Ukraine Deputy Defense Minister Anna Malyar said heavy fighting continued to rage late Wednesday against soldiers mostly from the private Russian mercenary contractor Wagner Group.
“The enemy once again replaced its units … and tried to break through the defense of our troops and completely capture the city, but was unsuccessful,” Malyar said in a Telegram post.
Wagner Chief Yevgeny Prigozhin said the group’s troops controlled the city and were clearing out the last of the Ukrainian fighters. The salt mining town of about 10,000 people a year ago is nearly deserted now, most of its buildings damaged or destroyed by the fighting.
Taking Bakhmut would disrupt Ukraine’s supply lines and
open a route for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces to press toward key Ukrainian strongholds in Donetsk province, which Putin has already claimed to annex. It would also provide a rare win for Russian troops that have struggled to make gains since early in the war.
100 UKRAINIAN TROOPS to train in Oklahoma; Russia nearly destroys Ukraine city: Live updates
►Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met in Lviv with Polish President Andrzej Duda and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda. Duda said Poland would provide Ukraine with Leopard tanks while Nauseda promised air defense equipment.
►Russia needs to work faster and more efficiently to upgrade its tanks, said Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of the Security Council of Russia. Those responsible for repeated failures to fulfill state defense contracts would face criminal liability, Medvedev said.
‘WE HAVE TO BE JUDICIOUS: Top US senator backs sending long-range missiles to Ukraine
Russia’s Defense Ministry announced the demotion of the head of Russian forces in Ukraine. The chief of the military’s General Staff, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, was named to replace Gen. Sergei Surovikin, who was demoted to deputy, along with two other generals.
During his three months overseeing the troops in Ukraine, Surovikin was credited with strengthening coordination and reinforcing control. But he also announced a withdrawal in November from Kherson, one of the biggest and most important cities Russian forces had captured during the conflict.
The Defense Ministry cited expanded military tasks and the need for “closer interaction between branches of the military as well as increasing the quality of supplies and the efficiency of directing groups of forces” in announcing the changes.
The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee supports sending advanced, long-range rockets to Ukraine, a weapon with the range to strike targets inside Russia. Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said Ukrainian forces need the Army’s Tactical Missile System to destroy Russian command posts and supply depots that have been moved in response to successful attacks from shorter-range rockets.
In an interview with USA TODAY, Reed said the longer-range missile could only be provided if Ukraine agreed not to attack Russia with it, a move that could escalate the war and prompt Putin to strike a NATO country.
“We have to be judicious,” Reed said. “This system has to be restricted to firing within Ukrainian territory.”
Zelenskyy makes pitch for Ukraine at Golden Globes
Zelenskyy, in a virtual appearance at the
Golden Globes entertainment awards show, pledged that Ukraine would stop Russia’s aggression with the West’s help and prevent World War III. Zelenskyy was introduced by actor-director Sean Penn, who has visited Ukraine and met with Zelenskyy multiple times since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
“World War I claimed millions of lives. World War II claimed tens of million. There will be no World War III. It is not a trilogy,” Zelenskyy said. “Ukraine will stop Russia’s aggression on our land. We will do it together with the whole free world.”
Contributing: The Associated Press