The ‘Battle for Bakhmut’ May Be Ukraine’s Most Brutal Fight Yet


A woman carrying a bucket walks along the road near Bakhmut on November 27. The campaign for the Ukrainian city is shaping up to be the most brutal fight yet in the country’s ongoing battle against the invading Russian army.ANATOLLI STEPANOV/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

The campaign for the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut is shaping up to be the most brutal fight yet in the country’s ongoing battle against the invading Russian army.

Frontline photos posted this week by the Ukrainian government and others revealed soldiers hunkered down in a bleak, charred landscape reminiscent of the World War I killing fields seen across Europe as the former city of 70,000 has been reduced to rubble under a steady barrage of Russian artillery fire.

As winter approaches Eastern Europe, Ukrainian forces have made their home in muddy trenches carved into a barren terrain of bald and splintered trees.

Video of the city shows a community in ruin, the streets teeming with mud and rubble against a backdrop of burnt-out buildings and shattered windows.

And in the trenches themselves, soldiers remain in cramped, miserable conditions, with photos from the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense depicting infantrymen slogging through inches of water in increasingly hostile weather conditions.

The battle for Bakhmut has remained a game of meters, if not inches, with both sides unable to move against the risk of near certain death from the lack of cover.

Several residents who have remained have been killed in recent days, while more than a dozen have been injured. And both sides have incurred hundreds of casualties—the total is hard to verify—between the open trench warfare and heavy urban combat that has come to define the monthslong battle.

“It looks very similar to the way things did back in World War I,” a senior Pentagon official told reporters earlier this week.

“And so you have these two sides that are facing off and they are attempting to, you know, pummel each other with artillery, use the artillery to provide them an opportunity to move people forward, but then once they get to that spot, the other side is trying to do the same thing,” the official added.

Russian forces have begun to make some gains in recent weeks following months of consistent attacks on the Ukrainian frontline in Bakhmut.

The Russian military has continued to send reinforcements in an attempt to take the city after a string of military defeats in contested regions like Kherson, which was liberated by Ukrainian forces earlier this month.

However, some speculate that the Russians are overstating their progress in taking the city over a desire to regain some composure amid widespread reports of withering morale among frontline soldiers.

Bakhmut itself bears little strategic value beyond its function as a road and rail hub, news reports have said, with The Guardian positing in a recent report that rejuvenated efforts by the Wagner Group—a Russian mercenary group that includes pardoned criminals and others among its ranks—are nothing more than a vanity effort.

That report said recent fighting was “more about the prestige of Wagner in the Kremlin’s inner circles than any joined-up military thinking.”

“All other cities and towns in Donetsk region are too far from the Russian lines and the capture of Bakhmut will signify at least some progress for Russians in Donetsk region,” Huseyn Aliyev, a research fellow and lecturer at the University of Glasgow, told Newsweek earlier this week.

But it is also a point of pride for Ukraine, U.S. military officials said in a briefing at the Pentagon earlier this week, noting that the Russians have so far been unable to advance past the city since 2014, at the start of conflict between the two nations.

“I think there’s some great Ukrainian pride associated with that, in addition to the tactical relevance,” a senior Pentagon official told reporters.

Tuesday report from the Institute for the Study of War said that while some Russian sources have claimed they’ve broken through the Ukrainian defense, satellite images have shown only marginal gains into the city, while the degraded Russian forces around the city are “unlikely” to place Bakhmut under imminent threat of encirclement.

Newsweek has contacted the Russian Foreign Ministry for comment.


  1. I will let Ukraine decide, which battle was the hardest; Bakhmut, Sievierodonetsk, Mariupol … maybe another one.
    At any rate, as the yellow-bellied sapsucking coward in the Oval Office is holding back essential material to help put this misery to a quicker end, people are suffering unbelievable horrors every day.

  2. “And so you have these two sides that are facing off and they are attempting to, you know, pummel each other with artillery, use the artillery to provide them an opportunity to move people forward, but then once they get to that spot, the other side is trying to do the same thing,” the official added.”

    Instead of observing dispassionately, why not actually do something?
    America has enormous power economically and militarily. It knows that the rest of the world (except of course Poland, Britain, the Baltics and and the Czechlands) are useless turds.
    The US must act as world policeman, with its key allies and throw everything they’ve got into the extirpation of putlerism : massive cyber attacks, massive economic/travel sanctions and a no holds barred approach to weaponry.
    Ukraine’s success has been built on old or obsolete hand-me-downs from the allies. Now it’s time for cutting edge weapons : long range artillery, long range missiles, cutting edge attack drones and much, much more.

    • I hear you, Scradge, but we have a loser as POTUS. I’m afraid that we can count ourselves lucky to continue getting old and obsolete items, along with a small handful of modern ones. Believe me, all this frustrates me every bit as much as you!

  3. The Poltroons in the US Congress are more worried about making sure queers can “marry” than doing what they should have done months ago – declare Russia a terrorist organization.

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