Ukrainian forces repelled several waves of Russian attacks in and around Bakhmut the over the past 24 hours, the military said, as commanders on both sides described the situation in the city in the eastern Donetsk region as “difficult.”
“Over the past day, units of our Defense Forces repelled 102 enemy attacks…the enemy has not paused its attempts to capture the city of Bakhmut,” the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in its daily update on March 13, adding that Russian troops, despite “significant losses,” continue their relentless assault.
The fight for Bakhmut has been one of the most sustained battles of Russia’s year-old invasion of Ukraine despite being of questionable strategic worth in the eyes of many Western military observers.
The General Staff said heavy fighting is also under way in several other areas around Bakhmut — Lyman, Avdiyivka, Mariynka, and Shakhtarsk.
Separately, the commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, General Oleksandr Syrskiy, said on March 13 that “the situation around Bakhmut remains difficult.”
In a message on Telegram, Syrskiy said that Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut are facing repeated attacks by mercenaries from Russia’s private firm Wagner, who have been repeatedly attempting to reach the city center.
“All enemy attempts to capture the town are repelled by artillery, tanks, and other firepower,” Syrskiy said.
Wagner chief Yevgheny Prigozhin was quoted by the Russian state-run TASS news agency on March 12 as saying his forces are facing a “fierce” fight and that the Ukrainian military is sending “endless reserves” to the city.
“The situation in Bakhmut is difficult, very difficult, with the enemy fighting for each meter,” he was quoted as saying. “And the closer we are approaching the city center, the fiercer fighting is growing, the more artillery and tank being used against us.
“Ukrainians keep on supplying endless reserves. But we are moving forward and will continue to move forward and we will not cover the glory of Russian arms with shame,” he added.
Neither side’s account could be independently verified, but military analysts say both Russia and Ukraine have sustained a high rate of casualties.
Britain’s Defense Ministry said in its daily intelligence bulletin on March 13 that Prigozhin, who has been using convicts to replenish the losses suffered by Wagner in the war, has likely lost access to recruiting in prisons due to an ongoing conflict with Russia’s Defense Ministry.
“If the ban endures, Prigozhin will likely be forced to reduce the scale or intensity of Wagner operations in Ukraine,” the British intelligence report said.
The report said that, according to British estimates, “about half of the prisoners Wagner has already deployed in Ukraine have likely become casualties.”
On March 12, the Ukrainian military said two people had been killed and three more injured when Russian forces shelled a civilian target in Kherson.
Kherson is the administrative capital of one of the four Ukrainian regions — along with Donetsk, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhya, where Europe’s largest nuclear power plant lies — that Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed to have annexed in October, a move rejected by most of the rest of the world.