We will take back every piece of territory that Russia has taken from our country. This was assured by the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky as his frontline soldiers reportedly gained territory near Bakhmut. “We will not leave a single piece of our land to the enemy, tyranny will not reign anywhere,” Zelensky said in his speech night video. “We must restore freedom, security and Europe throughout the Ukrainian territory”, he said again.
His speech came hours after Ukrainian troops, engaged in heavy fighting for control of the eastern Donestk region, said they had pushed Russian troops back by up to 2 kilometers in some locations near Bakhmut. “We are conducting effective counterattacks,” Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, said on Telegram on Wednesday evening.
Syrskyi said that units of the Wagner Russian mercenary troops deployed in Bakhmut were replaced in some sections by units of the regular Russian army. These less trained units have been defeated, the commander said. But he added: “The battle for Bakhmut continues.”
Andriy Biletsky, founder of the Ukrainian Azov battalion, said on Telegram that the territory had been completely cleared of Russian soldiers and that at least two Russian brigades had been defeated and taken prisoner.
As the battle progressed, Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin said he feared his unit would be encircled in the fighting around Bakhmut. “Given the lack of ammunition, the ‘meat grinder’ threatens to turn in the opposite direction,” Prigozhin wrote in Telegram. “There is now a serious danger of Wagner being surrounded,” he wrote again.
Meanwhile, Russia has recalled its reservists for annual exercises, after a document to that effect signed by President Vladimir Putin was published in the Official Gazette on Wednesday. With this decree, the defense ministry can issue corresponding instructions to military district offices, which then recall the reservists reported to them for drills, the state news agency TASS reported.
A major counter-offensive by the Ukrainian army has been expected for weeks. However, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, echoing comments made recently by the country’s defense minister, warned against expecting too much from the planned spring offensive of the Ukrainian army. “Do not consider this counteroffensive as the last, because we don’t know what will come of it,” Kuleba told German newspaper Bild. Kuleba said that “to win the war you need guns, guns and more guns”.
In addition to ammunition, tanks and air defense systems, Ukraine especially needs fighter aircraft. Kuleba counted on Berlin’s help to procure modern F-16 fighter jets. Unlike the Leopard tanks, the decision in this case lies not with Germany, but with the United States.