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Civilians flee Bakhmut as Russian and Ukrainian troops battle in the streets of the besieged city


Civilians continued to flee Bakhmut on Saturday as Russian and Ukrainian troops battled through the streets of the besieged city.

A woman was killed and two men seriously injured after trying to cross a makeshift bridge out of town, according to Ukrainian soldiers trying to help them leave.

Oleksandr Marchenko, the city’s deputy mayor, said 4,000 civilians were still living in shelters and had no access to electricity, water or gas.

He told the BBC the area is “almost destroyed” but Russian forces do not have control of the settlement.

Bakhmut has been a key target in Moscow’s eastern offensive for months, with Russian troops, including large forces from the private Wagner Group, concentrating on the key eastern stronghold.

The UK Ministry of Defense said in one of its regular intelligence updates that Ukrainian forces defending Bakhmut are facing increasing pressure from Russian forces, with intense fighting taking place in and around the eastern city.

Ukraine reinforces the area with elite units, while the Russian army and the Wagner group make further advances in the northern suburbs.

Two key bridges in the city have been destroyed in the past 36 hours, he said, adding that Ukrainian-held supply routes from Bakhmut are increasingly limited.

People attend a rally to mark the first anniversary of the deaths of eight men killed by Russian forces in Bucha, Ukraine

(Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

One of these bridges linked Bakhmut to its last main supply route from the Ukrainian town of Chasiv Yar, about eight miles to the west.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a Washington-based think tank, said the loss of the bridge meant Ukrainians could begin to withdraw from parts of the city.

Ukraine can “carry out a limited and controlled withdrawal from particularly difficult sections of eastern Bakhmut”, while trying to prevent Russian movements and limit exit routes to the west.

Soldiers from a Ukrainian assault brigade prepare to fire a British L118 105mm howitzer into Russian trenches March 4, 2023 near Bakhmut, Ukraine.

(Getty Images)

Capturing Bakhmut would not only give Russian fighters a rare gain on the battlefield after months of setbacks, but it could sever supply lines and allow Kremlin forces to move on to other Ukrainian strongholds in the eastern region. from Donetsk.

Elsewhere, Ukrainian emergency services reported that the death toll from a Russian missile strike on Thursday that hit a five-story building in southern Ukraine rose to 10.

Said rescuers pulled three more bodies – including a child – from the wreckage overnight, about 36 hours after a Russian missile tore through four floors of the building in Zaporizhzhia.

On Saturday, Russian shelling also killed two residents of frontline communities in the surrounding area, the local military administration reported in a Telegram article.

A Ukrainian soldier from the 10th Separate Mountain Assault Brigade “Edelweiss” prepares 120 mm mortar mines to fire from a French MO-120-RT61 mortar on a front line in the Donetsk region

(AFP via Getty Images)

A 57-year-old woman and a 68-year-old man died in Nikopol, a town neighboring the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, as Russian forces fired artillery shells and rockets at the Dnieper, according to regional governor Serhiy Lysak .

In the southern region of Kherson, a Russian grenade rammed a police van in the village of Antonivka, injuring four officers, local police reported.

This comes as Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu paid a rare visit to Russian forces deployed in Ukraine.

In a statement posted on Telegram, the ministry said: “Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation, Army General Sergei Shoigu, inspected the forward command post of one of the formations of the Eastern Military District in the southern direction of Donetsk”.

In a video released by the ministry, Shoigu is seen presenting medals to Russian military personnel and touring a ruined city with the commander of the Eastern Military District, Colonel General Rustam Muradov.

Top Russian military leaders have only visited the frontline in Ukraine sparingly since Russia invaded the country a year ago.

Meanwhile, the country’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov gave audiences a laugh at an international conference in India after claiming that Russia had been a victim of Ukrainian aggression.

Additional reports by agencies

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