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Fighting near Bakhmut has intensified over the past week, with Russian forces attacking from almost all sides.

United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has called the war-torn eastern Ukrainian bakhmut city It is important to Russia symbolically rather than operationally, and its capture would not signal that Moscow has regained momentum in its year-long war effort.

Over the past week, fighting near Bakhmut has intensified, with Russian forces coming under attack from almost all sides.

“I think it has more of a symbolic value than strategic and operational value,” Austin told reporters visiting Jordan on Monday, adding that he would not speculate that Bakhmut would be taken by Russian forces. Will go or not.

“The fall of Bakhmut will not mean that the Russians have turned the tide of this battle,” Austin said.

Ukrainian service members ride atop a tank outside the front-line town of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region [Oleksandr Ratushniak/Reuters]

If Russia had captured the city with a pre-war population of around 70,000, Moscow would have celebrated its first major victory in the costly winter offensive last year by calling in hundreds of thousands of reservists.

However, on Monday, the head of Russia wagner mercenary groupThe man who is leading the longest battle of Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine complained that his forces were still short of ammunition, alleging a possible “betrayal”.

Kremlin-ally Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose recruits have been fighting for months to capture Bakhmut, has been embroiled in a power struggle with the defense ministry accusing him of stalling supplies.

“For now, we are trying to find out the reason: is it just ordinary bureaucracy or betrayal,” Prigozhin said on his press service Telegram channel on Sunday, referring to the absence of ammunition.

“If Wagner retreats to Bakhmut now, the entire front will collapse,” said Prigozhin. “The situation will not end well for all military formations defending Russian interests.”

‘hell-like’ situation

Meanwhile, Volodymyr Nazarenko, a commander of Ukrainian troops in Bakhmut, said that there was no order to retreat and that “the defense is holding up” under critical conditions.

“The situation in Bakhmut and its surroundings is hellish, as is the whole of the Eastern Front,” Nazarenko said in a video posted on Telegram.

Ukraine’s military said late Sunday that Russian forces were attempting to advance on Bakhmut, shelling the towns of Ivanovske, Chasiv Yar, Kurdumivka and Orikhovo-Vasilyvka, and nearby settlements.

To the north, Russian troops advanced towards the town of Bilohorivka, inside the Luhansk region, and bombarded several settlements in the direction of Kupyansk and Liman, the Ukrainian military said.

Further south, Russian forces prepared for an offensive in the Zaporizhia and Kherson regions.

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