Part of the beleaguered city of Bakhmut remains under Ukrainian control, the country’s national security adviser Oleksiy Danilov told CNN on Tuesday.
“If they [Russians] believe they have taken Bakhmut, I can say that this is not true. As of today, part of Bakhmut is under our control,” Danilov told CNN Senior International Correspondent Frederik Pleitgen in an exclusive interview on Tuesday. “I can't say that all of it, but part of Bakhmut is still under our fire.”
Danilov went on to defend Kyiv’s decision to hold on to the city for as long as possible.
“When it came to Bakhmut, these were decisions made at the strategic level. The defense operation was constantly under control at the meetings of the Commander-in-Chief's staff. We understood why we were doing it,” he explained. “In the Bakhmut direction, a large number of Russian soldiers were killed, not only the Wagner troops, but also special forces, airborne troops and representatives of other branches of the Russian army. A huge amount of equipment was destroyed, and they spent a huge amount of ammunition there.”
“It was our strategic defense operation, which was successful for us, given that we held the territory for 10 months, where we were destroying them every day,” he added. “They could not take Bakhmut for 10 months. What can they boast about?”
Some background: Wagner group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed this weekend that his troops had captured “all the territories they promised to capture, to the last square centimeter.” But Ukraine’s deputy defense minister Hanna Maliar said Ukrainian forces still occupy “a small part of the city,” but that fighting had “decreased” on Tuesday.
On the timing of Ukraine's long-awaited counteroffensive, Danilov said President Volodymyr Zelensky will have the final say.
“We are working according to our plan, we have it. We are clearly aware of when, where, how and what should start,” he said. “The final decision is up to the President, meeting of (the Commander-in-Chief's) staff.”
“When the decision is made, Russia will definitely feel it,” he concluded.