Ukraine prepares for counterattack as Putin makes nuclear threats

Ukraine’s defences have held up against dozens of daily Russian ground assaults along the eastern front during the 57th week of the Russia-Ukraine war, while promised tanks and fighter jets have arrived to arm Ukraine’s expected counteroffensive.

To this gathering strength, Russian President Vladimir Putin has replied with a nuclear threat widely dismissed as evidence that he did not have an adequate conventional military response.Bakhmut, the eastern city levelled by months of fighting, remains key.

Assaults stretched from Kupiansk in Kharkiv province to Avdiivka in southern Donetsk.

But the toughest fighting seemed to take place in Bakhmut, where geolocated footage suggested Wagner Group mercenaries made advances from March 28 to 29.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said Russian forces had met “with partial success”.Footage provided by Russian newspaper Ria Novosti suggested Wagner mercenaries had captured the AZOM industrial complex within Bakhmut.

But Ukraine’s defenders were not evacuating.

“We are holding the Bakhmut fortress,” wrote Ukraine’s commander of ground forces Colonel-General Oleksandr Syrskyi.

If it fell, Putin would “sell this victory to the West, to his society, to China, to Iran”, Zelenskyy said.

“If he will feel some blood – smell that we are weak – he will push, push, push,” Zelenskyy told The Associated Press.

Syrskyi explained the military reasoning.“Our main task is to wear down the overwhelming forces of the enemy and inflict heavy losses on him. This will … speed up our victory,” he said.

Eastern forces spokesman Serhiy Cherevaty said Wagner units were now being reinforced by regular Russian troops due to these losses.Eastern forces spokesman Serhiy Cherevaty said Wagner units were now being reinforced by regular Russian troops due to these losses.

United Kingdom military adviser Ian Stubbs told Vienna’s Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe that Russia had suffered huge casualties in Bakhmut.

“Their assault seemingly stalled, reports suggest that the Russian military and Wagner Group urgently need to replenish personnel and munition stocks. Approximately 30,000 Russian fighters have been killed or wounded since the battle for Bakhmut began nine months ago, with the Wagner-dominated force advancing just 25km [16 miles] in this time,” Stubbs said.

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