Ukraine clings to Bakhmut.Russia says it will fight saboteurs in cross-border raids

CHASHIBYAR, Ukraine—Ukrainian forces held positions in the abandoned eastern city of Bakhmut on Thursday, but Moscow said security forces fought off Ukrainian saboteurs who took hostages in a cross-border raid. .

Russian FSB security forces said the situation in Bryansk province, just north of the Ukrainian border, is now “under control”. Earlier, Moscow said armed Ukrainians crossed the border, opened fire on a car, killed one, injured a child and took hostages at a store.

In a short televised address, President Vladimir Putin said the attackers deliberately opened fire because they knew there were civilians in the car.

“They achieve nothing. Russia is fighting ‘terrorists and neo-Nazis,'” he said.

Artillery fire was heard in the Ukrainian-held town of Chasiv Yar, near the front line west of Bakhmut.

In nearby towns and villages, new trenches were dug along the roadside at intervals of 20 to 40 meters (65 to 130 feet).

Evgeny Prigozhin, the boss of Russia’s Wagnerian private army, was filmed near the center of Bakhmut, he said, in a video of his men waving Wagner banners and instruments atop an abandoned skyscraper. Reuters was unable to immediately confirm its location.

Russian forces, supported by hundreds of thousands of reservists recruited last year and thousands of inmates recruited from prisons by Wagner, are marching north and south of the city to cut off the city. .

Moscow says capturing Bakhmut would be the first step toward capturing the rest of the surrounding Donbass region.Kiev argues the city is of limited strategic value. However, it has exhausted the Russian invasion force in what has become the bloodiest battle of the war.

Bahmut Infantry Fighting Vehicle
Ukrainian military personnel next to an infantry fighting vehicle near the frontline town of Bakhmut during the Russian offensive against Ukraine on February 25, 2023 in the Donetsk region of Ukraine. (Yan Dobronosov/Reuters)

Cross-border raid

The reported raid on the village of Lubechanye near the border of Russia’s Bryansk region comes days after Moscow announced that Kiev had struck targets deep within its territory with drones.

In a video circulating online, armed men claiming to be “Russian militia” said they had crossed the border to fight the “Kremlin regime.” Reuters was unable to immediately confirm the authenticity of the footage.

Zelensky’s aide Mikhaylo Podoljak claimed in a tweet that he called the Russian report on the incident “a classic deliberate provocation”.

However, he also hinted that an offensive carried out by Russian partisans was underway.

A Russian missile crashed overnight into a five-story apartment building in the southern city of Zaporizhia, causing the building’s central upper floors to collapse.

At least four people were killed, police said.