Ukrainian forces, engaged in a months-long brutal fight with Russian forces around the city of Bakhmut, could "strategically pull back" if needed, an advisor to President Volodymyr Zelenksy said Tuesday.
“Russia is trying to encircle it right now and they’re using their best Wagner troops, apparently, the most well trained and the most experienced to do that,” economic advisor Alexander Rodnyansky said, referencing the Wagner mercenary forces.
“Our military is obviously going to weigh all of the options. So far, they’ve held the city, but, if need be, they will strategically pull back – because we’re not going to sacrifice all of our people just for nothing,” he told CNN's Isa Soares.
When questioned further about the timeline, Rodnyansky told CNN it was up to the military to decide if a withdrawal was needed.
He added that the region west of Bakhmut has been fortified. "If we were to pull back, that wouldn’t necessarily mean that the Russians would be able to advance very quickly, afterward," Rodnyansky said, adding:
"Make no mistake, our counter-offensives will be around the corner soon."
Some context: The battle around Bakhmut has been Ukraine's biggest military challenge. Ukrainian soldiers have described a worsening situation on the ground as Russian forces apply pressure. "The most difficult situation, still, is in Bakhmut and the battles that are essential for the defense of the city," Zelensky said in his nightly video message Tuesday.