Russia Launches More Attacks On Bakhmut, ‘Regardless Of Losses,’ As U.S. Warns Of ‘Tough Fight’ Ahead

Russian troops launched several waves of attacks on Ukrainian positions in and around Bakhmut over the past day, Ukraine's military said on March 16, as the monthslong battle for the city in the eastern region of Donetsk continued at high intensity.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in its daily bulletin that its forces fought off "numerous attacks" in the areas of Orikhovo-Vasylivka and Bohdanivka, north and west of Bakhmut, as Russian forces keep trying to encircle the city and cut off the defenders' supply lines while pushing toward the city center.

"Russia continues to conduct offensive actions, regardless of losses," the report said, adding that at the same time, Moscow's forces pressed ahead in other key areas in the Donetsk region with a focus on Lyman, Avdiyivka, Maryinka, and Shakhtarsk, carrying out more than 75 attacks in the last 24 hours.

Russia also carried out a missile strike on the eastern city of Kharkiv, where it targeted civilian and energy infrastructure objectives, the military said.

Meanwhile, Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder warned that the following months will be decisive for the outcome of the battle for eastern Ukraine.

"I think it's also important to kind of take a step back and look at the progress that has been made, while recognizing the fact that there still is a tough fight ahead, particularly as we go into the...spring and summer," Ryder told a Pentagon briefing, adding that the United States will continue to do everything possible to meet Ukraine's military needs.

Separately, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told a virtual meeting of the so-called Ramstein group of dozens of countries that have been providing arms to Kyiv that a total of nine countries have pledged to supply Ukraine with 150 Leopard tanks.

Austin said that Ukraine's defense has reached its "decisive moment" as Russia is now "running out of options."

"Russia had to depend on Iran and North Korea and use World War II equipment. So Russia is running out of opportunities and friends," Austin said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin "still hopes that he can exhaust Ukraine and wait us out. So we cannot stop and we will not do it," Austin added.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on March 16 warned that it was crucial to provide Ukraine as soon as possible with fresh munitions to resist Russia's invasion.

"It is very important that we quickly supply Ukraine with the necessary munitions," Scholz told the lower house of parliament, promising action at an EU summit next week.

U.S. General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said after the Ramstein meeting that Russia is making small tactical advances near Bakhmut but "at great cost."

Milley added that Russia's military leaders are failing their troops, and he said military stocks are being rapidly depleted.

Washington DC 20036 Copyright (c) 2015 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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