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Zelensky visits Bakhmut venturing close to bloodiest fighting on frontline



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KHARKIV, Ukraine – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday made a surprise visit to Bakhmut, now the site of some of the bloodiest fought in the war, as his forces tried to thwart a desperate Russian attack on the city in the eastern Donetsk region.

Zelensky’s trip, confirmed by his office on Facebook pagehighlights the carnage in Bakhmut, where Russian forces, including mercenaries, have struggled for months to win the battlefield after a string of defeats and retreats in southern and eastern Ukraine.

It is not clear where the president visited in Bakhmut, or how much he ventured to frontline positions. Amid fierce fighting in recent days, some military analysts have suggested that Russian forces are advancing and warned that the Ukrainian army is in danger of being encircled.

Zelensky’s Facebook post said: “The President visited the advanced positions of one of the motorized brigades, whose personnel were confronting the enemy on the approach to the city. “The head of state heard the commander’s report on the operational situation, material and technical support and recommendations for further actions. While in the war zone, Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the Ukrainian soldiers for the courage, resilience and strength they showed in repelling enemy attacks.”

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One video exit by a state media outlet showed Zelensky, dressed in a military green winter coat, standing next to a table displaying 17 medals, then shaking hands and clapping his shoulders as he shook his head. he gave each award.

Ukrainian officials have sought to draw a contrast between Zelensky’s willingness to visit his troops in frontline positions or in recently liberated cities, such as Kherson, and the President’s Russia’s Vladimir Putin clearly has no trips to the front lines, where critics say Russia has deployed thousands of conscripts, many without the right equipment or training.

Military analysts have questioned why Putin seems willing to pay such a hefty price to take over Bakhmut, which has no apparent strategic importance.

Much of the Russian war in Bakhmut fell on the Wagner Group, a Russian mercenary company. In his nightly speech on Monday, Zelensky called Bakhmut the “hottest spot” on the front.

The Ukrainians have for weeks defied predictions that Bakhmut was on the verge of falling into Russian control. According to military analysts, Russian forces attempted to encircle the city, leading to bloody skirmishes for increased gains in the south and east and in some outer suburbs. city.

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Ukrainian forces said they also repelled an additional effort by Wagner fighters in the northeastern part of the city, the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said. on Monday.

Russian military bloggers reacted to Zelensky’s reported visit by claiming that it reflected an attempt to bolster Ukraine’s support for the wider war before it lost the city.

Fighting continued at a slower pace along the roughly 620-mile front in eastern Ukraine.

The War Institute also reported that Russia has stepped up ground attacks since Sunday in several areas along the front, including near the regional capital Donetsk and the city of Kreminna further north in Luhansk region. Speculation has mounted that Ukraine might try to launch a southern offensive across the Zaporizhzhia region, to cut off the Russian-controlled “land bridge” between mainland Russia and Crimea, which has been illegally invaded and annexed. France in 2014,

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In his speech on Monday, Zelensky said that the fight for Bakhmut was “breaking down” Russian forces. The Ukrainian military previously estimated that up to 100 Russian soldiers were killed every day in Bakhmut.

“Since May, the occupiers have been trying to break through our Bakhmut, but time has passed,” Zelensky said. “And Bakhmut broke not only the Russian army, but also the Russian mercenaries who came to replace the lost soldiers of the occupiers.”

Stern reports from Kiev, Ukraine. Mary Ilyushina of Riga, Latvia, contributed reporting on this story.

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