An economic advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Wednesday that Ukrainian forces might pull out of the eastern city of Bakhmut, where they have been taking heavy losses.
“Our military is obviously going to weigh all of the options. So far, they’ve held the city, but if need be, they will strategically pull back,” Alexander Rodnyansky told CNN. “We’re not going to sacrifice all of our people just for nothing.”
Rodnyansky’s comments came after Zelensky said the situation in Bakhmut is getting “more and more difficult.” While the Ukrainians are signaling a possible withdrawal, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Russian mercenary outfit Wagner Group, said there were still no signs of a Ukrainian pull-out.
“The Ukrainian army is deploying additional troops and is doing what it can to retain control of the city,” Prigozhin said on Wednesday. “Tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers are offering fierce resistance, and the fighting is getting increasingly bloody by day.”
Russian and Ukrainian forces have been fighting over Bakhmut for about eight months. Since mid-January, Russian forces have been making gains in the area and are slowly encircling Bakhmut.
Ukraine has been taking enormous casualties defending Bakhmut, a city with a pre-war population of about 70,000. A former American Marine fighting in Ukraine told ABC News last week that the average lifespan of a Ukrainian soldier on the frontlines in Bakhmut is only four hours, and called the area a “meat grinder.”