Assault On Bakhmut: Russia ‘running out of steam’

Says Ukraine; situation at Zaporizhzhia plant ‘perilous’

Ukrainian troops, on the defensive for four months, will launch a long-awaited counterassault "very soon" now that Russia's huge winter offensive is losing steam without taking Bakhmut, Ukraine's top ground forces commander said yesterday.

The remarks were the strongest indication yet from Kyiv that it is close to shifting tactics, having absorbed Russia's onslaught through a brutal winter and prevented Moscow from claiming its first victory since last August.

Russia's Wagner mercenaries, trying to capture Bakhmut in the longest and bloodiest battle of the war, "are losing considerable strength and are running out of steam", Kyiv's ground forces commander Oleksandr Syrskyi said in a social media post.

"Very soon, we will take advantage of this opportunity, as we did in the past near Kyiv, Kharkiv, Balakliya and Kupiansk," he said, listing Ukrainian counteroffensives last year that proved turning points in the war, recapturing swathes of land.

President Volodymyr Zelensky continued a tour of frontline provinces yesterday, visiting the Kherson region in the south a day after meeting troops near Bakhmut. He posted a video showing him meeting residents in Posad Pokrovske.

"We will restore everything, we will rebuild everything. Just like with every city and village that suffered because of the occupiers," he wrote.

The UN nuclear agency's chief, meanwhile, said that the situation at Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia power plant "remains perilous" following a Russian missile strike this month that disconnected the plant from the grid, reports AFP.

Europe's largest nuclear power plant needs a reliable electricity supply to operate pumps that circulate water to cool reactors and pools holding nuclear fuel.

A slow-down in Russia's assault on Bakhmut could be in part a consequence of Moscow diverting its troops and resources to other areas.

Britain said yesterday that Russian troops had been making gains further north this month, partially regaining control over the approaches to the town of Kreminna, a Ukrainian target. Intense battles were also under way further south, reports Reuters.

But any shift in momentum in Bakhmut, if confirmed, would be remarkable given the city's symbolic importance as the focus of Russia's offensive, and the scale of the losses on both sides there in Europe's bloodiest infantry battle since World War Two.

There was no immediate response from Moscow to the latest claims its forces in Bakhmut were losing momentum, but Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner mercenary boss, has issued pessimistic statements in recent days warning of a Ukrainian counterassault.

On Monday, Prigozhin published a letter to Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, saying Ukraine aimed to cut off Wagner's forces from Russia's regular troops, demanding Shoigu act to prevent this and warning of "negative consequences" if he failed.