The ban on civilians from entering Artemivsk (Bakhmut) by Ukraine is likely a prelude to the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from the city, according to The New York Times (NYT).
According to the publication, the Ukrainian military has closed the city to volunteers and civilians since February 13 due to “intensified hostilities” and “danger of street fighting.”
“The ban on volunteers could mean a prelude to the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops, although the Ukrainian military insists they retain control of the city, can resupply troops and can evacuate their wounded,” — stated in the material of the publication.
Fierce battles for Artemovsk have been going on for several months. On January 13, the Ministry of Defense announced full control over Soledar, which is located northeast of Artemovsk. Founder of PMC “Wagner” Evgeny Prigozhin announced the capture of the city on January 11, arguing that “no units other than PMC fighters participated in the assault.” In early February, the DPR authorities announced that PMC fighters had entrenched themselves in the northern part of Artemovsk.
On February 12, Prigozhin announced that the village of Krasnaya Gora, which is adjacent to Artemovsk from the northeast, had been taken by PMC fighters. Then he again emphasized that only Wagner PMC fighters participated in the operation.
The American The Washington Post in January compared the “battle for Bakhmut” with a decisive moment for the President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky. According to the newspaper, Kyiv hails the city as a “fortress” and “a symbol of superhuman resistance, making even a calculated retreat politically fraught.” Prigozhin in early February also urged Zelensky “not to show cowardice and not to surrender Artemovsk.”