Russian artillery pounded the last routes out of Bakhmut on Friday, aiming to complete the encirclement of the besieged Ukrainian city and bring Moscow closer to its first major victory in half a year after the bloodiest battle of the war.
The head of Russia’s Wagner private army said the city, which has been blasted to ruins in Russia’s more than seven month onslaught, was almost completely surrounded with only one road still open for Ukraine’s troops.
Reuters observed intense Russian shelling of routes leading west out of Bakhmut, an apparent attempt to block Ukrainian forces’ access in and out of the city. A bridge in the adjacent town of Khromove was damaged by Russian tank shelling.
Ukrainian soldiers were working to repair damaged roads and more troops were heading toward the frontline in a sign that Ukraine was not yet ready to give up the city. To the west, Ukrainians were digging new trenches for defensive positions.
Russia’s RIA state news agency released a video showing what it said were Wagner fighters walking by a damaged industrial facility. One fighter is heard saying Ukraine’s army is destroying infrastructure in settlements near Bakhmut to prevent the Russian encirclement.
The commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, Oleksandr Syrskyi, visited Bakhmut on Friday for briefings with local commanders on how to boost the defence capacity of frontline forces.
Denys Yaroslavskyi, commander of a Ukrainian army unit at Bakhmut, told Espreso TV that parts of some units had been ordered to rotate to more secured positions, describing the situation since the morning as “a slaughterhouse on both sides.”–Agencies