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KYIV (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and his military chiefs agreed on Tuesday to keep defending Bakhmut, which the country’s top general said was vital to the defence of the whole eastern front.

Zelenskiy’s office said the president, top government officials and military commanders had discussed the situation in the small eastern city, where Russian and Ukraine forces are taking heavy casualties.

“After considering the defensive operation in the Bakhmut direction, all … expressed a common position to continue holding and defending the city of Bakhmut,” it said in a statement.

General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, said the defence of Bakhmut was of “paramount strategic importance”.

“It is key to the stability of the defence of the entire front,” he said, praising Ukrainian soldiers’ strength and courage.

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After nearly eight months of battle, Ukrainian forces are surrounded on three sides in Bakhmut but show no signs of fall back to a new defensive line. Russia sees taking Bakhmut as a stepping stone for its troops to advance on two bigger cities in the Donetsk region: Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.

Zelenskiy and the military command also discussed the pace and scale of the supply of weapons and equipment from Ukraine’s Western partners, and how to allocate them to the troops. The president’s office did not give details of these discussions.

(Reporting by Olena Harmash, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters.

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