Ukraine aims to exhaust Russian troops in Bakhmut - general

FILE PHOTO: Drone footage over Bakhmut, Donetsk region shows devastation amid fierce fighting amid Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine in this still image obtained from social media video released March 26, 2023. 93rd Mechanized Brigade "Kholodny Yar" via REUTERS

KYIV (Reuters) - Ukraine is aiming to exhaust and inflict heavy losses on Russian forces trying to capture the small eastern city of Bakhmut, the commander of Ukrainian ground forces said in a video posted on Tuesday.

In a video showing him addressing soldiers in what appeared to be a large industrial warehouse, General Oleksandr Syrskyi said Russia was continuing to focus on the Bakhmut area after months of battle.

Moscow sees capturing Bakhmut as vital to its efforts to establish complete control over the Donbas industrial region in eastern Ukraine.

"They do not stop trying to surround and capture the city," Syrskyi said in the video posted on the Telegram messaging app.

"As of today, our main task is to wear down the overwhelming forces of the enemy and inflict heavy losses on them. It will create the necessary conditions to help liberate Ukrainian land and speed up our victory."

Bakhmut had a pre-war population of about 70,000 people but the city has been virtually destroyed in about eight months of intense fighting, often at close quarters.

Syrskyi has been meeting troops near the frontline as Ukraine prepares for a possible counter-offensive after 13 months of war. He said on Monday the defence of Bakhmut was a military necessity.

Syrskyi said his visits to meet troops near the front line were needed for him and his commanders to agree on plans that would have "real results on the battlefield but not on the maps."

His remarks again underlined Ukraine's desire to hold on to Bakhmut rather than pull back to limit casualties.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has also visited troops in the east, south and southeast Ukraine this month. Zelenskiy held a meeting with his top military command in the central city of Dnipro on Monday, the first such meeting held outside the capital since the start of the war.

Zelenskiy said the situation at the frontline, reinforcements and protection of the borders - from Kherson in the south to Kharkiv in the east - were discussed at the meeting but gave no further details.

(Reporting by Olena Harmash, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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