Live updates: Russia’s war in Ukraine

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Black smoke rises after shelling in Bakhmut, Ukraine, on February 3.
Black smoke rises after shelling in Bakhmut, Ukraine, on February 3. (Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images)

It is “unlikely” that Russian forces will meet the goal of capturing the symbolic city of Bakhmut by the one-year anniversary of the invasion, according to an assessment by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) published Thursday.

Capturing Bakhmut by February 24 “would require a significantly higher rate of Russian advance than anything seen for many months,” researchers said.

They had previously assessed that the Ukrainian defense of Bakhmut “would likely prevent Putin from claiming that Russian forces secured the city on the anniversary of the invasion in an attempt to renew hope in a Russian victory in Ukraine.”

The think tank warns that the Kremlin may launch “another series of missile strikes on civilian targets throughout Ukraine to mark the symbolic anniversary as actual military success continues to evade the Russian military.”

A Ukrainian military spokesperson said Thursday that Russian forces have reinforced their presence around Bakhmut through different units — air defense, special forces, mechanized infantry and private military contractor group Wagner — but Ukrainian units continue to try to prevent the city from falling into Russian hands.

Ukrainian servicemen fire an anti-aircraft gun towards Russian positions on a frontline near the town of Bakhmut, Ukraine, on January 15.
Ukrainian servicemen fire an anti-aircraft gun towards Russian positions on a frontline near the town of Bakhmut, Ukraine, on January 15. (Oleksandr Ratushniak/Reuters)

But “time will tell” how much Russia is able to gain by February 24, Serhii Cherevatyi, spokesperson for the Eastern Grouping of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, said Thursday on Ukrainian television. “Our soldiers have been fighting for many months … For more than seven months, Bakhmut has become an absolute symbol of heroism and courage.”

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