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Ukraine: Selenksy warns of “free rein” for Russian troops should Bakhmut fall

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In an interview with the US television channel CNN, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned of the dangers that the loss of the hard-fought Bakhmut would entail. Should the city fall, the Russians would be able to enter eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned that if the Russian army captures the fiercely contested city of Bakhmut, there will be “free rein” for further Russian conquests in eastern Ukraine. “We are aware that they could go further after Bakhmut,” Zelenskyy said in an interview with the US television channel CNN.

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Russia needs “at least a small victory,” Zelensky said, “even if it ruins everything in Bakhmut and kills all the civilians there.” If the attackers were able to raise their “little flag” in Bakhmut, it would help “mobilize their society to create the idea that they are such a powerful army,” the president said. In contrast, Bakhmut is of strategic importance for Ukraine. If the city fell, Russian troops would have “free rein to other Ukrainian cities, in the direction of Donetsk.”

Zelenskyj on the situation in Bakhmut: “We have to do everything in our power”

In the CNN interview with popular TV host Wolf Blitzer, scheduled to air on Wednesday, Zelenskyy said Ukrainian forces were determined to hold Bakhmut. “Everyone says we have to stay strong in Bakhmut,” said Zelenskyy, referring to a meeting with Ukraine’s chief of staff and other army leaders on Tuesday.

Blitzer also asked the President about the alleged skepticism of some members of the Ukrainian military leadership, who fear that the high losses in the battle for Bakhmut could endanger the planned spring offensive. However, Zelenskyy replied that he had “never heard anything like it” from his commanders. Of course, Kiev should also think about the lives of its soldiers, the Supreme Commander said. “But while we wait for weapons and supplies and the army prepares for the counteroffensive, we must do everything in our power.”

Russia describes the capture of Bakhmut as decisive for the course of the war

Moscow meanwhile sticks to the capture of Bakhmut. On Tuesday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu described capturing the eastern Ukrainian city as crucial for the continuation of the Russian offensive. At a televised meeting with officials in his ministry, Shoigu said taking control of Bakhmut would “enable new offensive in-depth operations against the defense of Ukraine’s armed forces.”

Bachmut has been hotly contested since last summer. The city is now surrounded on three sides by Russian troops. In view of the bitter fighting that has been going on for months, the city now has a high symbolic importance. According to Ukrainian sources, less than 4,000 civilians remain in Bakhmut, while the city had 70,000 inhabitants before the war began.

Sources: AFP;

Source: Stern

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