Ukraine’s biggest challenge is defending the city of Bakhmut, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly video message Tuesday.
“The most difficult situation, still, is in Bakhmut and the battles that are essential for the defense of the city,” he said.
Zelensky said Russia was suffering heavy losses around the eastern city, based on an update from his commanders. “Russia is not counting people at all, continuously sending them to attack our positions. The intensity of the fighting is growing,” he said.
His account tallies with what commanders on the ground have reported about the intensity of Russian assaults and the casualties they have sustained.
There were also over 30 Russian attacks on the Kherson region in the south, the president said.
Some context: CNN reported in January that people familiar with Zelensky’s thinking said he does not believe that a Russian victory in Bakhmut is a fait accompli, and that he remains reluctant to give it up. Holding Bakhmut would give Ukraine a better chance at taking back the entire Donbas region, Zelensky believes, and that if Russia wins, it will give them an opening to advance further to the strategically important eastern cities of Slovyansk and Kramatorsk.
Bakhmut is also an important symbol of Ukrainian resistance.
Zelensky visited Bakhmut just before traveling to Washington DC in December, where he told US lawmakers that “every inch of that land is soaked in blood, roaring guns sound every hour. The fight for Bakhmut will change the tragic story of our war for independence and of freedom.”