Roughly two months ago, I published here on TGP a piece about how Ukrainian troops were put in an operational encirclement by the Russians in the Donbas city of Bakhmut/Artemovsk.
Since then, many thousands of soldiers on both sides have lost their lives in what has been widely considered one of the toughest battles since the Second World War – the ‘meat grinder’, the ‘vortex’.
“Artyomovsk (Russian name) is an important city in the Donbas, the Russian-speaking region comprised of the Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts (states). The defense of the ethnic Russians in this region was one of the primary objectives of Putin in his Special Military Operation, so the capture of this key regional logistics and transport hub is crucial to the Russian plans of liberating the areas of Donetsk Oblast still under Kiev’s control.
While US and UK officials have, as of late, tried to downplay the strategic importance of Bakhmut (Ukrainian name), deeming it to be merely ‘symbolic’, Ukrainian president Zelensky stated that a loss in Bakhmut would mean an open road for Russian forced to attack other important cities in Eastern Ukraine.
As for the symbolic value of Bakhmut, Zelensky called it the ‘the fortress of our morale’, so it’s understandable that he and his Generals may have chosen to defend it to the end, rather than retreat their overwhelmed troops while they still could. But ‘the end’ appears to be nearing.”
Back in late March, Russian troops controlled 70% of Bakhmut/Artemovsk. During these last 59 days, regardless of the countless billions in military support from the US and Western Europe, private military contractors ‘Wagner’ and Russian Federation Forces have been slowly but irresistibly attacking from the north, the east and the south of the city.
With overwhelming firepower, the Russians went about their war of attrition, pushing the Ukrainians west, as the sliver under Kiev’s control grew thinner by the day, until now they control less than 1% of the city territory, or the equivalent of less than half a square mile.
“Bakhmut has fallen!”, said the retreating, scared Ukrainian soldier that went viral in Russian Telegram channels.
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Wagner PMC chief, Prigozin, never one to see the world with rose-colored glasses, stated that it was not yet the case, and that there is still a last pocket of resistance.
Eugeny Prigozin: “About 0.6 square km of the territory of Bakhmut remained under the control of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The fights continue. The enemy is pulling up reserves. PMC ‘Wagner’ is close to fulfilling the task – complete control over Bakhmut.”
Even with the imminent victory in Bakhmut, much remains to be done in the process of reclaiming the Donbas – to begin with, Ukrainian troops have seen some success in the flanks of the main attacking force, both at the north and south of soon-to-be Artemovsk.
But once this battle is over, cities like Kramatorsk and Slovyansk get within artillery fire range, opening a while new chapter in the War in the Donbas.