officials say.
Bakhmut is a key target of Moscow’s campaign in eastern Ukraine, which has resulted in staggering casualties.
The Kremlin-controlled paramilitary Wagner Group has captured most of eastern Bakhmut, which a river flowing through the city centre now marking the frontline, Britain’s Ministry of Defence said.
But, its assessment added, it will be “highly challenging” for Wagner forces to push ahead because Ukraine has destroyed key bridges over the river – while Ukrainian sniper fire from fortified buildings further west has made the thin strip of open group in the middle a “killing zone”.
The illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine is continuing.
The map below is the latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine – 11 March 2023.
Find out more about Defence Intelligence's use of language: https://t.co/HN8GgP0WNm
🇺🇦 #StandWithUkraine 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/GKjKAFzu6SAdvertisement
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) March 11, 2023
At the same time, Ukrainian troops and supply lines in the mining city remain vulnerable to “continued Russian attempts to outflank the defenders from the north and south” as Russian forces try to close in on them in a pincer movement, the ministry said.
Meanwhile, Russian military bloggers and other pro-Kremlin Telegram accounts on Friday claimed Russian forces have entered a metal processing factory in north-west Bakhmut.
A Washington-based think tank late on Friday also referenced geolocated footage showing Russian forces within 800 metres of the heavily built up and fortified Azom complex.
The Institute for the Study of War said Moscow’s apparent focus on capturing the factory, rather than opting for a “wider encirclement of western Bakhmut” by attempting to take nearby villages, is likely to bring a further wave of Russian casualties.
Ukraine’s ground forces on Saturday signalled their intention to hold the city, reporting on Facebook that their top officer continues to oversee “the most important sectors of the front” and “take the necessary measures” to deny Moscow a long-awaited battlefield victory.
Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi has made several visits to the Bakhmut and other eastern frontline hotspots over the past month.
Across Ukraine, repair work continued on Saturday after a massive Russian missile and drone strike two days earlier which killed six people and left hundreds of thousands without heat or electricity.
Ukraine’s state grid operator said power supply issues persist across four regions following the barrage, which saw 80 Russian missiles and a smaller number of exploding drones hit residential buildings and critical infrastructure across the country.
🤝 Teamwork is essential to success. Ukrainian recruits are taught to work together in combat to defeat the enemy.
🎬 Watch these recruits repel an enemy advance on live fire tactical training in the snow with the British Army this month.
🇺🇦 #StandWithUkraine 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/alSjIYlDlD
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) March 10, 2023
In a Facebook post, Ukrenergo said scheduled blackouts remain in operation in the Kharkiv and Zhytomyr regions in Ukraine’s north west and north east respectively, as well as parts of the Dnipropetrovsk and Mykolaiv provinces in the south east.
The company said the situation in Zhytomyr is especially challenging, with some consumers still knocked off the grid.
Russian shelling on Saturday set a car driving through the southern city of Kherson on fire, killing one person inside it and wounding two others, regional governor Oleksandr Prokudin said in a Telegram post.
Earlier, authorities said Russian shelling over the previous 24 hours killed at least five people and hurt another 19 across Ukraine’s Kherson and Donetsk regions.
The eastern Donetsk province, where Bakhmut is located, has been the epicentre of the fighting in recent months, while the Ukrainian-held parts of the Kherson region have seen daily shelling from Russian troops stationed across the Dnieper river.