Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office reported that he recently visited Ukrainian troops near the frontlines of Bakhmut, where Ukrainian forces have been holding out for months against Russian efforts to capture the city.
Zelensky shared a video on Facebook on Wednesday showing him meeting with Ukrainian troops inside a warehouse and presenting awards.
“I am honored to be here today, in the east of our country, in Donbas, and to award our heroes, to thank you, to shake hands,” Zelensky said. “Thank you for protecting the state, sovereignty, the east of Ukraine.”
During the ceremony, Zelensky and the Ukrainian troops held a moment of silence for the Ukrainian forces lost so far in the defense of Bakhmut.
“Glory to each and every one who is now fighting for Ukraine! May the memory of all those who sacrificed their lives for our independence be blessed!” Zelensky said.
Bakhmut has been the site of the longest-running battle since Russian forces launched their full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February of 2022. Russian forces began shelling Bakhmut in May of 2022 after Ukrainian forces withdrew to the city following Russia’s capture of the neighboring town of Poposna.
Russian forces began their full-scale assault of Bakhmut in August and the fighting has continued in the more than seven months since. Russian forces have made incremental gains in the Bakhmut. Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Russian Wagner Group mercenary force, claimed that Russian forces controlled about 70 percent of the city, as of this week.
Exact casualties from the fighting in Bakhmut are difficult to verify. The BBC reported on March 7, based on assessments by Western officials, that between 20,000 and 30,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded in the fighting for Bakhmut. The Guardian recently reported that Ukrainian forces have been sustaining between 100 and 200 casualties daily.
During the presidential visit, Ukrainian forces reportedly briefed Zelensky on the situation on the ground in Bakhmut and the direction of the fighting for the city.
Military Times recently reported, based on accounts from western volunteers who have fought alongside Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut, that the city’s defenders are running low on ammunition, artillery shells and tactical vehicles to sustain the fight. Those western volunteers also reiterated reports that some Ukrainian troops are being shipped to the frontlines of Bakhmut with as little as two weeks of training.
The city’s defenders may be hanging on in hopes of stalling Russian forces long enough for Ukrainian forces to mount a counteroffensive. Prigozhin shared a warning that Ukrainian forces are preparing a counterattack on Russian forces around Bakhmut and could use flanking attacks to separate his Wagner Group forces from the main body of the Russian army.