Fall of Bakhmut "would not mean russia has changed tide of war" – Pentagon chief
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Monday that the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut has more symbolic than operational value, and its fall would not necessarily mean that moscow had regained momentum in its military efforts.
"I think it is more of a symbolic value than it is strategic and operational value," Austin told reporters during a visit to Jordan, adding that he wouldn't venture to predict whether or when russian forces will capture Bakhmut, Reuters reports.
"The fall of Bakhmut won't necessarily mean that the Russians have changed the tide of this fight," Austin added.
The battle for Bakhmut, Donetsk region, has been ongoing for seven months. Pre-war, the city had a population of about 70,000 people. Now it has been bombarded to ruins. For russia, the capture of the city would be the first victory in its winter offensive that cost russian forces huge losses in troops and military equipment in the city.
Austin said that if Ukrainian forces decided to reposition west of Bakhmut, he would not view that as a strategic setback.