Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said that Ukraine would continue to defend the eastern Donetsk city of Bakmut but “not at any price,” signaling that Ukrainian forces might be considering a withdrawal.
“Yes, it is not a particularly big town. In fact, like many others in Donbas, (it’s been) devastated by the Russians. It is important for us to defend it, but not at any price and not for everyone to die,” Zelensky said in an interview published Sunday, according to Reuters.
Bakhmut’s pre-war population was about 70,000, but now Ukrainian officials estimate only about 5,000 people live in the city. Russian and Ukrainian forces have been locked in fighting over Bakhmut for months, and Ukraine has taken heavy casualties defending the area.
Since Russian forces captured the small mining town of Soledar, which is just a few miles northeast of Bakhmut, Russia has continued to make gains in the area and is now close to encircling the city. Ukraine’s Western backers have said they think Kyiv has been wasting too many resources on defending Bakhmut and want them to focus elsewhere.
In another sign that Ukraine might be considering leaving Bakhmut, The New York Times reported last week that Ukraine had banned civilians and aid groups from entering the city. The report said the move could be a prelude to a Ukrainian withdrawal from the area.
Ukrainian officials still maintain that they want to recapture all the territory Russia controls, including Crimea. Oleksiy Danilov, the head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, said over the weekend that the war won’t be over until “our tanks will be parked on Moscow’s Red Square.”