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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s personal brigade fights one of the toughest battles of the war in Ukraine

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A soldier of the 1st Presidential Brigade near Bakhmut.

photo of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense

Officially, the mission of the First Presidential Brigade of the Ukrainian National Guard is to protect the leader of Ukraine. In peacetime, this could mean manning security posts in Kiev and accompanying the president on his travels.

But Ukraine is not at peace — and hasn’t been since 2014, when Russian troops first captured Ukraine’s strategic Crimean peninsula and then invaded eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region. So the 1st Presidential Brigade’s mandate has been expanded somewhat.

Now next to the president’s security. Volodymyr Zelensky and his family, the elite brigade, thousands strong and nicknamed after 17th-century Ukrainian military hero Bohdan Khmelnitsky, guard strategic facilities such as power stations in Kiev. And it also fights at the front.

And there is no sector of the person for it. naturally The hardest Region: Seat of the separatist “Donetsk People’s Republic” in Donbass, a city with a pre-war population of about 70,000 48 kilometers north of Donetsk, the fields and forests around Bakhmut.

Three months after launching double counter-offensives in the east and south, Bakhmut is one of the few places the Russians and their separatist and mercenary forces are still trying to attack. Hey.

The Battle of Bakhmut – in which Russian regulars, DPR separatists and mercenaries from the Wagner Group face Ukrainian forces – including the 1st Presidential Brigade – is perhaps the most absurd of these isolated Russian offensive operations. What a comfort to the soldiers of the 1st Presidential Brigade crouching in the cold, muddy trenches around the city.

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Bakhmut itself does not have much military value. There is certainly no prize for the Kremlin worth the lives of the few good soldiers it has left behind after nine months of war and repeated failed attempts to raise new troops.

According to the Institute for the Study of War in Washington, D.C., the Wagner group sees the Bakhmut battle as an opportunity to score PR points by proving that mercenaries can win…while the rest of the armed forces of the Kremlin lose. Is.

But the Ukrainian army is determined to deny the Russians at Bakhmut any victory, even a PR. It is not without reason that the 1st Presidential Brigade has sent at least one of its battalions and the battalion’s BTR-4 armored vehicles to the city to fight alongside troops, including the 93rd Mechanized Brigade, itself part of the Ukrainian army. One of the better brigades.

A video recorded by a soldier of the 1st Presidential Brigade shows the intensity of the fighting. He and some comrades placed an M-2 heavy machine gun in a ditch in a forest outside Bakhmut, while Russian snipers fired at them from three directions. “Get out of my forest!” shouts a soldier, firing back with his AK-style assault rifle.

other videos There are recent images online of Ukrainian drones dropping improvised bombs on Russian soldiers in shallow dugouts outside Bakhmut, killing hundreds of them.

In weeks of failed attacks on Bakhmut, the Russians have probably lost hundreds of thousands killed and wounded – and the 1st Presidential Brigade and other Ukrainian units still control the city.

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The personal brigade of the Ukrainian president may be far from Kiev And director. But it is fighting, and so far winning, a battle that could prove crucial to the wider war – and Zelensky’s future – as Russia deploys its last good troops for no real gain.

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