Battle for Bakhmut takes peak stage in the conflict in Ukraine
Six months of fighting for ukrainian The Battle of Bakhmut was the longest and bloodiest battle ever fought. Little known outside Ukraine before Russian The attack has become a symbol of the country’s determination and determination in the face of Bakhmut Kremlin aggression.
The Ukrainian leadership vowed again this week to keep defending the city, but some observers warned that holding it could be too dangerous and expensive. Here’s a look at Bakhmut, the battle, and its potential consequences.
What kind of city is Bakhmut?
Bakhmut, which had a pre-war population of more than 70,000, was an important center for salt and gypsum mining in the Donetsk region of the country’s industrial heartland known as Donbas.
The city was also known for sparkling wine production in historic underground caves. Its wide tree-lined avenues, lush parks and elegant downtown with buildings dating from the late 19th century make it a popular tourist attraction.
When a separatist uprising swept Donbass in April 2014, weeks after Moscow’s illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, Russian-backed separatists won control of the city but lost it a few months later.
How did the battle develop?
Russian forces attempted to retake Bakhmut early on August 1 but were repulsed.
The fighting died down in the following months as the Russian army faced Ukrainian counter-offensives in the east and south, but it resumed in full swing late last year. In January, the Russians captured the salt-mining town of Soledar, a few kilometers (miles) north of Bakhmut, and advanced toward the city’s suburbs.
Continuous Russian bombardment has reduced Bakhmut to a bleak ruin with few buildings still standing. Russian and Ukrainian soldiers have fought fierce house-to-house battles in the ruins.
Soldiers from Russia’s private Wagner Group contractor have led the offensive, marching on “the corpses of their own troops,” as Ukrainian officials put it. By the end of February, the Russians had reached the only highway leading out of the city and bombarded it with artillery, forcing the Ukrainian defenders to increasingly rely on country roads, which had dried up. Difficult to use at first.
What do Ukrainian and Russian officials say about the war?
Ukrainian officials have hailed the city as an impregnable “Fortress Bakhmut” that has repelled waves of Russian invaders.
As Russian pincers closed in on the city, a presidential aide warned last week that the military could “strategically withdraw” if necessary. But on Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi and his top generals decided that the army would continue to defend Bakhmut and strengthen its forces there.
For the Kremlin, capturing Bakhmut is essential to achieving its stated goal of taking full control of Donetsk, one of four Ukrainian regions that Moscow illegally annexed in September.
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Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday that seizing Bakhmut would allow Russia to press its offensive in the region more deeply. Yevgeny Prigozhin, the rogue millionaire who owns the Wagner Group, alleged that his forces were destroying the best Ukrainian units in Bakhmut to prevent them from launching attacks elsewhere.
At the same time, he sharply criticized the Russian Defense Ministry for failing to provide ammunition to Wagner in comments that reflected his long-standing tension with top military brass and exposed the problems that the Russian offensive had. can slow down
What do the experts say?
Military experts note that Ukraine has turned Bakhmut into a meat grinder for Russia’s most capable forces.
“It has effectively achieved its purpose as an anvil on which many Russian lives have been broken,” former British Armed Forces Chief of General Staff Lord Richard Dent said on Sky News.
Phillips P., professor of strategic studies at the University of St. Andrews. O’Brien said the battle for Bakhmut “confirms that the Russian military is still struggling with basic operations.”
He noted that the Kremlin’s continued insistence on land grabs regardless of losses means that “Russian strategic objectives are bleeding a lot of the Russian military.” While Ukrainian and Western officials pointed out that Russian combat losses were much higher than Ukrainian ones, some observers argued that the defense of Bakhmut was a diversion of Ukrainian resources that could have been used in a planned counteroffensive later in the spring. .
Michael Kaufman, director of Russian studies at CAN, a Washington-based think tank, observed that the Ukrainian defenders “achieved enormous gains at the expense of Russian manpower and ammunition,” but said it would be prudent for Ukraine to save its forces for the future. can be a matter of Offensive operations “strategies can reach points of diminishing returns,” and given that Ukraine is “trying to build resources for an offensive operation, it could hinder the success of a more significant operation,” he said. said
What could happen next?
Ukrainian and Western officials insist that a Ukrainian withdrawal from Bakhmut would not have strategic significance or change the course of the conflict. The Ukrainian army has already strengthened defensive lines west of Bakhmut to prevent a Russian advance if Ukrainian forces eventually withdraw from the city. The nearby town of Chasiv Yar, which sits on a hill a few kilometers to the west, could become the next bulwark against the Russians. Further west are Kramatorsk and Slovinsk, with Donetsk a heavily fortified Ukrainian stronghold.
And even as the Russian military tries to advance its offensive in Donetsk, it needs to keep large contingents in other parts of the Donbass and in the southern Zaporizhia region where Ukrainian forces are widely expected to launch their next counteroffensive. is expected at
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