Defense Ministry: Southwestern outskirts of Bakhmut remain in Ukrainian control

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The southwestern outskirts of Bakhmut and the entrance to the city remain in control of Ukrainian forces, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar reported on May 31.

According to Maliar, the "offensive activity (of Russian forces) in Bakhmut has been halted." However, Russian forces have increased the frequency of artillery shelling, "indicating a change in tactics."

The current intensity of shelling is comparable to some of the heaviest periods of fighting during the Battle of Bakhmut, Maliar added.

Ten months after the bloodiest battle in the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, Russia's Wagner mercenary group claimed on May 20 that it had captured the city.

While Kyiv has not officially acknowledged the fall of Bakhmut, both official statements and accounts from soldiers on the ground shared with the Kyiv Independent effectively convey a similar scenario.

Maliar reported on May 25 that Russia's regular army had begun to replace Wagner forces in the outskirts of Bakhmut but added that some mercenaries still remain in the city.

In her latest update, Maliar said that Ukrainian forces have been hindering the rotation of the regular Russian army "in every possible way."

Ukrainian forces suspended flank advancements "several days ago," but they are "carrying out other military tasks that cannot (yet) be announced," Maliar added.

Maliar explained that "these tasks are aimed at enhancing the combat readiness of our forces" and that "the struggle for this direction (Bakhmut) continues."

Ukrainian forces are expected to launch their long-anticipated counteroffensive in the coming weeks to take back more territory currently under Russian control.