March 11 (Reuters) – Ukraine and Russia said hundreds of enemy troops were killed in the fighting for Bagmut on Saturday, with Kiev fending off relentless offensives and a small river bisecting the city now marking a new front line. .
Ukrainian military spokesman Serhiy Cherevatyi said 221 pro-Moscow troops were killed and more than 300 wounded in Pakmut. Russia’s Defense Ministry said 210 Ukrainian soldiers were killed in the vast Donetsk area of the frontline.
Although Moscow did not mention Pakmuth casualties, the eastern city of Donetsk, now virtually deserted, was one of the bloodiest and longest battles of the year-long war.
Both sides acknowledged that they suffered significant losses in Bagmut, while the exact number of casualties is difficult to independently verify.
British military intelligence said on Saturday that Russia’s Wagner mercenary group had taken control of much of the eastern part of Pakmut – a claim the group’s founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin, had made on Wednesday.
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“In the city centre, the Pakmutka River now marks the front line,” the British Ministry of Defense said in its daily intelligence bulletin.
Ukraine insists it remains in Bagmut and offers a “dignified rebuff” to Russian forces, with the commander responsible for defending Bagmut saying its defense is critical to a Ukrainian counteroffensive.
“It is necessary to gain time to accumulate reserves and launch a counter-offensive, which is not far off,” the army quoted Colonel General Oleksandr Chirsky as saying on Saturday.
Moscow says that seizing Pakmut would leave a hole in Ukrainian defenses and could be a stepping stone to seizing the entire Donbass industrial region. Kiev says the war is crushing Russia’s best units.
Prigozhin said on Saturday that it is now 1.2 km (0.75 miles) from the city’s administrative center. The center is located on the western side of the Pakmutka river.
British intelligence said that with the river running through some open ground, “this area has become a killing zone, which could be the most challenging for Wagner’s forces trying to continue their forward attack to the west.”
But the situation is dangerous for the Ukrainian forces.
“Ukrainian forces and their supply lines to the west are vulnerable to Russian efforts to drive defenders from the north and south,” it said.
By David Lungren and Lydia Kelly; Editing by Grant McCool and Raju Gopalakrishnan
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