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Top Ukraine commander hails ‘first successful offensive operation’ in Bakhmut

Ukrainian army Grad multiple rocket launcher fires rockets at Russian positions in the frontline near Bakhmut, Donetsk (AP)
Ukrainian army Grad multiple rocket launcher fires rockets at Russian positions in the frontline near Bakhmut, Donetsk (AP)

A top Ukrainian commander on Monday hailed the “first successful offensive operation” in Bakhmut after his forces seized back ground in recent days.

Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander of Ukrainian ground forces, stressed the operation had shown his troops can move forward and counter the Russian forces in the eastern town which has seen some of the fiercest fighting since the Second World War.

"The advance of our troops along the Bakhmut direction - that is the first successful offensive operation in (Bakhmut’s) defence," Col Gen Syrskyi was quoted as saying on Ukraine’s Media Military Centre Telegram messaging platform.

"The last few days have shown that we can move forward and destroy the enemy even in such extremely difficult conditions ... The operation to defend Bakhmut continues. All necessary decisions for the defence have been made.”

Moscow admitted on Friday that Russian troops had retreated in one area to what it described as “more favourable positions” near the Berkhivka reservoir northwest of Bakhmut.

Social media suggested some Russian forces fled in the face of the Ukrainian local counter-offensive.

The frontline cities of Bakhmut and Maryinka "remain at the epicentre of hostilities,” the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said in a daily morning update on Monday.

During the past 24 hours, Russian forces launched air strikes, along with missile, drone and heavy rocket attacks, on targets in Ukraine, it said.

The Ukrainian air force also counted 17 strikes on areas where Russian personnel and military equipment were concentrated.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he is due to meet Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Monday for "substantive negotiations".

In London, defence chiefs highlighted that a “hub” air base deep inside Russia had been attacked by drones.

In its latest intelligence update, the Ministry of Defence said: “On 03 May 2023, several uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) struck Russia’s Seshcha Airbase, 150km north of the Ukrainian border. One An-124 heavy transport aircraft of Russia’s Military Transport Aviation (VTA) was likely damaged.

“Seshcha is a hub for the VTA in western Russia and has played a major role in enabling Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia also uses the site to launch Iranian-produced one-way-attack UAVs towards Kyiv.”

The briefing added: “The VTA is a well-resourced element of the Russian Air Force, essential for transport across the vast country.

“Russian leaders will be concerned that Russia’s air defences continue to be compromised, holding at risk key strategic assets such as VTA bases.”

Separately, it was claimed that Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Vladimir Putin’s “private” Wagner mercenary force, offered to reveal the position of Russian troops to the Ukranian government,

The extraordinary claims was reported by the Washington Post on Sunday, citing leaked US intelligence documents.

Wagner's soldiers have been at the forefront of a bloody Russian offensive to take Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk province.

In exchange for Ukraine withdrawing its soldiers from the area, Prigozhin in January offered to tell its intelligence service the positions of Russian forces, the Post reported.

The paper said Ukraine rejected the offer.

Prigozhin, a close ally of Putin, has publicly threatened to withdraw his mercenaries from the area around Bakhmut, where they are at the vanguard of the Russian offensive, unless they receive much-needed ammunition.

He has said in an audio message that he and his men would be regarded as traitors if they abandoned the area.

The Post reported Prigozhin's offer came through his contacts with Ukraine's intelligence service.

A White House spokesman declined to comment on the report, which was based on secret US documents leaked to the group-chat platform Discord.