Ukrainian defenders oust Russian forces from some positions in Bakhmut -Ukraine general

FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian service members fire a howitzer D30 at a front line near the city of Bakhmut

KYIV (Reuters) -Ukrainian units have ousted Russian forces from some positions in Bakhmut amid fierce battles, a top Ukrainian general said on Monday, as the White House believes that more than 20,000 Russian fighters have been killed in Ukraine since December.

"The situation (in Bakhmut) is quite difficult," Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi, the Ukrainian commander of ground forces, said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app.

"At the same time, in certain parts of the city, the enemy was counterattacked by our units and left some positions" in recent days, he said.

The 10-month-long battle for the eastern Ukrainian city has taken on a symbolic importance for both sides. It has become the fulcrum of a war that has seen little shift in front lines since late 2022, leaving both sides looking for a breakthrough.

On Monday, Russia unleashed a fresh volley of missiles on Ukraine overnight that killed two people in the east, set off huge blazes and damaged dozens of homes and other buildings.

The White House said on Monday that Russia has exhausted its military stockpiles and its armed forces with some 100,000 Russian troops killed or wounded in Ukraine in the past five months. Of the 20,000 killed, half have been from the Wagner Group.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of Wagner, said on Telegram on Monday that his fighters needed some 300 tonnes of artillery shells a day for the assault on Bakhmut, but were receiving only a third of that amount.

"Three hundred tonnes a day is 10 cargo containers - not a lot at all," said Prigozhin, who has often clashed with Russia's defence establishment over its conduct of the war in Ukraine.

In a separate posting on Monday evening, Prigozhin said his troops had advanced some 120 metres (400 feet) into Bakhmut at the loss of 86 of his fighters.

Syrskyi said that new Russian units are being "constantly thrown into battle for Bakhmut" despite taking heavy losses, Syrskyi said, adding: "But the enemy is unable to take control of the city."

Russian forces have steadily made incremental gains in Bakhmut, but Ukraine said on Sunday that it was still possible to supply the defenders with food, ammunition and medicine.

Kyiv is widely expected soon to launch a counter-offensive to retake swathes of territory in the east and south that were occupied by Russian forces following the invasion 15 months ago.

(Reporting by Dan Peleschuk; Olekshandr Kozhukhar, Ron Popeski and Lidia Kelly; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Gareth Jones, Cynthia Osterman and Michael Perry)