Russia and Ukraine War News: Live Updates

Russia and Ukraine War News: Live Updates

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

Fighting raged around the Ukrainian-controlled city BakhmutRussian and Ukrainian authorities said on Sunday, as Moscow tried to capture the eastern city for the first time in months amid a series of recent battlefield setbacks.

A correspondent for Russia’s state-run RIA Novosti news agency said troops from the Wagner Group, a private military force linked to President Vladimir V. Putin, had captured the village of Ivangrad, located near the road on the southern approach to Bakhmut, and were fighting heavily in another suburb.

A spokesman for Ukrainian forces in the east, Serhii Cherevaty, said that Bakhmut is “one of the hottest spots” in the region and a place where “the enemy is most aggressive, with the concentration of their maximum forces.” He told a Ukrainian television channel that 30,000 Russian personnel had been deployed for the attack.

Although Russian forces appeared to be attacking Bakhmut from several directions, it was not immediately clear what they would gain by capturing the city that months of relentless bombing have turned into almost ruins. Independent military analysts said the campaign for Bakhmut, an industrial center that was home to 70,000 people before the war, served little strategic purpose for Moscow as Ukrainian advances in the north cut the city off from important rail links.

There was no independent confirmation of developments on the battlefield, but comments from Ukrainian officials indicated intensifying Russian pressure on the city and the growing number of civilians remaining there.

Pavlo Kirilenko, Ukraine’s military administrator for the Donetsk region, which includes Bakhmut, said Russian forces killed three civilians in the region on Friday, including two in Bakhmut. Bakhmut’s deputy mayor, Oleksandr Marchenko, told Reuters on Saturday that Russian troops were “trying to attack the city from several directions.”

Most of the inhabitants fled from Bakhmut, and New York Times reporters who visited the city in recent days watched small groups of Ukrainian soldiers gather in abandoned buildings and fire mortars from the street.

As Ukrainian forces have said, Bakhmut has become a symbol of Russia’s failure to achieve Putin’s goal of controlling the entire eastern Donbass region, an industrial territory where Moscow-backed separatists established breakaway republics in 2014. In April, Putin made capturing Donbass a military priority, and last month, Russia illegally annexed two regions in the area, Luhansk and Donetsk.

But Moscow has made little progress since July, when it captured the last towns in Luhansk. Ukrainian forces descending from the redeveloped Kharkiv region in the northeast have taken hold in the Donbass, while hundreds of miles to the south, Russian troops are under pressure to hold Kherson, one of the first regions they seized after invading Ukraine in February.

Michael Kofman, director of the Russia Studies Program at the Center for a New American Security, said today War on the Rocks podcast last week that Russian forces “have been trying to break into Bakhmut for months” and added: “They haven’t taken much territory at all.”

Mr. Kofman said the city was an important reward for the leader of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, a Russian businessman and close associate of Mr. Putin, and that his reputation in the Kremlin will rise if his campaign succeeds. However, his forces have suffered significant losses in Bakhmut in recent days, according to Mr. Kofman, who described the push there as a “senseless offensive” for Russia.

Several military analysts say Ukraine’s successful counteroffensive in Kharkiv in September stripped Bakhmut of its strategic importance, as Moscow lost control of the railway hubs in the cities of Izium and Lyman, meaning it could not use Bakhmut as a launch pad for attacks on other cities in Donetsk.

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