Russian forces encircle Ukraine's eastern Bakhmut city
By Stefan J. Bos
Ukrainian forces are fighting to keep Bakhmut under their control. Fierce battles are raging in the urban center of this eastern industrial city, once known for its salt and gypsum mines and the site of a famed winery with sparking wines.
Many of its 71,000 residents have fled. But those who stayed behind now risk their lives if they leave.
Authorities say a woman was killed and two men seriously injured by Russian shelling while trying to cross a makeshift bridge out of Bakhmut on Saturday.
The chief of Russia's paramilitary group Wagner says his fighters have 'practically encircled' Bakhmut, which Moscow has been trying to seize for months.
Yevgeny Prigozhin urged the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to abandon the city. "I am addressing the President of Ukraine," he said. Prigozhin told him in his video message that his Wagner mercenaries had surrounded Bakhmut and that there was only one road out of the city.
The strategic importance of Bakhmut, more than 640 kilometers or 400 miles southeast of Kyiv, has been disputed.
But for Prigozhin, the battle represents a chance to showcase his Wagner group's abilities — even at an enormous human cost, analysts say.
Russia also wants to regain at least some territory after significant losses in recent months. To Ukraine, the city has become a symbol of resistance.
But the trenches in the area are now filled with shivering or killed soldiers on both sides in an armed conflict resembling the horrors of World War One.
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