Zelenskyy says future depends on Bakhmut – DW – 03/14/2023

Ukraine’s future depends on a victory in Bakhmut and elsewhere along the front line, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his evening address on Monday.

Bakhmut has become the main focus of Russia’s assault, where it has captured the eastern part of the city.

“It is very tough in the east — very painful. We have to destroy the enemy’s military power. And we will destroy it,” Zelenskyy said.

Russia says taking Bakhmut would allow it to capture the rest of the Donetsk region — a key war aim for the Kremlin.

But in recent weeks, trench warefare has claimed a huge toll for both sides in Bakhmut.

On Monday, Ukrainian soldiers said they were repelling intensified Russian attacks in the city.

Zelenskyy said the front line towns are where “the kind of future we are to have is being decided, where the future of all Ukrainians is being fought for.”

Defense analyst Marina Miron on Bakhmut battle

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Here are some of the other notable developments concerning the war on Tuesday, March 14:

Ukraine analysts question Bakhmut tactics

Some military analysts in Ukraine have questioned Zelenskyy’s decision to continue defending Bakhmut, rather than withdraw from the front line city.

“As of now we have information that Ukraine is sending reserves to Bakhmut that underwent training in Western countries. And we are suffering losses among reserves that we intended to use for counter-offensives,” Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said in an interview with the Reuters news agency.

“We could lose here everything we wanted to use for those counter-offensives.”

Ukrainian military historian Roman Ponomarenko was also concerned about the potential losses if Russia manages to encircle the city. 

“If we simply give up Bakhmut and withdraw our troops and equipment, nothing terrible can happen … if they seal the ring, we will lose men and equipment,” he told Ukrainian radio station NV.

Bakhmut: ‘Fortress city’ on Ukraine’s front line

Before the Russian invasion, more than 73,000 people lived in Bakhmut. Now, a fierce battle is raging for the Donbas city. Not all civilians have left. A picture of life in Bakhmut since the start of the Ukraine war.

Image: LIBKOS/AP Photo/picture alliance

This photo, taken in the spring of 2022, shows murals in Bakhmut on the theme of family and children. By May, the front line had advanced to just outside the town, and artillery and air attacks began. Many residential buildings were severely damaged.


Apartment blocks in eastern Bakhmut were the first to be hit by the Russian attacks in the spring of 2022. Today, these neighborhoods look much like the ruined southern port city of Mariupol. Halyna, an evacuee from Bakhmut whose house was destroyed, told journalists: “We feel homeless. We’ve lost everything. There’s nowhere for us to return to.”

Image: Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images

Two teachers hug in front of the ruins of their school in Bakhmut. It was bombed by the Russian army and badly damaged on July 24, 2022. Fortunately, no one was killed or injured in this particular attack.

Image: Diego Herrera Carcedo/AA/picture alliance

Many historically significant buildings in Bakhmut have been damaged and destroyed since the start of the full-scale invasion in February 2022. They include the Palace of Culture, the 19th-century former home of the businessman Polyakov and the former girls’ high school. More modern buildings, which were once seen as Bakhmut’s “calling card,” have also been destroyed.

Image: Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images

Oleksandr Havrys is making final preparations to evacuate his wife and two children from Bakhmut to Kyiv. By March 7, 2023, fewer than 4,000 people were left in the city. Before the war, it had a population of around 73,000.

Image: Metin Aktas/AA/picture alliance

More than 90% of the inhabitants have left Bakhmut and the surrounding area. Those who remain are mostly sick, or live alone. For months, only a few shops and a pharmacy were open, if there was a pause in the firing. Humanitarian aid was brought in by charities and volunteers.


Staying despite everything

Olha, who is pregnant, stands outside an air raid bunker in Bakhmut with her husband Vlad, on January 28. They are among the few civilians who have remained in the city despite the fierce fighting. These days, you need a special pass in order to get to Bakhmut.

Image: Raphael Lafargue/abaca/picture alliance

Valentyna Bondarenko, a 79-year-old pensioner, looks out of her apartment window in Bakhmut in August 2022. Many residents of the town have endured months in cellars and emergency shelters because of the endless shelling and constant danger.

