Europe Politics

Ukraine says Russia eases Bakhmut attacks, while Kyiv talks up counteroffensive

An aerial view showing destruction in the front-line city of Bakhmut, in eastern Ukraine, on May 23, 2023.
Defense of Ukraine | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Russian forces have temporarily eased their attacks on the besieged eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut to regroup and strengthen their capabilities, a senior Kyiv official said on Saturday.

Separately, senior Ukrainian officials indicated their forces were ready to launch a long-promised counteroffensive to recapture territory taken by Russia since the start of the war.

Russia's Wagner private army began handing over positions to regular troops this week after declaring full control of Bakhmut following the longest and bloodiest battle of the war.

In a statement on Telegram, Ukraine Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said Russian forces were continuing to attack but that overall offensive activity had decreased.

"Yesterday and today there have not been any active battles — neither in the city nor on the flanks," she wrote, adding that Moscow's troops were instead shelling the outskirts and approaches to Bakhmut.

"The decrease in the enemy's offensive activity is due to the fact that troops are being replaced and regrouped," Maliar said. "The enemy is trying to strengthen its own capabilities."

Kyiv is expected to soon launch a highly anticipated counteroffensive to retake Russian-occupied territory.

Oleksiy Danilov, Secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, told the British Broadcasting Corporation that the push could begin "tomorrow, the day after tomorrow or in a week".

Presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak, speaking to Britain's Guardian newspaper, said preliminary operations such as destroying supply lines or blowing up depots had already begun.

Ukraine's top general, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, posted a sleekly produced video on Saturday showing Ukrainian troops swearing an oath and preparing for battle.

"The time has come to return what is ours," he wrote.