Ukraine Military: Determined to Hold Bakhmut

March 6, 2023

PHOTO: Building in Bakhmut following Russian airstrike, December 26, 2022

Source: National Police of Ukraine

Officials in Kyiv on Monday said Ukrainian military leaders were determined to hold the Dontesk city of Bakhmut in the face of an unrelenting assault by Russian forces.

The office of Volodymyr Zelensky said the Ukrainian President chaired a meeting with the country’s top military brass who advocated strengthening positions in Bakhmut. 

Local Bakhmut officials have reported intense Russian shelling in the city and nearby villages, as Moscow has deployed additional resources in an attempt to overtake Ukrainian resistance there.

Following Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, its forces have been pressing in on Bakhmut for months. Despite Ukrainian defense forces’ efforts, more than 90% of the city’s prewar population has abandoned Bakhmut.

Even so, Ukrainian forces have used Bakhmut to inflict massive losses on Russia’s military—by a reported casualty estimate of 7 to 1.

The head of the Russian mercenary organization, the Wagner Group, has accused Moscow of not providing its forces with the ammunition it needs to gain control of Bakhmut. Yevgeny Prigozhin blamed the shortfall on either “ordinary bureaucracy or a betrayal” after he says documents promising the ammo were signed on February 22.

Bakmut has little if any major strategic value, and should Russia succeed there, its capture is unlikely to change the course of the war, according to military experts. Its value, they say, is far more psychological for Russian brass—and in particular for President Vladimir Putin. 

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Monday that Bakhmut has “more of a symbolic value than…strategic and operational value.”

Last week, reports emerged that Ukrainian units had destroyed two key bridges  just outside Bakhmut, including one along the last remaining Ukrainian resupply route, according to UK military intelligence officials. Western analysts say that demolishing the bridges could be part of efforts to slow down the Russian offensive, should Ukrainian forces start to pull back from the city.

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