Bakhmut is holding on, says Zelensky as Russian missiles rain
Ukrainian forces have been repelling constant Russian attacks on Bakhmut and other towns in the eastern Donbas region, officials in Kyiv said today after denying Kremlin claims that 600 soldiers were killed in a missile strike.
Russia has launched seven missile strikes, 31 airstrikes and 73 attacks from salvo rocket launchers in the past day, according to the Ukrainian armed forces. Ukrainian troops also repelled attacks on 14 settlements, including Bakhmut, which is among the most fiercely contested front lines of the war, the military said.
President Zelensky told the nation last night that “Bakhmut is holding on despite everything . . . and even though most of the town has been destroyed by Russian strikes, our soldiers are repelling constant Russian attempts to advance”.
He said the nearby town of Soledar, also in the Donetsk region, was holding on “even though there is even greater destruction and things are very difficult”.
Kyiv rejected Moscow’s claim to have killed more than 600 Ukrainian forces in the eastern city of Kramatorsk. The Russian defence ministry said that missiles had hit two temporary bases housing 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers, but reporters from the Reuters news agency who visited the scene said there was no sign of casualties.
Russia claimed it was a retaliation for Ukraine’s attack last week on barracks in the occupied territory of Makiivka; Russia admitted that at least 89 soldiers had died in Makiivka, whereas Ukraine put the death toll in the hundreds.
Serhiy Cherevaty, a spokesman for Ukraine’s troops in the east, said the strikes on Kramatorsk. had only damaged civilian infrastructure. The city mayor said two school buildings and eight homes were damaged.
Kramatorsk mayor Oleksandr Honcharenko said two school buildings and eight apartments were damaged.
Zelensky denounced Russia’s failure to observe a truce President Putin had proclaimed for Orthodox Christmas by attacking Ukrainian cities.
“Russians were shelling Kherson with incendiary ammunition immediately after Christmas,” he said, referring to the southern city abandoned by Russian forces in November. Strikes on Kramatorsk and other cities in Donbas — on civilian targets and at the very time when Moscow was reporting a supposed ‘silence’ for its army.”
Cherevaty described Russia’s claim of mass casualties as “an information operation of the Russian defence ministry”. Some prominent Russian military bloggers have also criticised the Russian defence ministry’s claims.
“Lets talk about fraud,” one prominent pro-war military blogger wrote to his half a million subscribers on the Telegram messaging app. “It is not clear to us who, and for what reason, decided that 600 Ukrainian soldiers died inside, all at once, if the building was not actually hit (even the light remained on). Instead of the real destruction of the enemy personnel, which would have been a worthy response, an exclusively media operation of retaliation was invented.”
Separately, a 60-year-old woman was killed and several people were wounded in a Russian missile strike today on a market in the village of Shevchenkove in eastern Ukraine, the regional governor said.
Video posted by the public broadcaster Suspilne showed rescue workers sifting through rubble, burning wreckage and a large crater in what it said was Shevchenkove, southeast of the regional capital Kharkiv.
Both sides have appeared to exaggerate tolls of the other’s dead and injured while minimising their own. Ukraine’s top military officials said last week that some 760 Russian troops had been killed or wounded in two attacks on Moscow-controlled parts of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhya regions. These reports could not be independently verified.
Independent estimates suggest that both the Ukrainian and Russian armed forces have suffered more than 100,000 killed and injured since the invasion was launched in February last year.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has verified a total of 6,919 civilian deaths, including 429 children. More than 11,000 people were injured. However, the tcommissioner’s office said the real numbers could be higher.