(R-L) Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, Commander in Chief of the Ukrainian armed Forces Valerii Zaluzhnyi, and Chief of the General Staff of Ukraine's armed forces Serhii Shaptala attend the funeral of Ukrainian serviceman Dmytro Kotsiubailo in Kyiv (Kiev), Ukraine, 10 March 2023. Commander Dmytro Kotsiubailo of the 67th brigade, call sign Da Vinci and awarded the title "Hero of Ukraine", was killed in action on the frontline in Bakhmut, eastern Ukraine, on 07 March 2023. EFE/EPA/OLEG PETRASYUK

Ukraine says Bakhmut defense ‘paramount’ to constrain Russians

Kyiv, Mar 15 (EFE).- The head of Ukraine’s armed forces reiterated the country’s military commitment to defending the ravaged city of Bakhmut against Russia’s onslaught, saying it was key to holding firm along the entire frontline.

Ukrainian troops have been dug in against a Russian offensive – spearheaded by the private mercenary Wagner Group – for months and remain in partial control of the city although the invading forces have captured territory to the north and south in a pincer movement.

Both sides say they have inflicted heavy casualties in a city that is now almost entirely bereft of its civilian population – just a few thousand of the 70,000-strong pre-war population remain.

A handout satellite image made available by Maxar Technologies on 10 March 2023 shows burning and destroyed residential areas amid the ongoing battle for Bakhmut, Ukraine, 06 March 2023. EFE/EPA/MAXAR TECHNOLOGIES HANDOUT –

Valerii Zaluzhny, the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, in a social media message Tuesday was adamant that his troops would continue to defend the city in the Donetsk region, a flashpoint in the conflict.

“I value the toughness, valor and invincibility of our warriors in Bakhmut,” read a Facebook statement attributed to the military chief. “The defense operation in this direction has paramount strategic significance in order to constrain the enemy. It is key to the resilience of defense along the entire frontline.”

In a meeting with Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday, Zaluzhny and other top officials expressed their support for holding defensive positions in Bakhmut, a presidential statement said. EFE