Ukrainian defenders continue to hold their strategic positions in Bakhmut, a senior military commander has said after Russia claimed it had made advances in the city that has been the epicenter of a fierce monthslong battle for the control of the eastern Donetsk region.
“We hit the enemy, often unexpectedly for him, and continue to hold strategic lines,” Oleksandr Syrskiy, the commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, said on Telegram.
READ MORE about the battle for Bakhmut
“Everyone here is a hero. The Russians are suffering heavy losses — we are destroying their personnel and their offensive potential,” Syrskiy wrote.
His comments came after Russia’s Defense Ministry said on April 23 that its forces had captured two districts in the western part of the city that Yevgeny Prigozhin, the chief of Russia’s mercenary group Wagner, says his forces control almost completely.
The reports could not be independently verified.
Two more civilians were killed in Bakhmut by Russian shelling the previous 24 hours, the head of the Donetsk regional military administration, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said on April 24, adding that two others were wounded.
Separately, RFE/RL correspondents reported that two explosions could be heard early on April 24 in the Russian-occupied Crimean port of Sevastopol.
Moscow-installed Sevastopol Governor Mikhail Razvozhayev said the city had been attacked by two Ukrainian drones, one of which was shot down by Russian air defenses while the second one exploded by itself.
Russia’s Defense Ministry later said that on the night of April 24, Ukraine “tried to attack” the base of the Black Sea Russian Fleet in Sevastopol with three drones, all of which were shot down.
In Kherson, Russian forces stepped up their shelling of Ukrainian-controlled part of the southern region, a spokeswoman for the Southern Defense Forces of Ukraine said in televised comments, after reports that the Ukrainian military had crossed the Dnieper and established positions on the eastern bank of the river.
Nataliya Humenyuk denied that the crossing had taken place already and said the shelling was “provoked by loud statements that preceded the actual reality and ran a little ahead.”
“One must be wary of military analysts’ assumptions and understand that these are speculations,” Humenyuk said.
Ukrainian armor forces
Her comments came after the influential U.S. Institute for the Study of War (ISW) argued in its regular update on April 22 that Russian military bloggers “have provided enough geolocated footage and textual reports to confirm that Ukrainian forces have established positions in east [left] bank Kherson Oblast as of April 22 though not at what scale or with what intentions.”
The ISW added that geolocated footage from Russian military bloggers indicated that Ukrainian forces had established a bridgehead north of the town of Oleshkiy and that they have put in place “stable supply lines to these positions” in the Kherson region.
Many experts have said — and Ukrainian leaders have hinted — that a major spring counteroffensive by Kyiv’s forces is in the works, and the reports heightened expectations that Kyiv was on the verge of launching its long-awaited counterattack.
One suggested goal would be to split the land corridor the Kremlin’s forces have established between the illegally annexed Crimean Peninsula and Russia itself.
The Ukrainian military declined to confirm or deny the reports that its troops had taken up positions on the partly Russian-controlled bank of the strategically crucial Dnieper River.
Vladimir Saldo, the Moscow-installed head of the Kherson region, also denied that Ukrainian forces had established a foothold on the Dnieper east bank, saying on Telegram that Russian forces remain in “full control” of the area.
Reported by RFE/RL