(CNN) Russian forces are exhausted Bakhmut And one of Kiev’s top generals said a Ukrainian counteroffensive could begin soon, raising the possibility of an unexpected turn in the conflict. besieged city.
Oleksandr Sersky, the commander of the Ukrainian Ground Forces, said on his Telegram channel on Thursday that “[Russians] They lose great powers [in Bakhmut] And they run out of energy.”
“Very soon we will seize this opportunity, as we did in the past near Kiev, Kharkiv, Balaklia and Kubyansk,” he said.
His comments come days after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made a surprise trip to the front lines in the Donetsk region, and will raise hopes in the West that Kiev’s controversial decision to keep troops in Bakhmut will bear fruit.
A spokesman for the Eastern Gathering of Armed Forces said later on Thursday that Russian forces had launched more than 200 attacks on the area in the past 24 hours alone but were losing hundreds of men every day as part of their efforts. CNN is unable to verify these numbers.
“In the Bakhmut direction, there is only Wagner, when there is a shortage of forces, they are reinforced by the Russian Airborne Forces, and sometimes by infantry,” said Serhiy Sherevati. “We beat them. In fact, there won’t be any more Wagner fighters in a short while if they continue with the same dynamics.”
Another area that saw heavy fire was to the northeast of Bakhmut, Cherevatyi said, on the front line running north from the town of Kremina. He claimed that Russia “runs several hundred attacks a day, usually more than 300, sometimes more than 400. There have been 344 attacks and 17 combat attacks over the past day.”
A counterattack seemed an unlikely possibility for several weeks, as forces from Russia’s Wagner mercenary group bombarded Bakhmut and came close to capturing the city.
But that effort has come at a significant cost in manpower and resources, and now appears to have slowed.
Sersky said that Russian forces continue to try to take the city “at any cost, despite the losses in both manpower and equipment.”
“Under enemy artillery and aircraft fire, our soldiers at the front show outstanding resilience, courage and courage,” he said. “In particular, units of the 93rd, 10th, 57th and 5th brigades who are now defending our homeland in the east of the country.”
His optimism reflected an update on Wednesday from the Ukrainian Army’s General Staff, which said in a statement that while Bakhmut was still expected to see heavy fighting, Russia’s “offensive potential is diminishing” there.
On Wednesday, it said, “The enemy continues to try to capture the city and is losing a great deal of manpower, weapons and military equipment.”
Western intelligence strikes a similar tone. “The pace of Russian operations around Bakhmut appears to be slowing,” the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) wrote in its Wednesday update on the conflict.
But this shift may also signal a change in Russia’s priorities. On Wednesday, the British Ministry of Defense said, “There is a realistic possibility that the Russian attack on the town will lose the limited momentum it has had, in part due to the reallocation of some units of the Russian Ministry of Defense to other sectors.”
Zelensky distributed awards to the forces defending Bakhmut during a morale-boosting trip on Wednesday. “It is an honor to support our warriors who are defending the country in the most difficult circumstances on the front line,” he later said in his nightly address.
The Ukrainian forces’ long resistance could justify his decision to ignore some Western calls for a tactical retreat from Bakhmut as the Russian offensive approached.
“This is tactical for us,” Zelensky told CNN earlier this month, outlining his decision-making method and insisting that Kyiv’s military officers are united in prolonging their defense of the city.
“We understand that after Bakhmut they can go further. They can go to Kramatorsk, they can go to Sloviansk, and it will be an open road for the Russians after Bakhmut to other cities in Ukraine, in the direction of Donetsk,” he said.
CNN’s Tim Lister and Victoria Butenko contributed to this report.
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