Zelensky says Ukraine is reinforcing Bakhmut positions, not withdrawing. Here's why that may pay off.

Ukrainian forces near Bakhmut
(Image credit: Narciso Contreras/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said late Monday that after meeting with Ukraine's top commander and the commander of eastern forces, all three agreed on "continuing the defense operation and further strengthening our positions in Bakhmut," the flattened city in eastern Ukraine that Russian forces have been trying to capture for eight months. The losses have been tremendous, especially on the Russian side. "Do not withdraw," Zelensky said in his nightly address, summarizing the clear directives from the generals. "Reinforce."

Russia's Wagner mercenaries and regular Russian forces have surrounded Bakhmut on three sides, though a Ukrainian counteroffensive over the weekend reinforced the main supply — and escape — route. Ukrainian forces have completely withdrawn "from the roughly one-third of the city's area that sits on the eastern bank of the Bakhmutka River," The Wall Street Journal reports, and "are concentrating on holding the central and western parts of the city, with easily defensible positions." The fighting is so close-quartered that hand-to-hand combat is not uncommon, Ukrainian soldiers say.

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