A senior Ukrainian commander said on Monday that Russian troops were using “scorched earth” tactics in the embattled city of Bakhmut and destroying buildings and positions with air strikes and artillery.
Ukrainian forces have hung on for months in Bakhmut, a small city in eastern Donetsk region, where the fiercest fighting of Moscow’s full-scale Feb. 2022 invasion has killed thousands of soldiers and been dubbed the “meat-grinder”.
“The enemy switched to so-called scorched earth tactics from Syria. It is destroying buildings and positions with air strikes and artillery fire,” said Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander of Ukraine’s ground forces.
But the defence of the city of Bakhmut continued, he said.
Syrskyi, who is overseeing the operation in the east, on Sunday visited front line areas with the fiercest fighting around Bakhmut, Ukraine’s Military Media Centre said.
“The situation is difficult but controllable,” he said.
Ukraine also accused Russia of using “scorched earth” tactics last summer in its assault on Sievierodonetsk, a city in the eastern Luhansk region. Kyiv’s forces were forced to withdraw from there in July after a Russian onslaught.
Ukraine has said its defence of Bakhmut is buying time for it to build up and reconstitute forces for a much-vaunted spring offensive and that it is inflicting huge losses on Russian forces trying to seize control.
But Russian forces have gained ground on the flanks of Bakhmut in recent weeks, threatening key supply lines for Kyiv’s defenders and have also made advances inside the city.
The capture of Bakhmut would be Moscow’s first major gain since it took the similarly-sized cities of Sievierodonetsk and neighbouring settlement Lysychansk.
Syrskyi said Russia was bringing in special forces and airborne assault units to help their attack on the city as members of Russia’s private Wagner military group had become “exhausted”.
Wagner militia fighters have been spearheading the assault on Bakhmut.
Reuters could not verify the battlefield accounts.