The setback for Russia, which follows similar reports of Ukrainian advances south of the city, suggests a coordinated push by Kyiv to encircle Russian forces in Bakhmut, Reuters reported.
In three days of counter-offensive activity, the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the Bakhmut sector have captured 17.3 sq. km of territory, Serhiy Cherevatyi, spokesman for the “east” group of Ukrainian forces, said on the Telegram messaging app.
Both sides are now reporting the biggest Ukrainian gains in six months, although Ukraine has given few details and played down suggestions a huge, long-planned counteroffensive has officially begun.
Germany’s military aid package
Also in a post on the Telegram app on Saturday, the Ukrainian president’s chief of staff said Germany will provide a new 2.7 billion euro ($2.97 billion) military aid package to Ukraine, including 30 Leopard tanks.
Andriy Yermak said Berlin would also provide four Iris-T air defence systems, 20 Marder armoured personnel carriers, 200 reconnaissance drones, 100 armoured vehicles and a large quantity of munitions.
Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Ukraine had launched an assault north of Bakhmut with more than 1,000 troops and up to 40 tanks, a scale that if confirmed would amount to the biggest Ukrainian offensive since November.
The Russians had repelled 26 attacks but troops in one area had fallen back to regroup in more favourable positions near the Berkhivka reservoir northwest of Bakhmut, Konashenkov said.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner forces that have led the campaign in the city, said in an audio message: “What Konashenkov described, unfortunately, is called ‘a rout’ and not a regrouping”.
In a separate video message, Prigozhin said the Ukrainians had seized high ground overlooking Bakhmut and opened the main highway leading into the city from the West.
“The loss of the Berkhivka reservoir – the loss of this territory they gave up – that’s 5 sq km, just today,” Prigozhin said.
Russian-installed officials said two missiles hit an industrial complex in Luhansk, in Russian-occupied territory around 100 km (60 miles) behind the front. Video posted on the internet showed huge columns of smoke above the city. The strike, just beyond the range of the main battlefield rockets Ukraine has previously deployed, came a day after Britain announced it was sending longer-range cruise missiles.