Russia's defense minister has faced criticism for being out of touch with the realities of the fighting in Ukraine. Sergei Shoigu has been faulted for his lack of military experience. But now, he has paid a visit to the frontlines and has returned home armed with a plan.
Shoigu told officers in Moscow on Tuesday that Western efforts to fuel the Ukrainian war machine have failed. And he explained why commanders have devoted so many resources to capturing the eastern city of Bakhmut.
Shoigu said, "This city is an important hub for Ukrainian troops in the Donbas. Taking control of it will allow us to conduct further offensive actions deep into their defensive lines."
However, the Ukrainians serving on those lines say the Russians are poor soldiers. And they say they will not leave. One Ukrainian soldier who joined the frontline for about a week in January talked to NHK.
Dmytro Shatrovskyi said, "As long as the Russians are creating pressure, it can be channeled and diverted in a certain direction."
More than 70,000 people lived in Bakhmut before the war. Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Tuesday that fewer than 4,000 remain. She said many are hiding out in basements, which may make it difficult to evacuate anyone who might want to leave.