Washington has warned Ukraine that its troops risk encirclement unless they retreat soon, according to leaked Pentagon data
The US has reportedly been warning Kiev since January that its forces would not be able to hold on to the key Donbass city of Artyomovsk, known to Ukrainians as Bakhmut, and has repeatedly urged a withdrawal, The Washington Post reported on Thursday, citing leaked US intelligence documents.
According to the “top secret” assessment obtained by the outlet, Washington believes that Russia’s “steady” advances in the region since November have jeopardized Ukraine’s ability to retain control of Artyomovsk and that its troops are “at risk of encirclement, unless they withdraw within the next month.”
However, these warnings appear to have largely been ignored, according to the newspaper. Kiev reportedly believes that the city holds not only strategic military value, but is crucial to maintaining national morale and denying Russia boasting rights over any territorial gains.
The battle for Artyomovsk has emerged as one of the most intense and bloody engagements of the conflict in Ukraine, with both sides reportedly suffering significant casualties. A number of Western officials, including US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, have said that the city has more symbolic than strategic significance for Kiev. Nevertheless, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky pledged to defend it as long as possible after proclaiming the city a fortress.
Another batch of leaked Pentagon documents reported by Newsweek on Monday apparently show that the US does not believe Artyomovsk to be vital to the overall conflict and will inevitably fall into Russian hands, dealing a “psychological blow” to Kiev. Washington and has reportedly encouraged Kiev to instead focus on its upcoming spring counteroffensive.
Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry reported earlier this week that its forces, together with the Wagner military group fighters, have blocked off Artyomovsk from the north and the south and have also taken control of several districts in the south-west, the north-west, and central parts of the city.
According to the acting head of Russia’s Donetsk People’s Republic, Denis Pushilin, all roads leading to Artyomovsk are being controlled by Russian artillery, while Russian troops control some 90% of the city with Ukrainian troops clinging to a small part of its western district.
April 21, 2023 at 01:56PM