March 11 (Reuters) – Ukraine and Russia claimed on Saturday that hundreds of enemy soldiers were killed in the past 24 hours in the battle for Bakhmut, a small river that bisects the city as Kiev fends off unrelenting attacks. Now marking the new boundary line. ,
Serhiy Cherevaty, a Ukrainian military spokesman, said 221 pro-Moscow soldiers were killed and more than 300 wounded in Bakhmut. Russia’s Defense Ministry said 210 Ukrainian soldiers were killed in the wider Donetsk section of the frontline.
While Moscow did not specify Bakhmut casualties, the eastern city of Donetsk, now nearly deserted, has been at the center of one of the bloodiest and longest battles of the year-long war.
Both sides have acknowledged suffering and significant losses in Bakhmut, while the exact number of casualties is difficult to independently verify.
British military intelligence said on Saturday that Russia’s Wagner mercenary group has taken control of most of the eastern part of Bakhmut – an advance that Yevgeny Prigozhin, the group’s founder, claimed on Wednesday.
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“In the center of the city, the Bakhmutka River now marks the front line,” the British Ministry of Defense said in its daily intelligence bulletin.
Ukraine insisted it was holding Bakhmut and was giving a “civilized rebuff” to Russian forces, with the commander defending Bakhmut saying its defenses were vital to a Ukrainian counter-offensive.
“It is necessary to gain time to accumulate reserves and launch a counteroffensive, which is not far off,” the army quoted Colonel General Aleksandr Syrsky as saying on Saturday.
Moscow says the capture of Bakhmut would plug a hole in Ukrainian security and be a step towards seizing a key target in the Donbass industrial region. Kiev says the fighting is crushing Russia’s best units.
Prigozhin said on Saturday that he was now 1.2 km (0.75 miles) from the city’s administrative center. The center is on the west side of the Bakhmutka River.
British intelligence noted that the river ran through some open plains, “making this area a killing field, possibly making it extremely challenging for Wagner’s forces to attempt to continue their frontal attack to the west.” “
But the situation remained dangerous for the Ukrainian army.
“Ukrainian forces and their supply lines to the west remain vulnerable to continued Russian efforts to outflank the defenders from the north and south,” it said.
Written by David Ljunggren and Lydia Kelly; Editing by Grant McCool and Raju Gopalakrishnan
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