Lviv, Ukraine, Feb 17 (EFE).- Ukraine has urged civilians to immediately leave Bakhmut, a flash point of heavy conflict as Russia pushes to seize the eastern mining city.
An estimated 6,000 civilians remain in Bakhmut, a fraction of the pre-war population of 80,000 in a city that is now under constant bombardment.
Ukrainian deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a Telegram post that remaining civilians should “immediately” leave the city, adding that Russian shelling was targeting residential areas.
She added that five civilians were killed and another nine injured in attacks carried out in the past day.
Ukrainian officials believe Russia is trying to capture Bakhmut before the first anniversary of its invasion on February 24, according to the Institute for the Study of War, an American think tank.
The ISW said in a daily report Thursday that Russian forces were unlikely to meet the deadline.
“Ukrainian forces could always decide that the costs associated with holding Bakhmut are too high and voluntarily withdraw from the city, although Ukrainian forces and leaders continue to indicate that they intend to hold the city,” the think tank said.
It added: “ISW previously assessed that the Ukrainian defense of Bakhmut would likely prevent Putin from claiming that Russian forces secured the city on the anniversary of the invasion in an attempt to renew hope in a Russian victory in Ukraine.
“The Kremlin may launch another series of missile strikes on civilian targets throughout Ukraine to mark the symbolic anniversary as actual military success continues to evade the Russian military.”
With the anniversary of the Russian invasion looming, British intelligence estimated Friday that Russian forces had suffered casualties topping 175,000 to 200,000, adding that it included 40,000 to 60,000 killed in action.
“By modern standards, these figures represent a high ratio of personnel killed compared to those wounded. This is almost certainly due to extremely rudimentary medical provision across much of the force,” the statement, shared by the United Kingdom’s defense ministry, added.
The ISW said that Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin expected members of the private military firm to encircle Bakhmut by March or April.
“Prigozhin‘s pragmatic assessments of Russian advances in the Bakhmut area have generally been closer to tactical realities than assessments forecasting rapid Russian advances,” the think tank added.
British intelligence said in its Friday report that convicts recruited by the Wagner Group to fight in Ukraine likely suffered a 50% casualty rate.
The city of Bakhmut is located in the north of the Donetsk region, near the adjoining border with Luhansk. Swathes of both oblasts, collectively known as the Donbas, have been under pro-Russian control since the 2014 rebellion and subsequent war.
At the end of September last year, Russia’s president Vladimir Putin announced the annexation of Donetsk and Luhansk despite neither being fully under his control.
Russia’s bid to swallow up Ukrainian territory, which included the regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia – the latter being home to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant –, followed referendums widely dismissed by the international community as a sham. EFE