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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has unveiled bold plans to liberate the embattled eastern city of Bakhmut while hinting at secret strategies to retake two other cities.
During his second wartime visit to Washington, Zelensky told reporters: “We will de-occupy Bakhmut. I think that we will de-occupy two more cities.”
Keeping the specifics of these cities under wraps, he added: “I will not tell you what cities, sorry. And so we have the plan. Very, very comprehensive plan.”
The eastern city of Bakhmut has been a focal point of intense fighting throughout the conflict and its liberation would mark a significant victory for Ukraine’s armed forces.
In the past week, Kyiv proudly announced the successful liberation of two settlements, Klishchiivka and Andriivka, which are strategically positioned en route to Bakhmut.
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These victories have boosted morale among Ukrainian forces and their supporters.
President Zelensky’s visit to Washington also brought forth a groundbreaking announcement of a collaborative effort between Ukraine and the United States to manufacture weapons.
In a bid to enhance their defence capabilities, the two nations will embark on a joint venture, strengthening their partnership for the sake of regional security.
“Ukraine will be able to produce, in particular, anti-aircraft defence,” Zelensky disclosed, stressing the importance of self-sufficiency in defence production.
He added: “We are preparing to create a new defence ecosystem together with the United States to produce weapons to further strengthen freedom and protection of life together.”
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Earlier this week, in an interview with 60 Minutes, Zelenskyy acknowledged the counteroffensive was slow, but added, “It is important that we are moving forward every day and liberating territory”.
A study earlier this month by the Royal United Services Institute, a London-based think-tank, found that Ukrainian forces are averaging 700-1,200 metres of progress every five days. That gives Russian forces time to dig in and mine territory as they pull back.
Bakhmut fell to Russia in May, largely due to waves of attacks from mercenary Wagner fighters, including prison conscripts thought to have died by the hundreds. Ukraine has been trying to reclaim it ever since, hoping to deal a major psychological blow to Russia.
However, the soldiers sent to carry out the task relied on largely Soviet-era armoured vehicles and older weapons. In the past month, Ukraine’s 3rd Assault Brigade had only been able to move a mile (2 kilometres), crossing mines and booby-trapped trenches and dodging artillery, drone-launched grenades and Russian forces within shouting distance.
Ukrainian officials said this month’s battles for the road to Bakhmut may have taken as many as three Russian brigades out of combat, as cited in an assessment on Tuesday by the Institute for the Study of War.
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