THE BATTLE: The fight for Bakhmut, the ruined city in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, has become a focal point of the war as both sides have poured troops into battle and sustained heavy casualties. Bakhmut is viewed as a springboard for President Vladimir V. Putin’s stated aim of seizing the entire Donbas, while for Ukraine it has become a symbol of resistance. This year, Russia seized towns and villages to the north and south of Bakhmut, entering the city itself and forcing Ukraine to defend a shrinking slice of urban land, as signs grew that Ukraine might be forced to retreat.
THE LATEST: Both sides have cited gains in recent days, though the claims could not be verified. The commander of Ukraine’s eastern group of forces, Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky, said in comments reported on Monday that Russia had been forced to withdraw from “some positions in some parts of the city.” On Saturday, a Ukrainian army spokesman said that Russian forces had failed to capture a key road running west to the town of Chasiv Yar, which Kyiv’s forces had used to send in reinforcements and supplies.
In contrast, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner militia that has spearheaded much of Russia’s fighting in Bakhmut, said over the weekend that Russian forces had advanced hundreds of yards in several directions, leaving Ukraine in control of ground equivalent to just a few city blocks. Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Monday that airborne troops and assault units were pinning Ukrainian forces back in the western part of the city.
WHY IT MATTERS: Amid the dueling claims, the fighting in Bakhmut, which began last summer, continues to draw in enormous resources on both sides, but Russia has not succeeded in gaining full control of the city. With Ukraine soon expected to launch a counteroffensive aimed at cracking occupied territory, independent military analysts say it is possible that its plans could include a renewed push in Bakhmut.