Bisnis.com, JAKARTA – At the end of last week, Saturday (20/5/2023), Russia claimed to have taken control of Bakhmut City in Eastern Ukraine. This claim was denied by President Volodymyr Zelensky. Why is Russia fighting so hard at Bakhmut?
Analysts say Bakhmut is of little strategic value to Moscow, but its capture would be a symbolic victory for Russia after fighting the longest war in Ukraine so far.
To take the city, the Russians fielded Wagner mercenaries led by Yevgeny Prigozhin. He recruited thousands of convicted criminals from prison for his group – no matter how serious their crimes – as long as they agreed to fight for Wagner in Ukraine.
Wagner also concentrated their efforts in the city for months.
With the relentless and costly sending of troops it appeared that this mercenary force was gradually able to erode Kyiv’s resistance.
It’s safe to say Prigozhin has emerged as a key player in Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine that launched in February 2022, and is in charge of a private mercenary army.
About half of the 20,000 Wagner fighters who died in Bakhmut were convicts, Prigozhin said this week.
Earlier this month, the United States (US) said it believed more than 20,000 Russian troops were killed in the battle for Bakhmut and another 80,000 were injured. The BBC was unable to independently verify the figures.
Ukraine has not yet released its casualty figures in Bakhmut, but it also suffered heavy losses.
Bakhmut’s capture would bring Russia a little closer to its goal of controlling the entire Donetsk region, one of four regions in eastern and southern Ukraine annexed by Russia last September following a referendum that was widely condemned outside Russia as fraudulent.
However, while Russia fought hard to claim the cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk last summer, Ukraine quickly reclaimed parts of it elsewhere.
There were about 70,000 people living in Bakhmut before the invasion, but only a few thousand remained in the ruined city, once famous for its salt and gypsum mines and large winery.
Also known as the city of roses before the war, but now a hell on earth, and is straddled by the Bakhmutka River in the Donetsk region – one of four Ukrainian territories that Russia claims to have annexed last year without fully controlling them months after the invasion.
Located at the bottom of the valley, this city is very difficult to defend against attack. Launching Channel News Asia, Monday (22/5/2023), Bakhmut was once an important railway center in an area known for salt mining.
This industrial city has been at the center of fighting in eastern Ukraine since last summer which has left much in ruins. The Ukrainian soldiers defending it defined the battle as “hell on Earth” or called it the new “Verdun” – the longest battle of World War I.
In nearby Bakhmut AFP video journalist Arman Soldin was killed by rocket fire on May 9 while reporting. In March, local officials estimated the remaining civilian population at just 3,000.
City of Wine The city is also famous for its famous sparkling wine – the production of which has now moved to the Odesa region.
Bakhmut was also called Artemovsk between 1924 and 2016 – a tribute to a Soviet revolutionary nicknamed “Artem”.
Bakhmut was also once known as the “city of wine and roses”. A city street nicknamed “Rose Alley” broke a Ukrainian record for having 5,000 roses along it.
For months, only one road connected the defending Ukrainian units in the western part of the city with the rest of their troops. Because it was full of burnt-out vehicles, it was nicknamed by soldiers as the “Road of Life”.
When conflict between Kyiv and Moscow-backed separatists first started in 2014, pro-Russian fighters tried to take over Bakhmut but were turned back by the Ukrainian military in July of that year. While some experts question Bakhmut’s strategic importance, Zelenskyy said in March that its capture could leave “the road open” for Russian troops to attack the cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.
When AFP journalists visited the town last month, they found disused artillery buildings whose courtyards were filled with twisted metal from bombed-out playgrounds, broken glass and makeshift crosses atop hastily buried civilian graves. Some of the civilians – often the elderly – refused to leave even though they were living in basements without running water or electricity.
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Tags: Revealed Russias Reasons Fighting Seize Ukrainian City Bakhmut-