The comments from a senior presidential aide are the latest signal of a shift by Kyiv to continue the defence of the city in eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine has decided to fight on in the ruined city of Bakhmut because the battle is pinning down Russia’s best units in advance of a planned Ukrainian spring counteroffensive, an aide to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said.
The comments by Mykhailo Podolyak on Friday were the latest signal of a shift by Kyiv this week to continue the defence of the small eastern city, where Moscow is trying to secure its first major victory in more than half a year.
Russia “has converged on Bakhmut with a large part of its trained military personnel, the remnants of its professional army, as well as the private companies,” Podolyak said in an interview published by Italy’s La Stampa newspaper.
“We, therefore, have two objectives: to reduce their capable personnel as much as possible, and to fix them in a few key wearisome battles, to disrupt their offensive and concentrate our resources elsewhere, for the spring counter-offensive. So, today Bakhmut is completely effective, even exceeding its key tasks.”
Moscow has captured the eastern part of the city and outskirts to the north and south, but has so far failed to close a ring around Ukrainian defenders.
Kyiv seemed to be planning, at the beginning of March, to withdraw westward. However, it announced this week that its generals had decided to reinforce Bakhmut and fight on.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner private militia leading Russia’s assault, claimed the military command was failing to provide his men with enough ammunition as Russia’s advances appeared to slow.
Prigozhin on Friday thanked the government publicly for a “heroic” increase in output, but in the same audio message said he was “worried about ammunition and shell shortages not only for Wagner … but for all units of the Russian army”.
He said his private army had opened recruitment centres in 42 cities as it sought to replenish its ranks after heavy losses in fighting for Bakhmut. He gave no indication of the number of fighters involved.
The Russian winter offensive has largely failed to gain ground apart from around Bakhmut.
Despite a barrage of attacks targeting critical infrastructure by missile and drone, Ukraine’s capital had most of its power supply restored Friday, officials said.
Serhii Popko, the head of Kyiv’s military administration, said power and water were restored in the city, and about 30 percent of consumers in the capital remained without heating and that repair work was ongoing.
Power supplies were fully restored in Ukraine’s southern Odesa region, private provider DTEK said Friday afternoon.
Approximately 60 percent of households in the city of Kharkiv that were knocked off grid by Russia’s missile attacks on Thursday were also back online, authorities said, though significant damage remained in the Zhytomyr and Kharkiv regions in Ukraine’s northwest and northeast.
Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said that Russia was hitting civilian infrastructure because they “lack data about the location of Ukrainian troops and weapons.”
“They are targeting civilian infrastructure and using the same old methods of attacking civilians to sow fear and panic in the society,” he said.