Kyiv, May 13 (EFE).- A top Ukrainian military commander claimed Saturday that Ukrainian troops were advancing toward the besieged Bakhmut, causing significant losses of equipment and manpower to the Russian forces.
Colonel-General Oleksandr Syrskyi, the commander of the Ground Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, said the defensive operation towards Bakhmut continued.
“Our soldiers are moving forward in some areas of the front, while the enemy is losing equipment and manpower,” Syrskyi wrote on messaging app Telegram.
The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, reported that the Ukrainian forces have made gains northwest of Bakhmut in localized counterattacks.
Citing geolocated footage posted on Saturday, the institute said Russian forces were fleeing Ukrainian artillery fire on the southern bank of the Berkhivske Reservoir, about 4km northwest of Bakhmut.
The footage visually confirmed claims by several Russian mil bloggers that Ukrainian forces had made gains toward Bakhmut between Bohdanivka and Berkhivka.
The territorial gains by Ukraine came even as Ukrainian and American officials stated that Kyiv had not yet started the planned counteroffensive to drive the Russians away from Bakhmut.
Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said Friday that Ukrainian forces were still conducting defensive operations, which included counterattacks.
A senior US military official and a senior Western official stated said Ukrainian forces had started conducting “shaping” operations in advance of the counteroffensive, according to the ISW.
The claims contradict Russian sources, many of which have claimed the Ukrainian counteroffensive is underway.
Moscow has denied the Ukrainian territorial gains claim even as Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner mercenary group, said Russian troops had abandoned their position and the defense ministry was lying.
Prigozhin’s fighters have been actively engaged in the fighting in and around Bakhmut for Russia.
The Russian defense ministry has said that its troops had regrouped to take up more strategically advantageous positions near Bakhmut.
The ministry said the move was made to increase stability and take advantage of favorable conditions near the Berkhivka reservoir.
But Prigozhin said the Russian claims were not true.
“What Konashenkov said, unfortunately, is called fleeing, not regrouping,” said the head of the Russian private military company. EFE