The number two general in the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) Monday, Feb. 6, said that Kyiv’s forces will hold the battleground city Bakhmut despite heavy Russian Federation (RF) attacks.

Colonel General Oleksandr Syrsky, the commander of the AFU’s Ground Forces, said that the Bakhmut district and the city itself were preparing for defense, and that the Kremlin’s troops will be unable to break in, in comments reported by the pro-government Telegram news channel Ukraina 365 and Military Media Center.

“The city (Bakhmut) is surrounded by dominant heights and hills, which in themselves prevent the advance of the enemy. Construction of engineering barriers (like mines and barbed wire) and the natural landscape make it an ‘impregnable fortress,’ which will lead to the destruction of the best divisions of the invaders,” he said.


“More than 1,000 enemies have already died within the walls of this fortress,” he said.

Syrsky is best known in the AFU as an innovative planner with a knack for finding Russian weak points. President Volodymyr Zelensky has credited Syrsky and his staff for the AFU’s surprise September Kharkiv sector offensive, which broke thinly held Russian lines and liberated more than 12,000 square kilometers of RF-held territory.

RF units led by felons hired by the Wagner mercenary group began attacks on Bakhmut in November. lightly armed attackers have taken heavy casualties, particularly to Ukrainian artillery over months of assaults, but have slowly gained ground against an outnumbered AFU.

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In a December interview with The Economist, the general cautiously warned: “The Russians aren’t idiots. They aren’t weak. Anyone who underestimates [them] is headed for defeat.”

Syrsky’s most recent comments on the strength of Bakhmut’s defenses are the most definitive official Ukrainian declaration in weeks about the AFU’s ability to hold the city.

Zelensky in Feb. 3 comments to European Union leadership was more reticent, saying that Ukraine “won’t hand over Bakhmut... we will fight as long as we can.”



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