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‘The last road to Bakhmut’: Harrowing footage shows Ukrainian troops fight off Russian assault
20 April 2023, 10:26 | Updated: 20 April 2023, 15:45
Harrowing footage has emerged of fierce fighting on the “last road to Bakhmut” showing Ukrainian troops fending off a Russian advance.
Russian forces have stepped up their assault on the city in recent days - it has been the centre of the war’s longest and bloodiest fighting.
Russian forces have stepped up artillery bombardment and air strikes on the devastated Ukrainian city.
New footage has emerged showing Ukrainian soldiers defending their positions on the city's outskirts.
Fighting has raged in and around Bakhmut in Donetsk region for months, with Ukrainian forces holding out.
Commander of Ukraine's ground forces, General Oleksandr Syrskyi, said on Tuesday: "Currently, the enemy is increasing the activity of heavy artillery and the number of air strikes, turning the city into ruins."
In the new clip a soldier can be seen jumping into a dugout with his comrades, one of whom has been shot and killed. Moments later a huge explosion blows up the entrance, where he was standing seconds earlier.
Soldiers engage in pitched battle with the Russians on last road to Bakhmut
An intense firefight ensues with Russians just a few metres away. In one scene a Russian soldier can be seen throwing a grenade at the defending troops.
One group of Russians gets wiped out as the Ukrainian soldier sprays bullets - in the clip captured on his body-worn camera.
The Russians then target the group with shells and the Ukrainian soldiers are forced to take cover in their dugout.
Bakhmut's capture could give Russia a platform to advance on bigger cities in the Donetsk region - Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.
The head of the Wagner mercenary group, which has spearheaded Russia's attempt to take Bakhmut, said this month that its fighters controlled more than 80% of the city. Ukraine's military has denied this.
Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg was visiting Ukraine today for the first time since the start of the invasion.
"The Nato secretary general is in Ukraine. We will release more information as soon as possible," said an alliance official, who asked not to be identified in line with Nato procedures.
Pictures of Mr Stoltenberg apparently paying tribute to fallen Ukrainian soldiers in Kyiv's St Michael's Square were published by local media.
Last week the MoD said “Russia has re-energised its assault" on Bakhmut.
"The Ukrainian defence still holds the western districts of the town but has been subjected to particularly intense Russian artillery fire over the previous 48 hours," the MoD said.
Notorious private Russian military contractors, the Wagner Group, have spearheaded the campaign to take Bakhmut, making slow progress at the cost of thousands of lives on both sides.
Now, regular Russian units have also joined the attack.
Military analysts have said that seizing Bakhmut would have public relations and tactical military value for Moscow but was unlikely to prove decisive in the war's outcome. The Russian Defence Ministry also noted the stepped-up fighting in western parts of the city on Friday.
"Wagner assault detachments are engaged in high-intensity combat operations to capture areas of western Bakhmut with airborne forces supporting on the flanks," the ministry said in a statement.
It added: "The units of the airborne forces operating on the flanks are providing support to the assault squads and stop the enemy's attempts to deliver ammunition to the city and bring in reserves."
Bakhmut lies in Donetsk province, one of four provinces Russia illegally annexed last autumn. Moscow controls about half of the province and Bakhmut could be a stepping stone to seizing the remaining half.
Ukrainian officials have said they are buying time by depleting Russian forces in the battle while Kyiv prepares a counteroffensive.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy argues that if Russia wins the Bakhmut battle, Russian president Vladimir Putin might be able to begin building international support for a deal that would require Ukraine to make unacceptable compromises to end the war.
The Ukrainian president's office said on Friday that over the previous 24 hours two kindergartens and residential buildings had been destroyed by Russian attacks. The city already resembles a ghost town.
The British military observed that regular Russian troops have increasingly joined the battle.
"Wagner assault groups continue to conduct the main advance through the centre of town while Russian airborne forces have relieved some Wagner units securing the northern and southern flanks of the operation," the British military said on Twitter.
It noted, however, that though the Ukrainian defenders have "significant resupply issues" their withdrawals from Bakhmut positions have been made in an orderly fashion.
Across Ukraine, at least three civilians were killed and nine wounded from Thursday to Friday, according to the presidential office.