Heavy Russian bombardment on Bakhmut as Ukrainian forces preparing to launch a counterattack

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Russian forces bombed Bakhmut, which has become a focal point in Russia’s attempts for months to control the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, while the head of the Russian private military group Wagner said that Ukrainian forces were pouring into the city before Launch an inevitable counterattack.

The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces announced in a report posted on Facebook that fighting is raging in Bakhmut and nearby areas.

It added that the Russian forces failed to advance towards two villages to the northwest, while at least 12 areas were exposed to the fire of the Russian forces.

On the other hand, Serhiy Cherevaty, spokesman for the group of forces stationed in eastern Ukraine, told national television on Wednesday that during the past 24 hours, Russian forces launched 324 attacks using artillery and multiple rocket launchers.

“The Russians are destroying buildings in Bakhmut to prevent our soldiers from using them as fortresses,” he added.

On Tuesday, Cherevaty reported a record number of attacks on a section of the front further north, near the city of Kobyansk in northeastern Ukraine.

The governor of the Mykolaiv region in southern Ukraine said that Russian missiles hit a residential building and a house in the city of the same name.

Vitaly Kim wrote on Telegram that one person was killed and 15 others were injured.

Reuters was unable to verify reports from the battlefield.

Bakhmut remains the prize that Russian forces are currently chasing.

For nearly nine months, those forces have tried to force their way into the city, which has been largely destroyed in a protracted conflict now in its fifteenth month, and have captured some areas.

The Ukrainian army has vowed to defend the city, which was once inhabited by 70,000, but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky indicated this month that they might withdraw if they were in danger of being surrounded.

Russia’s Wagner Group has led most of the advances in Bakhmut, and its founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said this month his forces had captured 80% of the town.

“Today, highly trained enemy units are already being pushed into Bakhmut… A Ukrainian counterattack is inevitable,” Prigozhin said in a video message on Wednesday.

Prigozhin, a critic of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, added that his forces will advance whatever it takes just to crush the Ukrainian army and disrupt its offensive.

The Ukrainian army didn’t comment on the talk of launching a new counterattack to continue the progress it made last year in regaining control of areas seized by Russia in the northeast and south.

In Washington, the top US general in Europe said the Ukrainian army would get the weapons it needed in due time.

General Christopher Cavoli, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe, said that more than 98% of the combat vehicles that had been pledged to Kiev had already been delivered.

Military analyst Denis Popovich told local Ukrainian Radio that it’s not likely that things will change course in Bakhmut soon.

“If Bakhmut falls, Russia will have the resources to send its forces to other places,” he added.

“Bakhmut is an opportunity to destroy Russian forces and prevent them from clashing elsewhere”.

In turn, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed optimism that he will be able to use China’s influence in the war with Russia, after he had a phone conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping for the first time since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year.

“There is an opportunity to use China’s political influence to restore the strength of the principles and rules upon which peace must be based,” Zelensky said in his daily video address released after the call on Wednesday night.

“Ukraine and China, as well as the vast majority of the world, are equally interested in the strength of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states,” he added.

The Ukrainian president said that the long and completely rational conversation would give a strong impetus to bilateral relations between the two countries.

He continued, “Of course, an essential part of the conversation is our views on ways to restore a just peace… I presented the Ukrainian peace formula, and its specific points… We agreed to continue our contacts.”

During the call, Xi announced his intention to send a special envoy to Ukraine and other countries to exchange views with all parties on a political solution to the conflict.

Chinese state media reported that the president also issued a strong warning of the nuclear escalation of the Ukraine war and urged all parties involved to remain calm.

“There are no winners in a nuclear war,” Xi said.

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