Why the setback in the battle for Bakhmut may hold the key to ultimate triumph for Ukraine

By David Patrikarakos For The Daily Mail

22 May 2023

Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin (pictured) claimed his forces have full control Bakhmut - which Kyiv denies - in a video recorded in front of destroyed buildings as explosions are heard in the distance

Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin (pictured) claimed his forces have full control Bakhmut – which Kyiv denies – in a video recorded in front of destroyed buildings as explosions are heard in the distance.

Volodymyr Zelensky put it most poignantly. ‘It’s a pity, it’s a tragedy, but for today, Bakhmut is only in our hearts,’ the Ukrainian president said yesterday.

The vicious battle for this eastern Ukrainian city appears to be more or less over – for now.

On Saturday, Yevgeny Prigozhin – the shaven-headed boss of Russia’s notorious Wagner mercenary group – boasted that Bakhmut had been captured.

Flanked by some of his goons and leering into the camera, he claimed Wagner now controlled the city. A day later, Vladimir Putin himself announced that Russia had won the battle for Bakhmut.

Russian forces – alongside Wagner’s hired killers – have been trying to capture the city since last year. It has been the longest battle of the war, and certainly the bloodiest.

When I was there earlier this year, the city was a smouldering ruin. Buildings were cratered by shells, roads strewn with the scars of rockets and drones. Now, Mr Zelensky says, Bakhmut – once home to 75,000 souls – is utterly destroyed.

Putin and Prigozhin may be gloating – but they know what a Pyrrhic victory this truly is. Even if the city has fallen – and I am reliably told that Ukrainian resistance continues fiercely – the battle exposes two truths about this war: The insanity, chaos and total disregard for human life at the heart of Putin’s unprovoked invasion; and the ferocity and growing tactical intelligence of Ukraine’s defence.

Bakhmut has no real strategic value, but Russia has been sending its men to die there for almost ten months. Why? For no other reason than Putin is determined to make good on his fantastical promise to take the entire Donbas region. This is madness.

But it is a madness the Ukrainians have exploited. In recent weeks, under the brilliant generalship of their commander, Oleksandr Syrsky, they have recaptured several kilometres of territory there.

It was in Bakhmut that Syrsky pioneered what he calls ‘active defence’ – using the resistance of the city to grind down Russian troops, killing as many as possible and tying up the rest so they cannot be deployed elsewhere.

Inevitably, this has given the Ukrainians more badly needed time to prepare for their imminent counter-offensive to recapture conquered lands.

Last night, Mr Zelensky said that Bakhmut now resembled the Japanese city of Hiroshima after it was hit with an atomic bomb in 1945. But he added that the battle was not over. ‘Bakhmut is not occupied by Russia Federation as of today,’ he insisted.

Western officials estimate between 20,000 and 30,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded in the ‘meat grinder’ of Bakhmut. As one officer told me: ‘Every Russian we kill here is one less my comrades have to kill elsewhere.’

And that’s not all. Bakhmut has also been useful in exposing the vicious internal clashes between Prigozhin and the Russian army, laying bare the tensions and contradictions at the heart of Putin’s strategy, such as it is.

In recent months, Prigozhin has launched a series of obscenity-laden diatribes against Russian army chief Valery Gerasimov and minister of defence Sergei Shoigu, accusing them of failing to provide enough ammunition for his troops, and of serial incompetence. If the might of the Russian army has been exposed as a lie in the city, so has its political unity.

In more ways than one, then, Bakhmut has become the graveyard of Russian ambitions.

Now the Ukrainians are better-placed to counter-attack across the south and east.

And in Bakhmut, they are preparing what the army spokesman calls ‘the conditions … to push [the Russians] back’. Kyiv’s troops are hiding in the suburbs, making it almost impossible for the Russians to occupy the city properly.

Yesterday Igor Girkin, Russia’s former federal security service officer – who was key to both the 2014 annexation of Crimea and later the war in Donbas – gave a brutal assessment on his blog. The battle for Bakhmut was unnecessary and its victory is hollow, he wrote. Russian forces are now reduced to salvaging an empty success as propaganda.

