Live updates: Russia’s war in Ukraine

Andriy Biletsky attends a rally in Kyiv, Ukraine on March 9, 2019.
Andriy Biletsky attends a rally in Kyiv, Ukraine on March 9, 2019. Gleb Garanich/Reuters

The Ukrainian military has inflicted “huge losses” on Russian forces in a successful counterattack near the eastern city of Bakhmut on Wednesday, according to Ukrainian officials.

Speaking in a video shared on Telegram, Andriy Biletsky, head of Ukraine’s 3rd Assault Brigade, said “units of the 72nd Brigade of the Russian Federation were defeated.”

The “6th and 8th companies of the division” had been “completely destroyed” along with a significant number of armored fighting vehicles, he added.

Biletsky said a “significant number of prisoners” were taken and “the 3rd Assault unit of Wagner also suffered heavy losses,” referring to the Russian private military company — or mercenary group — that is playing a major role in the battles around Bakhmut.

The offensive action “completely freed” an area 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) wide and 2.6 kilometers (1.6 miles) deep of Russian forces, he said. No exact location was given.

The spokesperson for the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Serhii Cherevatyi, added that the battle was “still ongoing” but that “the enemy is suffering huge losses in this area.” He said that 203 were killed and 216 wounded.

He also noted that there was “no shortage of shells, but a shortage of people”. The spokesman said that there had been 524 attacks on Ukrainian positions around Bakhmut. Russia has suffered heavy losses in their months-long battle for the city, but have not yet been able to capture it.

“If they [Wagner] don’t get more personnel or change their tactics, in the near future, PMC Wagner will no longer exist in this area,” Cherevatyi added.

Some context: Bakhmut is the site of a long, drawn-out assault by Russian forces, including Wagner mercenaries, that has driven thousands from their homes and left the area devastated. But despite the vast amounts of manpower and resources Moscow has poured into capturing the city, they have been unable to take total control.

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