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Volodymyr Zelensky: 1,100 Russian soldiers killed in Bakhmut, Ukraine

Ukrainian soldiers fire an anti-aircraft gun at Russian forces from a position near Bakhmut, Donetsk region on February 4. File Photo by Sergey Shestak/EPA-EFE
1 of 3 | Ukrainian soldiers fire an anti-aircraft gun at Russian forces from a position near Bakhmut, Donetsk region on February 4. File Photo by Sergey Shestak/EPA-EFE

March 13 (UPI) -- Ukrainian and Russian forces claimed heavy losses in Bakhmut on Monday as they continued to battle for the eastern Ukrainian city.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address that his forces have killed more than 1,100 Russian troops and wounded 1,500 in the past week in the embattled city of Bakhmut.

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"In less than a week, starting from March 6, we managed to kill more than 1,100 enemy soldiers in the Bakhmut sector alone, Russia's irreversible loss, right there, near Bakhmut," Zelensky said.

Conversely, Russia claimed to have killed more than 220 Ukrainian service members in the past 24 hours as the sides traded claims amid a months-long struggle at the front lines of a year-long war of attrition.

Victory in Bakhmut would bring Russia a step closer to controlling all of Donetsk, one of four regions in eastern and southern Ukraine it annexed in September.

Ukraine's ground forces commander Col. Gen Oleksandr Syrskyi said assault units of the Russian mercenary Wagner Group were "advancing from several directions, trying to break through the defenses of our troops and advance to the central districts of the city."

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The General Staff of Ukraine's armed forces said Monday that the Ukraine Defense Forces had repelled 102 attacks by Russian forces in Bakhmut, Avdiivka, Maryinka and Shakhtarsk in the past 24 hours.

Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin said in a Telegram post Wednesday that his forces had occupied "the entire eastern part of Bakhmut" and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned the city could fall within days.

The report came as the Institute for the Study of War said the Russian war ministry was using the battle for Bakhmut to "deliberately expend" Wagner forces in order to weaken Prigozhin, sabotaging his bid to boost his influence in the Kremlin.

The ministry was "prioritizing eliminating Wagner on the battlefield of Bakhmut" as it had concluded the group's force were slowing its advance, the institute said.

Ukrainian officials have pledged to fight on in Bakhmut despite Russian advances and the fact the city does not hold great strategic significance.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin last week downplayed the importance of Russia possibly capturing Bakhmut, saying he did not believe it marked a moment when Moscow was regaining momentum in the invasion.

"I think it is more of a symbolic value than it is strategic and operational value," Austin said. "The fall of Bakhmut won't necessarily mean that the Russians have changed the tide of this fight."

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