A Ukrainian soldier sits in a dugout in Bakhmut A Ukrainian soldier sits in a dugout in Bakhmut  (AFP or licensors)

Ukraine refuses to give up Bakhmut despite exhaustion

Ukraine says it is still holding off attacks from Russian troops trying to surround its eastern city of Bakhmut, where many forces on both sides have been killed along with civilians.

By Stefan J. Bos

As fighting continued, a row of army sleeping bags lined up a basement in what is left of the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.

Sleeping is a challenge, as thousands of soldiers have been killed or injured on both sides in the battle of Bakhmut, as well as civilians.

Though Russian officials say their troops have virtually surrounded the city, Ukrainian forces here do not want to leave and try to catch some sleep between long battles. "We are exhausted, but the desire to fight, to win is not going anywhere," said a Ukrainian soldier calling himself Talisman.

But he added: "We will only move forward. We are not sleeping some nights. And still, we drive out the enemy back to their Russian Federation, where they can die or whatever."

Widespread destruction and suffering

There is also suffering elsewhere among civilians in Ukraine. Authorities said the death toll from a Russian missile strike that hit a five-story apartment block in the southern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia rose to at least 11 after a woman's body was found in the debris.

It was the same area where the Russian defense ministry claimed Sunday that the Russian army hit a command center of the Ukrainian forces' Azov Regiment.

And Ukraine's presidential office said Sunday that among the many other civilian casualties were a woman and two children who died in Russian mortar shelling of a village in the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson.

Moscow defends war

Despite all the suffering on both sites, Russia's foreign minister has defended Russian actions in Ukraine.

However, Sergei Lavrov was laughed at in New Delhi, India, where he told a geopolitical conference that the Ukraine war was launched against Russia.

Lavrov struggled to get to the end of a sentence when explaining that the West was wrong by saying Russia undertook an unprovoked invasion in February last year.

"The war which we are trying to stop and which was launched against us," Lavrov said before laughter rang out among the audience. Lavrov paused briefly and appeared flustered as he tried to continue.

Finally, he finished the sentence that it "influenced Russian policy," taking three attempts to say the word "influence" amid the cackles and an audience member shouting: "come on."

Speaking after a Group of 20 foreign ministers' meeting, he also accused the West of sabotage and said Russia would look for new energy partners.

"We would not allow them to the pipelines again. The energy policy of Russia will be oriented toward reliable partners and credible partners,” he said.

The rhetoric underscored that Europe's most significant conflict in generations is far from over despite the mounting death toll and millions of displaced people, including many children.

Listen to our report

Thank you for reading our article. You can keep up-to-date by subscribing to our daily newsletter. Just click here

05 March 2023, 16:36