Russia launched deadly new attacks on Ukraine Sunday, with at least two people killed during fighting in eastern Ukraine.
One person was killed in strikes on Bakhmut, and eight others in the region were wounded, according to Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko. He also reported rocket attacks on Kramatorsk and Konstantynivka.
Bakhmut was once a city of 70,000 people. It is now mostly abandoned, its reduced population kept alive by volunteers who help maintain invincibility centers, which are often tents set up to offer electricity, internet service, heat, water and medicine.
One person was killed in the Kharkiv region, in the town of Merefa, and two other settlements in the region were shelled, Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said.
The attacks came as the Russian military claimed missiles launched at Kramatorsk had struck barracks used by Ukrainian troops, killing 600 people, but Ukrainian officials denied there were any casualties.
Russia said the attacks on the barracks, two temporary bases in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, came in retaliation for the deaths of dozens of Russian soldiers in a rocket attack a week ago on a facility in Makiivka.
But Ukraine said only civilian infrastructure was hit in the Russian attack. "The armed forces of Ukraine weren't affected," a military spokesman said.
In a new analysis, Britain’s Defense Ministry said Sunday in an intelligence update about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that Russia seems undecided about where the greatest threat from Ukraine lies.
In the update, posted on Twitter, the ministry said, “The way Russia has worked on improving defenses suggests commanders are highly likely pre-occupied with the potential for major Ukrainian offensive action in two sectors: either in northern Luhansk Oblast, or in Zaporizhzhia. A major Ukrainian breakthrough in Zaporizhzhia would seriously challenge the viability of Russia's ‘land bridge' linking Russia's Rostov region and Crimea; Ukrainian success in Luhansk would further undermine Russia's professed war aim of liberating' the Donbas.”
“Deciding which of these threats to prioritize countering,” the report said, is “likely one of the central dilemmas for Russian operational planners.”
Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of Russia's Wagner mercenary group, which is fighting alongside regular Russian army troops in the battle of Bakhmut, said on Telegram he wanted to capture the small town because it contained "underground cities" that can hold troops and tanks.
"The cherry on the cake is the system of Soledar and Bakhmut mines, which is actually a network of underground cities. It not only [has the ability to hold] a big group of people at a depth of 80-100 meters, but tanks and infantry fighting vehicles can also move about," Prigozhin said on Telegram.
Prigozhin, who likely would see his political influence in Moscow boosted if Bakhmut fell to Russia given Wagner's role in the fighting there, said stockpiles of weapons had been stored in the underground complexes since World War I.
His comments were a reference to vast salt and other mines in the area, which contain more than 100 miles of tunnels and a vast underground room that has hosted football matches and classical music concerts in more peaceful times.
Prigozhin, also called Bakhmut "a serious logistics center" with unique defensive fortifications.
Russia's heavy losses over a five-month effort to advance in Bakhmut has led some Western military analysts to say that any Russian victory there, if it happens, would be pyrrhic.
Some material in this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.