Ukrainian forces fighting in the Donbas say they need more weapons to counter Russian attacks on Bakhmut. Putin’s army has spent months on trying to capture the city, a key target for Russian generals as they seek to assert full control over the Donetsk region. After months of unrelenting infantry and artillery attacks over the winter, Russian forces now stand poised to finally capture the city and overcome the defenders’ brave resistance.
The Russian advance has come at a huge cost though for Putin and his generals, with tens of thousands reportedly killed and injured in the attritional fighting.
Western officials told the BBC in early March that around 20,000 to 30,000 Russians were either dead or wounded as a result of the intense battles that have raged around Bakhmut.
The casualty ratio was estimated to be five Russian soldiers killed for every Ukrainian one according to NATO.
Ukrainian soldiers are still clinging on to their positions in and around the besieged city and have issued pleas for more weapons as they try to repel more Russian attacks.
Volodymyr, a soldier from Ukraine’s 17th Tank Battalion told the BBC’s Jonathan Beale that his unit could only afford to fire a few of their BM-21 Grad rocket launchers at a time.
His battalion is providing fire support to Ukrainian forces holding on to the edges of Bakhmut.
He said: “We haven’t got enough ammunition for our weapon. We could have provided more support to our guys who are dying there.”
Volodymyr explained that Ukraine has already use up its own stocks of Grad ammunition, and is now relying on rockets provided by third parties.
He said supplies are coming from the Czech Republic, Romania and Pakistan, although those from Pakistan are “not of a good quality”.
Ukraine is being provided with ammunition and weapons from NATO and western allies, as it builds up its arsenal for an expected counteroffensive in the coming days and weeks.
However, some of that ammunition and new equipment has had to be diverted to troops defending Bakhmut.
Ukrainian troops from its 80th Brigade are also involved in fighting around the Donbas city.
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The unit has been kitted out with a British made L119 light artillery gun, but has had to ration its usage of ammunition due to shortages.
They currently can only fur on average 30 rounds a day and are desperately in need of new supplies.
Serhiy, a soldier from the Brigade, said: “”We’ve got enough people for the moment.
“But we need ammunition. Ammunition is the most important.”
Over the weekend, Ukraine launched counterattacks against Russian positions in Bakhmut, driving some units back from their positions.
Colonel General Oleksandr Syskyi, the commander of ground forces, said while visiting front line troops that “the situation is quite difficult” around the city.
“At the same time, in certain parts of the city, the enemy was counterattacked by our units and left some positions,” he added.
He said that new Russia units, including Wagner mercenaries, were being ”constantly thrown into battle” despite suffering heavy losses.
“But the enemy is unable to take control of the city,” Colonel Syrskyi said.