Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group have taken control of the center of the eastern city of Bakhmut, but Ukrainian defenders still hold off the Russian army. As thousands of Ukrainian soldiers complete their overseas training for a counteroffensive that could come later this month, pro-Russian civilians are evacuating southern occupied regions. Wagner mercenaries advanced into the center of Bakhmut on March 31 and gained complete control of the AZOM industrial complex. However, Ukraine’s commander of ground forces says Bakhmut is Ukrainian and has not been captured by Russia.
British military intelligence agrees that Russia’s winter campaign to seize the Donetsk and Luhansk regions by March 31 is failing. Russian forces have made only marginal gains at the cost of tens of thousands of casualties, the ministry wrote. Hanna Malyar, the Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister, said Bakhmut had been Russia’s most expensive battle of the entire war in men and matériel. The Russian casualties were estimated to be at 4,000 the previous week, according to the Ukrainian defence ministry.
Russian forces are “very far” from capturing Bakhmut, according to US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby. Ukraine has received 49 of 258 promised battle tanks, and Spain promised it would receive six more after April 9. The US is providing another $500m in ammunition for howitzers, and Britain has finished training a second group of Ukrainian soldiers on the AS90 self-propelled howitzers. Russian military bloggers said campaigns for Bakhmut and Avdiivka to the south had to be won in time to prepare defences against a Ukrainian counteroffensive they thought likely to come between Orthodox Easter, on April 16, and Labour Day, May 9.