A bloody fight continues as Russia and Ukraine battle over Bakhmut, and one Ukrainian soldier described his deployment as being “sent to death.”
Russia-Ukraine war front lines shifted to Bakhmut in August, where they have remained. Both sides have suffered catastrophic losses, and some experts predict Ukraine will pull out of the battle-ravaged city soon. Ukrainian soldiers face constant shelling from Russian forces, and one soldier described the horrors in an interview with The Kyiv Independent.
“When they drive us to Bakhmut, I already know I’m being sent to death,” Volodymyr, a 54-year-old Ukrainian soldier, told the Independent. The newspaper withheld the soldier’s last name for his safety.
Volodymyr described situations in which Ukrainian solders were ill-equipped to return fire, as Russian forces unleashed constant shelling and artillery attacks.
A Ukrainian medic runs through a partially dug trench along the front line on March 5, 2023, outside of Bakhmut, Ukraine. Fighting continues in the area despite both sides suffering catastrophic losses. Getty
Russians have inched closer to victory in Bakhmut after a renewed effort around the one-year anniversary of the war in late February. Russian forces now surround the city on three sides, and troops are supplemented by soldiers from the Wagner Group, a private Russian military company headed by Yevgeny Prigozhin. However, Ukraine continues to defend the city. Retreating from Bakhmut would grant Russia its first victory in the war since July. Throughout the winter, the war has remained at a stalemate with high casualties on both sides.
Some Ukrainian officials have toyed with the idea of a strategic retreat, but a Ukrainian senior lieutenant told the Independent that he hasn’t heard any withdrawal plans.
Center for Strategic and International Studies senior adviser Mark Cancian told Newsweek that it appears Ukraine decided to try to hold Bakhmut instead of retreating.
“From a tactical point of view, Ukrainians should pull out,” Cancian said, explaining that Ukrainian forces are surrounded deeply on three sides. “It’s very dangerous. There’s a risk of being completely encircled.”
However, if Russia were to secure the city, the psychological impacts on Ukrainian troops and residents would be substantial. Bakhmut has become an iconic city in the war, indicative of the Ukrainians’ fighting spirit.
Much of Russia’s progress in Bakhmut is attributable to the Wagner Group. The company fed men into the area, and Russia’s forces were nearly triple the number of Ukraine’s, according to the Independent. However, as Russia hinted at a near-victory in Bakhmut, Prigozhin demanded more ammunition, a need that went unmet. Last week, Prigozhin announced that the Wagner Group had been cut off from all Russian government communication channels.
Fighting in the area continues, and the battle has worn down both troops. But, according to Cancian, if Ukraine were to yield the city, it wouldn’t hurt much from a tactical position.
“The Ukrainian lines are shorter already and they’re building fortifications behind Bakhmut,” Cancian said. “This does not foretell the end, but psychologically it will be a big deal.”