Zelensky vows Ukraine will continue to defend Bakhmut: ‘This is tactical for us’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during his press conference on the occasion of the Russia Ukraine war one year anniversary, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed his troops would continue to defend the embattled town of Bakhmut, stressing that holding off Russian forces in the area denies Moscow a symbolic victory and an important foothold.

Zelensky told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in an exclusive interview airing Wednesday night that taking Bakhmut would give Russia access to an “open road” for a push further west into the Donetsk region.

“This is tactical for us,” Zelensky said, according to early remarks published by CNN. “We understand that after Bakhmut they could go further.”

“They could go to Kramatorsk, they could go to Sloviansk,” Zelensky added. “It would be open road for the Russians after Bakhmut to other towns in Ukraine, in the Donetsk direction.”

Zelensky also said Russia “needs at least some victory,” and if Moscow were to “put their little flag” atop Bakhmut, it would “mobilize their society in order to create this idea they’re such a powerful army.”

The Ukrainian leader’s comments offer more detailed insight into the decisionmaking around the defense of Bakhmut, which some analysts have suggested is becoming more and more dangerous for Ukrainian forces to hold.

Russian forces, led by the mercenary Wagner Group, are slowly encircling the Ukrainian defenders in the center of the city after months of brutal fighting.

Although has lost a staggering number of soldiers and armor, and is running low on ammunition, Russian troops are putting tremendous pressure on Kyiv.

Bakhmut’s value is considered more symbolic than strategic because Ukraine has fortified defenses toward the industrial hubs of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk. But the town has become a major Russian focus for the war effort in recent months.

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said in a military conference call on Tuesday that Bakhmut is a “major defense line for Ukrainian troops” in the Donbas, which is made up of the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and breaking through would pave the way further west, according to Russian state media outlet TASS.

Holding Bakhmut for so long has allowed Ukraine to inflict heavy losses on Russia while Kyiv prepares for a counteroffensive, but there is a risk that Ukrainian troops could get caught in the town if Russia continues to close in.

Zelensky met with his top commanders on Monday and decided that Ukraine would continue to hold the town.

The Ukrainian president explained in an address the choice to defend Bakhmut was “unanimous,” and the town has “yielded and is yielding one of the greatest results during this war.”

“I told the commander-in-chief to find the appropriate forces to help the guys in Bakhmut,” Zelensky said in the address. “There is no part of Ukraine about which one can say that it can be abandoned. There is no Ukrainian trench in which the resilience and heroism of our warriors would be disregarded.”

Tags Bakhmut Bakhmut CNN Russia Russia-Ukraine war Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky Volodymyr Zelensky Wagner Group

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video