The Battle for Bakhmut/Artyomovsk has been widely considered one of the toughest since the Second World War. So bloody has it been, that terms like ‘meat grinder’ and ‘vortex’ are applied to it daily.
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.
‘Artyomovsk (called Bakhmut in Ukraine) has been fully sealed off by Russian forces and all the approaches to the city are under artillery control, Yan Gagin, military-political expert and adviser to the acting head of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), said on Wednesday.
“The city is in operational encirclement, which means that all the approaches and all the transportation arteries leading to it are under the control of our artillery. In principle, it can be said that the city has been actually sealed off,” he said in a live broadcast on the Rossiya-1 television channel.’
The attack on the city started in August 2022, and it displayed the well-known Russian ‘war of attrition’, in which its military and Wagner contractors slowly grind down the enemy forces with overwhelming firepower of artillery, aircraft, missiles and suicide drones.
The deeply entrenched Ukrainian forces put up a formidable defense and the result was high casualties, with costly ground assaults gaining little ground.
As early as 8 March, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had already declared that the Ukrainians were about to be defeated in Bakhmut ‘within days’.
But Zelensky and his generals refused to retreat and regroup its forces,
so now Kiev’s forces are in the Russian ‘cauldron’.
TASS: ‘Currently, Russian forces control about 70% of the Artyomovsk area. The Ukrainian garrison positioned in the city numbers about 10,000-strong personnel.
Acting [Donetsk] Head Denis Pushilin has repeatedly said that there is no evidence of the Ukrainian army’s plans to leave Artyomovsk. […] Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky earlier said that Ukrainian troops would not surrender Artyomovsk and would fight for it as long as they could.
It is, therefore, unlikely that Kiev would authorize its forces to surrender, even though they are now cut off from reinforcements and re-supply.
Securing Artyomovsk/Bakhmut would put Kramatorsk and Slovyansk within sufficient Russian artillery range, opening the road, as Zelensky predicted, to liberate (conquer) the rest of the Donetsk Oblast still under Ukrainian control.