Kiev says Russian forces are easing attacks on Bakhmut to regroup

KIEV (Reuters) – Russian forces have temporarily eased their attacks on the besieged eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut to regroup and strengthen their capabilities, a senior Kiev official said on Saturday.

Russia’s Wagner private army began handing over its positions to regular Russian troops this week after declaring full control of Bakhmut after the longest and bloodiest battle of the war.

In a statement to Telegram, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said Russian forces had continued their attacks, but that “overall offensive activity had decreased.”

“Yesterday and today there was no active fighting – neither in the city nor on the flanks,” she wrote, adding that Moscow troops instead shelled the outskirts and approaches to Bakhmut.

“The decrease in enemy offensive activity is due to the fact that troops are being exchanged and regrouped,” Maliar said. “The enemy is trying to bolster its own capabilities.”

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She added that Ukrainian troops are “holding down” the heights overlooking Bakhmut to the north and south, as well as part of the outskirts, but have not advanced in the past two days to focus on “other tasks.”

The commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, Oleksandr Syrskyi, released a video on Saturday in which he said Ukrainian special forces were operating in the devastated city.

Kiev is expected to soon launch a much-anticipated counter-offensive to retake Russian-held territories.

Ukraine’s top general released a smartly produced video on Saturday showing Ukrainian troops swearing an oath and preparing for battle.

“The time has come to give back what is ours,” he wrote.

(Reporting by Dan Peleschuk; Editing by Conor Humphries)

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