The fiercest and heaviest fighting continues in the embattled eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said Thursday.
At a news conference in Kyiv, Maliar said, “Despite the fact that the enemy has concentrated its most professional units in Bakhmut, including Wagner fighters, airborne assault units, and special forces, the Russians cannot achieve their goals there, i.e. take full control of Bakhmut.
“As of today, the Russians are suffering huge losses there, and despite these losses, they are not stopping and still want to achieve their goal of taking control of the city.”
Recent social media videos geolocated by CNN show how buildings have been flattened to ruins in the beleaguered city, while drone footage posted Wednesday by Russian state media RIA Novosti reveals the scale of the decimation wreaked by the months-long battle.
Oleksii Hromov, deputy chief of the General Staff’s Main Operational Directorate, said the Bakhmut area remains the most difficult and “the enemy continues offensive actions in the central part of Bakhmut, as well as in the directions of Bohdanivka and Ivanivske to surround the city from the north and south.”
“In order to strengthen the offensive potential, some of the enemy’s forces and means were moved to the Bakhmut area from the Avdiivka direction,” he said.
“Every day in the area of Bakhmut, the enemy makes 40 to 50 attempts at offensive assaults, conducting more than 500 attacks using the full range of available weapons.
“At the same time, the military and political leadership of the Russian Federation does not take into account the losses of personnel. For example, in the last two weeks alone, the enemy has lost nearly 4,500 Wagner fighters and regular Russian Armed Forces servicemen killed and wounded in the area of Bakhmut,” Hromov added.
CNN cannot independently verify Ukraine’s battlefield claims of Russian losses. Both sides claim the other has suffered huge losses.
The founder and head of the Wagner private military company, Yevgeny Prigozhin, last month said Bakhmut “has already practically destroyed the Ukrainian army,” adding that “unfortunately” Wagner has “been pretty battered” as well.
Some background: The city of Bakhmut sits towards the northeast of the Donetsk region, about 13 miles from Luhansk region, and has been a target for Russian forces for months. Since last summer the city has been a stone’s throw from the front lines, so its capture would represent a long sought-after success for Moscow’s forces — and bring some limited strategic value. The city has important road connections to other parts of the Donetsk region; eastwards to the border with Luhansk, north-west to Sloviansk and south-west to Kostiantynivka.
CNN’s Rob Picheta contributed to this post.