Zelensky Insists Bakhmut “is Not Occupied” by Russia

May 22, 2023

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky insisted Sunday that the city of Bakhmut “is not occupied” by Russia “as of today,” while speaking at the G-7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan.

Zelensky’s defiance came in the face of Russia’s mercenary Wagner Group leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, declaring that his forces had fully captured Bakhmut.

However, Ukrainian military sources have told the BBC their forces still control a handful of buildings on the city’s outskirts. 

During a news conference on the final day of the G-7, Zelesnky clarified a remark he’d made earlier at the summit, when he’d said that “today Bakhmut is only in our hearts.”

He compared Bakhmut to Hiroshima’s destruction after it was hit by an atomic bomb at the end of World War II.

“Now Hiroshima has rebuilt their city, and we dream of rebuilding our cities,” the Ukrainian President said at his news conference.

The eight-month battle for Bakhmut has been the longest and among the deadliest conflicts in the 15-month-old Ukraine-Russia War. It has been a long-sought prize for Russian President Vladimir Putin because possession of the regional transport and logistics hub by Russian forces could open up an advance on two bigger Ukrainian cities in the Donetsk region: Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.

However, military analysts have contended that a Russian victory in Bakhmut would be unlikely to turn the tide in the war.

Bakhmut is “not tactically or operationally significant,” Washington-based think tank the Institute for the Study of War said late Saturday, adding that controlling these areas “does not grant Russian forces operationally significant terrain to continue conducting offensive operations,” nor to “to defend against possible Ukrainian counterattacks.”

Ukraine has yet to begin an anticipated major counteroffensive to retake territory captured by Russia.

PHOTO: Bakhmut, February 2023

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