The Ukrainians, meanwhile, stand ready to strike in several places, where they will likely be met by weakened Russian resistance. This is Syrsky’s ‘active defence’ writ large – and buttressed, of course, by the fact that much-needed F-16 fighter jets may soon be on their way to Ukraine following the G7 meeting in Japan last week. The fall of Bakhmut may look like a disaster, then. But in this event may lie the keys to Ukraine’s ultimate triumph.

If this is what a Russian victory looks like, the Ukrainians might be willing to see more of them.

David Patrikarakos is UnHerd’s foreign correspondent and the author of War In 140 Characters


Usually thousands of kremtrolls descend on articles like this. A few have landed already. Some are obviously paid employees of the nazi PrigoZhin, but many are just alt-right sick scum who get a boner from Ukrainians being murdered by nazis.

Examples :

Kyle 35, Kyle, United States: Despite his best efforts the demented squatter in the White House has been thwarted from engaging the main US military in his criminal Ukraine activities. Hence the big push from the UK and NATO. So for these European commenters pushing all out war against a nuclear power…..have at it. Let us know how it turns out for you.

Whitey, Sydney, Australia: So Russia is really winning despite the continuing narrative that says Ukraine is winning. The capture of this city is a measurable result.

Dmme89, Tx, United States: The Russians had all 3 sides of the city for months. They left one side open so injured Ukrainian troops could leave, or Zelensky could send more in. Zelensky sent more in, because Bakhmut allows Russia to move towards the larger cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk. Taking the city also destroys Ukraine’s supply lines. The Russians have been using Bakhmut as a slaughter house for a long time. It was the perfect place to lure in Ukrainian troops. The Washington leak tells you that Ukraine is absolutely done for.

Overtaxed, Gold Coast, Australia: Bakhmut has no real strategic value? Apart from the fact it sits upon major crossroads, especially when the countryside turns to mud, and a railway runs north to south through it looking at the map. And Wagner is falling back to have a rest, and the Russian forces are taking over what’s left, according to yesterday’s news. And what year is the counter offensive taking place? The USA told Zel you have everything now to start, one problem is, that Ukraine still has 35,000 + men in various countries that are still being trained! And now you can have F16’s, but the training will take 4 to 12 months and the countries that are going to supply don’t know when! And Zels show is going worldwide courtesy of Air France military transport, why? Ukraine is getting smashed, but there is a circus of support, and trickle of weapons, it’s like winding a clock that has a undersized spring. Please Sir, can I have some more? Over 400 days in, and Billions thrown at an bottomless pit, it’s over!

ZigCOM, Birmingham, United Kingdom: Prigozhin addressing Zelensky: “Now, without sarcasm, Vladimir Aleksandrovich, your soldiers fought bravely. If you keep on this path, your army can become the number 2 army in the world, but only after the number 1 army – Wagner ..” .. That’s respect to his enemy only a Russian can show, because he knows that disrespecting your enemy is the first step to your own demise.

Heroyam Pisdetz, London, United Kingdom: 221 units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine participated in the battle of Artyomovsk. The irretrievable losses, understand the killed of the VSU, as of 22.02.2022. in Artyomovsk amount to no less than 55,000 people. This represents approximately 1/5 of all VSU losses as of 02/22/2022 so far. The total irretrievable losses of the VSU since the beginning of the SVO are approximately 415,000 people.


There is lots more nazi filth like that in the Mail 24/7. Some commenters have tried to counter them. Writing to moderators of Mail Online to tell them they are enablers for a fascist regime achieves zero results.

Some decent people still read the Mail and here are a few :

Four posts from Juststopjuststopoil, Cambridge, United Kingdom:

Putin wanted to have less NATO but has enabled Finland to join, Sweden currently has article five protection, and Ukraine. will be fast tracked after winning this war. He wanted to recreate the USSR, but has ended the Russian Federation. He wanted to destroy Ukraine, but has united it. He has failed miserably, and it is not going to be too long, before his time as President is done. If he had any sense, he would get out, whilst he still breathes.

