Ukrainian officials say the Bakhmut defense forces will do whatever it takes to hold the city, despite Russia’s buildup along the front lines in Donetsk province.
“The Russian army and the militias of Donetsk and Lugansk are concentrating their forces,” said Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk Oblast Military Service appointed by Ukraine, on February 7. “We are working day and night to fortify fortifications and lines to repel the enemy and prevent them from carrying out their plans.”
Asked if Ukraine could hold Bakhmut, Kyrylenko said, “we do not rule out any scenario” and that the defense forces are taking all measures to ensure the city does not fall. “No one is using Ukraine’s defense forces as cannon fodder. Bakhmut is standing,” Kyrylenko said.
Kyrylenko confirmed that Ukraine controls 52% of the area of the Donetsk region, with about 500,000 civilians living. Before the war, this number was 1.8 million.
The Ukrainian military said on the same day that fierce fighting took place in several front-line areas of the Donetsk, Lugansk, and Kharkiv regions, especially the districts and residential areas around Bakhmut. A Ukrainian soldier said Russian forces entered Krasnaya Gora, a residential area north of Bakhmut near a road leading into the city from the west.
The Ukrainian soldier said the Russian army had advanced to another route between Bakhmut and Konstantinovka, a Ukrainian city controlled a few kilometers to the west. “They were pushed back, and now the fighting is mainly about controlling the highway,” the Ukrainian soldier said.
“The battles decide everything to the north and southwest on the Bakhmut – Konstantinovka highway. If Russian forces control the road, the entire garrison will be cut off from the outside. However, So far, they have only completed half of their plan,” the soldier said.
Russia has not commented on the information from Ukraine.
Russia has stepped up its offensive in recent weeks on the city of Bakhmut and claims to have made some progress. Units of the Russian private security group Wagner received combat missions around Bakhmut but did not rush into the inner city while Russian artillery and air force continued to ambush Ukrainian positions there.
If Russia controls Bakhmut, Russia can launch attacks on two key cities in the Donetsk region, Sloviansk and Kramatorsk. However, US and European officials say that it is difficult for Russia to control all of Donetsk in a short time because the province is so large.
The West and Ukraine believe Russia can launch a large-scale offensive campaign to reverse the situation after suffering many setbacks. They assess that Russia is difficult to launch an offensive campaign against Kiev like in February 2022, but has the ability to regain the areas that Ukraine re-controlled in last year’s counterattack, as well as find a way to control the entire Donbas region.