(Reuters) – Ukraine remains in control of a key supply route into Bakhmut, but the situation remains “really difficult” in the besieged eastern city, a Ukrainian military spokesman said on Saturday.
Russian forces have been trying for 10 months to punch their way into the shattered remains of what was once a city of 70,000. Kyiv has pledged to defend Bakhmut, which Russia sees as a stepping stone to attacking other cities.
“For several weeks, the Russians have been talking about seizing the ‘road of life,’ as well as about constant fire control over it,” Serhiy Cherevatyi, a spokesperson for Ukrainian troops in the east, said in an interview with local news website Dzerkalo Tyzhnia.
“Yes, it is really difficult there, because their attempts to seize the road continue, as well as attempts to establish fire control. But … the defence forces have not allowed the Russians to ‘cut off’ our logistics.”
The “road of life” is a vital road between the ruined Bakhmut and the nearby town Chasiv Yar to the west – a distance of just over 17 km (10.56 miles).
If Bakhmut fell, Chasiv Yar would probably be next to come under Russian attack according to military analysts, though it is on higher ground and Ukrainian forces are believed to have built defensive fortifications nearby.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, who has often claimed unverifiable successes, said that his forces have advanced some 100 to 150 metres (109 to 164 yards) in Bakhmut, leaving just under 3 square km of the city in Ukrainian hands.
But he added that 94 of his troops died.
“It would have had been five times fewer if we had more ammunition,” Prigozhin said in an audio statement published on the Telegram messaging app of his press service on Saturday evening.
He has often said the regular armed forces are not giving his men the ammunition they need and has sometimes accused top brass of betrayal.
(Reporting by Lidia Kelly in Melbourne; Editing by Jamie Freed)