1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Ukraine: 'Painful and difficult' battle of Bakhmut grinds on

March 6, 2023

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has said the battle for Bakhmut is unlikely to "change the tide of the war." Ukrainian forces are said to be in a "painful and difficult" battle in the Donbas. DW rounds up the latest.

Local residents walk along an empty street in Bakhmut as police officers watch
Russian artillery have been pounding the last routes out of the city, aiming to complete its encirclementImage: Yevhen Titov/REUTERS

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Russia's taking control of the city of Bakhmut would not mean that Ukraine was losing in the broader conflict.

Austin said the city was of more emblematic than practical value to Russia when it came to winning the war.

"I think it is more of a symbolic value than it is strategic and operational value," Austin told reporters while visiting Jordan.

"The fall of Bakhmut won't necessarily mean that the Russians have changed the tide of this fight," Austin added.

The Russian mercenary group Wagner has been at the forefront of Moscow's effort to capture Bakhmut.

Although the fight for the salt-mining city is one of the bloodiest of the war, analysts say that its capture would be of little additional strategic advantage in Donbas for Russia. 

The Donbas region is made up of Donetsk and Luhansk, which Russia claims to have annexed despite never fully having controlled it.

The US-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has issued a warning that Ukrainian supply routes to Bakhmut are narrowing. 

"The Russians may have intended to encircle Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut, but the Ukrainian command has signaled that it will likely withdraw rather than risk an encirclement," the report said.

According to Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak, there was a "consensus" within the Ukraine army to continue defending Bakhmut "while building... new lines of defence in case the situation changes."

Later on Monday, in his nightly address to the nation, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Ukraine's top military commanders pledged to keep defending Bakhmut.

Ukraine says it will continue defending Bakhmut

Here are some of the other notable developments concerning the war in Ukraine on Monday, March 6:

Two Canadian firms included in US sanctions list for alleged support to Russia

The United States' list of recently sanctioned entities for alleged support for Russia's war effort in Ukraine includes two Canadian companies, US and Canadian authorities said.

The two electronics distribution companies from Montreal — Cpunto Inc and Electronic Network Inc — were listed for "acting contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States" and are subject to US export restrictions, according to the US Commerce Department.

The US government on Thursday called on companies to ensure they comply with Russia-related sanctions imposed after Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, warning that a failure to do so could lead to potential prosecution or enforcement actions.

The Commerce Department recently imposed export curbs on nearly 90 Russian and third-country companies and prohibited them from buying items such as semiconductors.

German lawmaker in Kyiv: 'I was surprised by the gratitude'

Hungary's foreign minister says West is falling into 'war psychosis'

Hungary's Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto accused the West of falling into a "war psychosis." 

"There are people in Brussels who see it as a competition to see who will supply Ukraine with more weapons, Europe or the United States," he said.

Szijjarto also called for an immediate ceasefire and peace negotiations between Russia and Ukraine.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán maintains good relations with Russia, despite its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Budapest has reluctantly supported EU sanctions on Russia.

Szijjártó is a particularly strong supporter of right-wing populist Orbán's foreign policy. The Order of Friendship, which he accepted from his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov at the end of 2021, has not yet been returned by the minister.

Ukraine needs to focus on infrastructure to recover — Mylovanov

Tymofiy Mylovanov, the president of the Kyiv School of Economics and an adviser to the Zelenskyy administration, told DW that to stabilize Ukraine's economy, which shrank by 30 percent in 2022, two things need to be done: "A) the stop of the war, of course; B) if that's missing, then international support."

A recent report from the Kyiv School of Economics put the total damage to Ukraine’s infrastructure at almost $138 billion (€129 billion). According to Mylovanov, most of the damage occurs to the residential housing, as 5% to 7% of all housing in the country have been destroyed. 

"Some towns have been completely destroyed," he said.

The second area that has suffered the most is infrastructure related to logistics, roads and electricity. 

"That's where we see the major damage. To recover, what we need to do is to focus on electricity, but also on logistics, on roads, on bridges, on connections, on warehouses," Mylovanov said.

Last words of executed Ukrainian POW are honored online

Ukrainians around the world posted the words "Glory to Ukraine" on social media to honor the last words of a Ukrainian soldier who was executed by his Russian captors.

The video itself has not yet been verified, though it's viral reach is clear.

Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukrainian presidential office, said that killing a prisoner of war constitutes a war crime. "There will be punishment for every such war crime. No one will dodge justice. We'll find them all," he wrote on Twitter.

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called on Karim Khan, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, to launch an immediate investigation into this heinous war crime. "Perpetrators must face justice," Kuleba wrote on Twitter.

Russian central bank extends capital controls for 6 months

Russia's central bank extended a number of emergency capital controls for six months. The measures were introduced after Moscow sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine last year and the West imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia.

In a move flagged by Governor Elvira Nabiullina last week, the central bank said it was extending restrictions on the withdrawal of foreign currency until September 9, 2023, as well as a ban on some commission charges that banks can levy.

Wagner chief Prigozhin claims representative barred from army headquarters

The leader of the Wagner mercenary group, Yegveny Prigozhin, has said his representative was denied access to the headquarters of Russia's military command in Ukraine.

Prigozhin said the incident came a day after he had requested ammunition supplies to Russia's top commander in Ukraine.

