Russia says trying to seize Bakhmut’s western districts

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Russia said Friday it was pushing to take the western districts of the frontline hotspot of Bakhmut, as sources told AFP Ukraine was still sending in fresh troops.

Moscow has been trying to capture Bakhmut since last summer in what has become the longest and bloodiest battle since Russia invaded more than a year ago.

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On Friday, the Russian defense ministry said mercenaries from the Wagner paramilitary outfit were advancing further into the city, supported by Moscow’s air force.

“Wagner assault units are conducting high-intensity combat operations to conquer the western districts of the city,” it said in a statement.

Russian airborne troops were “providing support to assault squads and halting the enemy’s attempts to deliver ammunition to the city and bring in reserves.”

On Thursday, Moscow claimed to have cut off Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut. Kyiv denied the claim, saying it had access to its troops and was able to send in munitions.

Ukraine has vowed to continue defending Bakhmut.

But on the ground Ukrainian sources near Bakhmut told AFP on Friday that Kyiv’s forces were in a “difficult” position.

“I know that many of our soldiers are missing, that positions were lost and it was impossible to evacuate or withdraw the troops,” an army source said.

He said that Ukraine was still “bringing in fresh people” into Bakhmut.

Separately, an intelligence source said any pull-out from Bakhmut would be slow and gradual, as there was only a narrow escape path left.

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