Image: Daniel Carde/Zumapress/picture alliance

“We’re used to all sorts of whistling noises and explosions,” Nina from Bakhmut (pictured, right) told DW. She said her daughters have gone “to Europe,” but her and her husband want to stay as long as the Ukrainian army is in the city. They would, however, leave if the situation deteriorates, she said. “So as not to get in the way of the military when the enemy is hiding behind the houses.”

Image: Oleksandra Indukhova/DW

Lining up for humanitarian aid

In the fall, the humanitarian situation in the city deteriorated further. Russian troops launched an offensive on August 1, and the power grid was damaged by bombings and attacks. Food supplies became hard to obtain, and the mobile phone network collapsed. Volunteer aid workers also came under fire.

Image: Diego Herrera Carcedo/AA/picture alliance

The key battles for Bakhmut are being fought by artillery units. The Ukrainian military estimates that almost the full range of artillery and mortars are in action in the area. Bakhmut is being ferociously attacked by units of the private Russian army known as the Wagner Group. The Ukrainian military continues to resist all attacks.

Image: Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images

Ukrainian flag from Bakhmut sent to US Congress

On December 20, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy paid a visit to Ukrainian soldiers defending Bakhmut. From there, he brought back a Ukrainian flag, which he presented two days later to Nancy Pelosi, the then Speaker of the US House of Representatives, on a visit to the US Congress. The flag was signed by soldiers defending Ukraine’s sovereignty on the front line.

Image: Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo/picture alliance

The main tasks of military medics on the front line include stabilizing the wounded, preventing deaths from shock and loss of blood and securing the transportation of serious cases to safer military hospitals away from the fighting.

Image: Evgeniy Maloletka/AP Photo/picture alliance

80% of the city is in ruins

This picture from the final days of December 2022 shows smoke rising from the ruins of private houses on the outskirts of Bakhmut. According to local authorities, as of March 2023, more than 80% of the city’s housing stock had been destroyed by fighting.

Image: Libkos/AP/picture alliance

Satellite image of the destruction

A satellite image from January 4, 2023, published by the space technology company Maxar, shows the extent of the destruction near Bakhmut. “In recent months, the city has been at the center of intense fighting between Russian and Ukrainian troops, and the pictures show extensive damage to buildings and infrastructure,” it commented.

Image: Maxar Technologies/picture alliance/AP

This photo, taken by an Associated Press news agency drone on February 13, also illustrates the destruction in the city. Whole rows of houses and apartment buildings have been gutted, with only the outer walls and damaged facades still standing. The roofs, ceilings and floors have collapsed, exposing the interiors to the snow.

Image: AP Photo/picture alliance

A Ukrainian soldier walks past graffiti on a wall in the city center that reads “Bakhmut loves Ukraine.” The country’s political and military leaders have decided to maintain their defense of the city. However, NATO has not ruled out the possibility that Bakhmut may fall — though this would not necessarily change the course of the war.

Image: Libkos/AP Photo/picture alliance

Macron and Orban talk European unity

French President Emmanuel Macron had a working dinner with Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban to discuss European unity on Monday night.

Unlike most European Union leaders, Orban has been openly critical of the bloc’s stance towards the invasion of Ukraine, which he has previously called an “indirect war” against Russia. He has pledged to maintain relations with Russia but nevertheless sided with EU sanctions.

During the meeting, Macron “reaffirmed the need for the unity of European countries in their support for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression, particularly via the strict application of sanctions,” his office said afterwards.

The two leaders also touched on the proposed accession of Finland and Sweden into NATO. Hungary is the only NATO member other than Turkey that has not ratified both countries’ bids.

More on the war in Ukraine

Ukraine’s military says Russia is using hypersonic missiles in attacks across the country. DW looks at what makes these missiles different to conventional missiles, and how they’re able to evade interception for longer.

Russian lawmakers want to crack down harder on individuals who criticize the troops fighting against Ukraine. DW investigates how these legal changes

zc/rt (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

2023-03-14 04:27:29