"On March 5, I wrote a letter to the commander of the [Special Military Operation] grouping about the urgent need to allocate ammunition," he said, using Moscow's official term for its invasion of Ukraine.

"On March 6, at 8 a.m., my representative at the headquarters had his pass cancelled and was denied access," he said.

Russian ammo shortage obvious on all fronts: DW analyst

Ukraine appoints new anti-corruption investigator

Ukraine has designated Semen Kryvonos as the new director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU).

The European Union has made tackling corruption a priority when considering Kyiv's application for membership to the bloc.

In a video statement, Kryvonos said he would make officials "fear God, the people of Ukraine and NABU."

Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said that his cabinet was "committed to the principle of zero-tolerance to corruption."

Ukraine hit by Russian drone, rocket attacks — Kyiv

Ukrainian officials have reported fresh Russian drone and missile attacks.

Officials said that 13 of 15 Russian drones were shot down.

Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat said that the drones came from the north.

Mayor of the eastern city of Kramatorsk, Olexander Goncharenko, said that a school and 15 apartment buildings were damaged in Russian strikes.

 Zelenskyy pays tribute to troops in Donbas

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy paid his tributes to the troops in combat with the Russian forces in the eastern Donbas region and called the battle "painful and difficult."

"I would like to pay special tribute to the bravery, strength and resilience of the soldiers fighting in the Donbas," Zelenskyy said, adding "this is one of the hardest battles. Painful and difficult."

Zelenskyy's tribute came after Ukraine's general staff reported that Ukrainian forces had pushed back "more than 130 enemy attacks" the previous day.

Zelenskyy said Ukraine's troops "repelled assaults, destroyed the occupier, undermined enemy positions and logistics, and protected our borders and cities."

The fierce battle for Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine

Leading German Social Democrats visit Kyiv 

Party chief Lars Klingbeil and his colleague Rolf Mützenich, two high-ranking politicians from Germany's co-governing center-left Social Democrats (SPD), traveled to Kyiv by train early on Monday. 

The politicians pledged continuing support which would include military support, Klingbeil said after meeting Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

Klingbeil also said the assistance would take the form of rapid delivery of the Leopard 2 main battle tanks coveted by Kyiv as well as the accelerated production of ammunition.

Rolf Mützenich, who leads the SPD in the German parliament, said that the German SPD fully backed Ukraine in defending itself.

The SPD has been criticized for shortcomings in dealing with Russia prior to the invasion of Ukraine. Critics say the party misjudged Russian President Vladimir Putin by advocating for greater cooperation with Russia in a bid to create more stability in Europe. This, in consequence, led to Germany's energy dependence on Russia, among other things. 

Klingbeil and Mützenich have publicly acknowledged mistakes on the side of the SPD. The party is set to rework its position on Russia at a party conference in December.

Russia's defense minister visits Mariupol

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has visited the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, the ministry said on Monday. The Black Sea port suffered large-scale destruction during a lengthy siege by Russian forces in 2022.

During his visit, Shoigu inspected the progress of construction brigades in Mariupol. He was also informed on the laying of water pipelines from the Rostov region of southern Russia to the Donetsk region, the ministry said. 

This is the second time Shoigu has visited the partially-occupied region in just a few days.

Wagner chief warns of Bakhmut retreat 

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Russian mercenary force Wagner, has warned that the group's position in Bakhmut will be at risk unless they receive ammunition.

In a video released over the weekend, he said that if his troops are compelled to retreat from the city in eastern Ukraine then the entire front "will collapse."

"The situation will not be sweet for all military formations protecting Russian interests," he said.

The video was released on a Telegram channel that associates itself with the Wagner group. It was not published on Prigozhin's usual press service channel.

On Friday, Prigozhin had said that his troops had "practically surrounded Bakhmut," but on Sunday he said that the ammunition that was promised by Moscow in February has not been shipped yet.

"For now, we are trying to figure out the reason: is it just ordinary bureaucracy or a betrayal," Prigozhin said.

EU: 'No evidence' suggests China will send arms to Russia

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said there is "no evidence so far" suggesting that China is considering sending weapons to Russia.

In February 2022, shortly before Russia had launched its invasion of Ukraine, China and Russia had declared a "no limits" partnership.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last month Washington had information suggesting China could provide "lethal support" to Russia. Beijing has rejected the claim. 

Von der Leyen said that Russia and China's relationship is under the European Union's close watch.

Olaf Scholz warns China of 'consequences' over arms supply to Russia

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said there would be "consequences" if China supplies weapons to Russia for Moscow's war in Ukraine.

The comment from Scholz came in an interview with US broadcaster CNN, two days after he met US President Joe Biden in Washington.

Answering a question on probable sanctions if China helps Russia, he said, "I think it would have consequences, but we are now in a stage where we are making clear that this should not happen, and I'm relatively optimistic that we will be successful with our request in this case, but we will have to look at (it) and we have to be very, very cautious."

Before visiting the US, Scholz had urged China to refrain from sending weapons and instead persuade Russia to withdraw its forces from Ukraine.

More on the war in Ukraine

Images of the death and destruction in Ukraine are everywhere. Compassion fatigue is a natural response to such overexposure, but empathy can be rebuilt. It's all in the way media and social media users represent crises. DW looks at why we get compassion fatigue one year after Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

German police revealed details of an international cybercrime gang accused of blackmailing major firms and institutions. Ukrainian police were also involved in the operation.

mf,sdi/sri,ar (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)