Russia declares victory in bloody battle over Bakhmut, but Ukraine claims fighting continues
“This is not the first time Prigozhin has said, ‘We are in control, we are all in control,'” Mikhail Podlyak, an adviser to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, said. He suggested Wagner’s statement was intended to divert attention from Zelensky’s recent high-profile overseas visits, including his participation in the seven-major summit in Japan on Saturday.
Fighting has continued in and around Bahmut for more than eight months.
Russian forces would still face the massive task of capturing the remaining Ukrainian-controlled Donetsk region, including some heavily fortified areas.
It is not clear who paid the higher price in the battle over Bahmut. Neither Russia nor Ukraine have released casualty figures, but losses are believed to be in the thousands.
President Zelensky emphasized the importance of defending Mr. Bakhmut in an interview with the Associated Press in March, urging international support for a deal whose demise may force Russia to compromise unacceptably in Kiev. Said it could be collected.
Analysts said Bakhmut’s downfall would hurt Ukraine and give Russia a tactical advantage, but would not decisive the outcome of the war.
Russian forces still face a major task of capturing the remaining Ukrainian-controlled Donetsk region, including some heavily fortified areas. Donetsk and neighboring Luhansk make up the Donbass region, the industrial heart of Ukraine, illegally annexed by Russia in September when a separatist uprising began in 2014.
Bakhmut, about 55 kilometers north of the Russian-held regional capital Donetsk, had a pre-war population of 80,000 and was an important industrial center surrounded by salt and gypsum mines.
The city, named Artyomovsk after a Bolshevik revolutionary when Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, was also known for producing sparkling wine in underground caves. Wide tree-lined streets, lush parklands, and a stately downtown of stately late 19th-century mansions (all now a smoldering wasteland) have become a popular tourist destination.
In 2014, when a separatist uprising engulfed eastern Ukraine, weeks after Moscow’s illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea, rebels quickly seized control of the city, but only months later. lost it.
After Russia switched its focus to Donbass after an unsuccessful attempt to capture Kiev early in the February 2022 invasion, Moscow forces attempted to capture Bakhmut in August but were pushed back.
Fighting there subsided in the fall as Russia faced Ukrainian counterattacks in the east and south, but resumed in earnest late last year. In January, the Russians captured the salt-mining town of Soledar, just north of Bakhmut, and closed in on the outskirts of the city.
Heavy Russian artillery fire targeted the city and neighboring villages as Moscow launched a three-pronged attack to end resistance in what the Ukrainians called the “Bakhmut Fortress”.
Wagner’s mercenaries spearheaded the Russian attack. Prigozhin sought to use the Battle of the City to expand his influence amid tensions with the Russian military leadership, which he severely criticized.
“We not only fought the Ukrainian army in Bakhmut. We fought the Russian bureaucracy that threw sand into the wheels,” Prigozhin said in a video on Saturday.
Few buildings remained unscathed as houses were savagely fought by the relentless Russian artillery fire. Ukrainian officials said the Wagner fighters “marched over the bodies of their own soldiers”. For decades, both sides have expended ammunition at a pace unmatched in armed conflict, firing thousands of rounds a day.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the capture of the city would allow Russia to launch a further offensive in the Donetsk region, one of four Ukrainian provinces illegally annexed by Russia in September. said it would.
https://www.smh.com.au/world/europe/russia-declares-victory-in-bloody-battle-for-bakhmut-but-ukraine-says-fight-continues-20230521-p5da04.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_world Russia declares victory in bloody battle over Bakhmut, but Ukraine claims fighting continues