Ukraine should divert attention from Bakhmut: US official
The United States advises Ukraine to withdraw from Bakhmut and focus on other areas of "more strategic importance".
Ukraine should not solely focus on defending Bakhmut at all costs and should instead use the window it has been given to prepare a major counter-offensive against Russia, a senior US official said on Friday, according to AFP.
Russian forces continue to advance in Bakhmut toward the densely populated areas of the city after they succeeded more than a month ago in tightening their siege on the Ukrainian forces present there, while they continue to bombard their positions with missiles and artillery.
Meanwhile, a senior Biden administration said the focus on Bakhmut was hampering Ukraine when it comes to preparing for a counteroffensive against Russia in a bid to undermine the advances made so far by Russia in the south.
The official told reporters on the condition of anonymity and not being quoted verbatim that Russia had the upper hand in Bakhmut, especially due to its artillery resources and manpower it had.
He, however, claimed that Russia taking Bakhmut would not lead to a major shift in the war because Ukrainian troops would retreat to well-defended positions, contrary to what is being said in Western media.
The Russian Defense Ministry said earlier in the day that the Russian Armed Forces managed to take control of the village of Klishchiivka, located near Bakhmut, in the Donetsk People's Republic.
This comes after the head of the Wagner Group private military company, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said Thursday that the village had been occupied.
Western media have been speaking about the Battle of Bakhmut for over a month now, in which Kiev's allies fear that Russian control over it will be key to the collapse of the entire front in the hands of the Russian forces during the harsh winter, while Russian sources confirm that the Ukrainian forces and mercenaries are suffering heavy losses in lives and equipment.
The US official also explained that his country was advising Ukraine to take its forces out for refit and join US-led training programs that would equip them with the capabilities that would allow them to launch an offensive in the south instead of expending so many soldiers and so much ammunition on Bakhmut, which he dubbed as a "strategically unimportant target."
The Ukrainians need to consider the trade-off of holding onto Bakhmut versus preparing that broader strategic effort, the official said. Ukrainians may not have the resources to meet both challenges, he added.
Bakhmut has been an important transport hub for supplying the Ukrainian troops in the Donbass during the Ukraine war. A US official confirmed during a press briefing last Wednesday that the Russian army has made "gradual progress in the city of Bakhmut," located on the western outskirts of the DPR region.
The Washington Post reported last week that Ukrainian military personnel said Kiev was mulling retreating from Bakhmut in order to save manpower and supplies in anticipation of a counteroffensive elsewhere.
Yuriy Skala, a Ukrainian commander of an intelligence battalion currently on the Bakhmut frontlines, said "I will support the commander-in-chief's decision to maneuver tactically and create a new line of defense if it becomes clear that casualties are too high."
The Washington Post also revealed that several military analysts have agreed that on the grand scale of things, a withdrawal from Bakhmut would result in a great defeat from the political perspective, despite the fact that the city has little strategic importance.
Moreover, Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week that his country's special military operation was going positively, saying that its dynamics were optimistic and stressing that everything was going according to plan.
During an interview with the Rossiya-1 TV channel, Putin voiced his hope that Russian soldiers would once again please everyone with the results of their work.