In the war zone, Ukraine and Russia are still fighting bitterly over the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut - and neither side wants to give way. In view of the bloody battles, the city now has great symbolic importance. The Russian defense minister never tires of emphasizing that.
Moscow has said a capture of the fiercely contested eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut is crucial to continuing the Russian offensive. "This city is an important node (for the lines) of defense of Ukrainian soldiers in Donbass," said Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
At a televised meeting with officials from his ministry, Shoigu stated that taking control of Bakhmut would "enable new offensive in-depth operations against the defense of the Armed Forces of Ukraine." Bachmut has been hotly contested since last summer. The city is now surrounded on three sides by Russian troops.
In view of the bitter fighting that has been going on for months, the city now has a high symbolic importance. According to Ukrainian sources, less than 4,000 civilians remain in Bakhmut, while the city had 70,000 inhabitants before the war began. On Monday, the Ukrainian leadership reiterated that they would not withdraw from the city but would send reinforcements instead.
Meanwhile, Poland announced that it would deliver ten Leopard main battle tanks to Ukraine later this week. The Leopard 2A4 tanks should be sent to Ukraine by the end of the week, Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said. On the Russian side, the mercenaries of the Wagner group are leading the fight for Bakhmut. Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin said he could not comment on Shoigu's statements - he had not yet met the defense minister in Bakhmut. Prigozhin is in open conflict with the Russian military leadership.