Ukrainian forces will fight to the bitter end in the battle-scarred city of Bakhmut because they are “fixing in” some of Russia’s best troops ahead of Ukraine’s planned spring offensive.

Kyiv had previously declared that it would be withdrawing its troops westwards before the eastern city became completely encircled by a combination of Russian troops and mercenary soldiers operated by the private Russian Wagner Group.

But a change in Russian tactics – as it desperately seeks to secure its first victory in many months – has led to the grim assessment by Kyiv that staying might see Russia‘s losses far exceed its own.

Russia has changed tactics,” said Mykhailo Podolyak, an aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“It has converged on Bakhmut with a large part of its trained military personnel, the remnants of its professional army, as well as the private companies.

“We, therefore, have two objectives: to reduce their capable personnel as much as possible, and to fix them in a few key wearisome battles, to disrupt their offensive and concentrate our resources elsewhere, for the spring counter-offensive.

“So, today Bakhmut is completely effective, even exceeding its key tasks.”

The decision by Russia to pour hundreds of thousands of regular troops, reservists and mercenaries into the eastern city has led to some of the war’s bloodiest fighting.

Moscow says capturing Bakhmut would punch a hole in Ukrainian defences and be a step towards seizing all of Ukraine‘s Donbas industrial region, a major target.

Last night it lay claim to the eastern part of Bakhmut, and outskirts to the north and south, but has still to completely surround Ukrainian defenders despite embarking on the offensive nine months ago.

Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar said that, as Russia pressed its offensive, “our soldiers are doing everything possible to prevent the enemy implementing their plans”.

*This story has not been edited by The Infallible staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.