The latest satellite imagery shows the magnitude of destruction in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut where the bulk of fighting has been taking place for the last 4-5 months.
The images released by Maxar Technologies, a private US company, reveal significant damage to schools, university building, apartment buildings and a radio tower in the city.
Ukraine’s military made new advances on Wednesday despite sustained Russian shelling near the eastern city, news agency Reuters said.
“We are successfully conducting a defensive operation, counterattacking and during this day our units have penetrated up to 500 metres in some parts,” military spokesman Serhiy Cherevatyi told Ukrainian television, according to Reuters.
He said he saw no sign Russian forces were short of ammunition, contradicting statements by Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner mercenary group spearheading the Bakhmut assault.
“The enemy is seeking to take over the city at will, striking with all systems and calibres,” Cherevatyi said. “They are moving new units there (to Bakhmut), primarily paratroopers, in an attempt to achieve some kind of intermediate success.”
Moscow sees Bakhmut, a city of about 70,000 before Russia’s invasion, as a stepping stone towards capturing the rest of the eastern industrial Donbas region bordering Russia.
Ukrainian officials have signalled the advances around Bakhmut are not part of a broader counteroffensive planned by Kyiv to push back the Russian forces.
Moscow did not immediately comment on Cherevatyi’s remarks although Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency quoted the Russian Defence Ministry as saying its forces were continuing to fight to capture western parts of Bakhmut.
Prigozhin, in an audio statement, appeared to confirm Ukrainian forces now held an advantage in Bakhmut.
“Despite the fact that the enemy has only a few percent of the territory in Bakhmut, surrounding the enemy does not appear to be possible,” he said. “As a result of the enemy’s advance … Russian paratroops have taken up positions that are advantageous to the enemy.”
Russia has suffered over 100,000 casualties in five months of fighting in eastern Ukraine, particularly in Bakhmut, news agency AFP said quoting a White House official.
“Russia’s attempt at an offensive in the Donbass, largely through Bakhmut, has failed… Russia has been unable to seize any really strategically significant territory,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.
Kirby said he was not giving estimates of Ukrainian casualties because “they are the victims here. Russia is the aggressor.”