Russian forces have turned to “scorched earth” tactics as fierce fighting drags on in the ruined eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, Kyiv’s military has said.
Moscow’s troops “switched to so-called scorched earth tactics from Syria,” the commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, Colonel General Oleksandr Syrsky, said on Sunday.
The Kremlin’s soldiers are “destroying buildings and positions with air strikes and artillery fire,” he continued. The tactic involves the destruction of assets or resources that could be of use to the enemy force. Ukraine has previously accused Russia of employing such “scorched earth” tactics.
Bakhmut has seen some of the heaviest clashes of the Ukraine war, with Russian and Ukrainian troops battling for control of the city for months.
Both Kyiv and Moscow have sustained heavy losses in what has been labeled a “meat-grinder.” General Mark Milley, U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, previously called the city a “slaughter-fest” for Russian forces.
Speaking over the weekend, Syrsky said the “the situation is difficult, but under control.” Fighting continued for Bakhmut, the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said on Tuesday. Russia’s defense ministry said on Monday that 290 Ukrainian fighters had been killed in the Donetsk direction, without offering further specific detail.
Denis Pushilin, the Moscow-backed head of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic, said on Tuesday that Russia was “steadily” moving through Bakhmut, according to state media.
Last week, the British defense ministry said Russian forces had “regained some momentum” and progressed towards the center of the city. Advances through the city had “stalled” since the end of March, the government department said on April 7.
Airborne troops and other regular forces had likely joined already-deployed fighters in the area, the U.K. defense ministry said, along with Russian forces making more effective use of artillery. Special forces and airborne assault units had joined “exhausted” Wagner fighters in the battles for Bakhmut, Syrsky said on Sunday.
Colonel Serhiy Cherevaty, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s Eastern Group of Forces, said on Sunday that regular troops had been drafted in to support Wagner mercenary fighters in the area.
Wagner Group forces have played a significant role in the attempted capture of Bakhmut, but on April 7, the head of the notorious mercenary group said he “did not see” Russia’s armed forces in the city.
“I am little aware of the actions of the RF [Russian Federation] Armed Forces in Bakhmut,” Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin said in a statement on Telegram.
Russian forces continued to make gains in and around the city, the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said on Monday, but likely at a cost of “significant casualties.”
During a visit to Poland last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky suggested he could approve a withdrawal from Bakhmut, should Russian troops encircle Kyiv’s forces.
Protecting the lives of Ukrainian soldiers is “the most important” consideration, Zelensky said, and if fighters risked encirclement, “the corresponding correct decisions will be taken by generals there,” the Ukrainian leader said.
However, “we are in Bakhmut and the enemy does not control it,” he added.
Source : NewsWeek