Russian advance recorded as civilians flee heavy fighting

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The Wagner mercenary army, which backs invading Russian forces on the battlefield, released a video of its soldiers waving flags and carrying instruments inside the Donbass city, a sign of the progress Moscow has made for this strategic location. . Ukraine tries to maintain positions, although the prospects are not positive. Meanwhile, the departure of the inhabitants continues for fear of losing their lives: of the 70,000 that existed before the war, only 4,500 remain.

The focus of the war in Eastern Europe is on the possible fall of Bakhmut, the city of Donetsk that has become an obsession for Russia for being the “gateway” to Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, the two key cities under Ukrainian control.

Military sources indicate that the clashes are becoming increasingly bloody and are being fought street by street.

This Thursday, March 2, the Wagner mercenary group published a video where members of the squad are seen hanging around the center of Bakhmut. “The boys are playing, shooting home videos,” said the boss, Yevgeny Prigozhin.

In the images, four fighters are seen on a semi-destroyed roof with the black flags of the Wagner formation and with instruments, an allegory for their nickname ‘the musicians’.

Wagner’s soldiers are the ones who have carried out most of the taking of the city, taking surrounding villages such as Soledar to surround the town.

Prigozhin has also detailed the Ukrainian reaction, underlining the arrival of constant reinforcements that make up a “fierce” resistance so as not to let the city fall.

“Ukrainians send additional reserves to the forest next to Bakhmut and by all means try to hold the city,” he said.

Ukrainian forces have managed to hold their positions, although they acknowledge a Russian superiority that continues to close in.

“It’s time to go”

In a context where the attacks are escalating, civilians continue to emigrate from the city that used to have more than 70,000 inhabitants before the war and where there are now only approximately 4,500.

The situation twisted the decision of those who had planned to remain in their homes despite everything, but the fear of losing their lives prevailed.

“We stayed until the last moment. We wanted to stay. But how can we? Our neighbor’s flat has now been destroyed. It’s time to go,” Svitalana, a 47-year-old woman, told Reuters.

The mayor, Oleksey Reva, expressed his regret about how the community is suffering at the moment and is forced to leave. “It is painful to see what the enemy bombs are doing to the city,” he said on Facebook, while defining internal mobility as “extremely dangerous.”

“Residents receive food, water and hygiene products. We continue to bring bread to the city, twice a week for 5,000 rations,” she added.

A local resident walks through an empty street as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in the city of Bakhmut, Ukraine, on February 27, 2023.
A local resident walks through an empty street as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in the city of Bakhmut, Ukraine, on February 27, 2023. © REUTERS/Alex Babenko

Despite the fact that trenches continue to be dug and the troops have, for the moment, ruled out the possibility of withdrawing and regrouping outside Bakhmut, the outlook is not encouraging.

However, Ukrainian officials have underestimated the real value of the town, with more importance for Russia after setbacks in the fighting and after spending months taking over this part of Donbass.

“Sooner or later, we will probably have to abandon Bakhmut. There is no point in keeping it at all costs,” Ukrainian lawmaker Serhiy Rakhmanin said late Wednesday.

Taking Bakhmut would allow Moscow to create a safe corridor for the transit of troops and weapons across the East.

With Reuters and EFE

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