The Russian Trolls claiming that 7 Ukranians are being killed for every Russian, are using the Russian altered version of the leaks as their sourc.e. Equally, they have no idea of the financial noose tightening around Russia’s neck either. They claim that not many countries applied sanctions, yet Switzerland applied sanctions for the first time ever. India may have bought cheap Russian oil, and China may be providing a few bits and pieces on the sly, yet the reality is that Russia only has three countries helping it, Iran, North Korea and Syria. Whereas Ukraine is being helped by the majority of the top 20 economies in the world, and I would not be surprised if India distances itself more from Russia as it becomes evident that Russia will lose this war in Ukraine. Finally, to those that suggest that there will be no counter offensive, not long to wait now.

The only way to secure Peace in Europe, is to defeat Putin. Either now, which is the soonest, and therefore the cheapest, and therefore the least risky option, or later, when it will be more expensive, more difficult, and much riskier if we allow the Invasion of Ukraine to succeed. So those bleating on about cost, miss the point entirely .The cost of acting is expensive, yet it is not as expensive as the cost of not acting. Irrespective of any moral obligation to help Ukraine.

The state of delusion amongst the Russian Trolls is hilarious. Russia has spent a year attacking Bakhmut, and has effectively destroyed it. Ukraine will be withdrawing fully any day, and starting the Counter Offensive, which the numpties deny will happen, as apparently the Ukrainians have no men, no weapons, no tanks, no bombs, no planes etc. They are claiming that no Kharzi missiles were hit, when all six were, and the rocket scientists have been arrested, charged with treason, and face 20 yrs in prison. The Patriot System was slightly damaged by debris, yet these numpties claim that a Transport Lorry being blown up, was part of the Patriot System, when it was not. The Russian forces in Ukraine currently, will either be killed, surrender, or starve, as they have little in the ay of provisions now, and when the supply routes are cut, they will have nothing. That bridge will be down very soon, as well, and then we can see just what power the Counter Offensive has.

Agnes MacPhail, Antarctica: Bakhmut is the slight-of-hand which has pre-occupied Russia, drawing their energies away from the big picture – Ukraine’s upcoming counter-offensive. Allowing Ukraine to choose the time and the place and to accumulate more weapons – most notably tanks and long-range missiles (as in Shadow Storm). Now Crimea, Putin’s jewel in Ukraine, is within the scope of Ukraine’s counter-offensive. Add Western military aircraft and Crimea can definitely be reclaimed !! Putin has overplayed Russia’s hand and will soon pay for his arrogance !!

Caitlin, Nirvana, Andorra: I truly weep at the destruction caused by Russia on Ukraine on people, just like you and I who go about our daily lives. Children to school, students to university, hospital appointments etc etc. Russia is razing Ukraine to the ground and for what? According to my polish mother it’s worse than WW2.

Rue Britannia, London: Be in no doubt. russia has walked into a trap set by Prigozhin that will be sprung by Ukraine. Prigozhin’s motive? To humiliate the russian command and, ultimately, to clear the way for try to further his own power ambitions. He clearly expects the f@scist regime in russia to coIIapse and, by the look of it, he expects that to happen sooner rather than later.

Monopthalmis, BABYLON, Australia: The mighty Russian military, once thought capable of beating or equaling the power of the United States has proved that they have the power to capture a small town in Ukraine, if given an unlimited amount of time, munitions and plenty of cannon fodder!!! Some victory! LOL.


  1. The partial or total occupation of Bakhmut is a victory for the foul scum. They have inflicted terrible pain and suffering on an entire nation of blameless people. This coming after the bombing of a children’s theatre in Mariupol and the total destruction of that city. That should have been the time when the civilised world said “enough is enough, this will not be allowed to continue.”

    The success of a girl-strangling nazi convict and his convict murder gang is a disgrace. Not for Ukraine, but for the entire world, who stood by as the Ukrainians, outmanned, outgunned and still having to use old Soviet artillery, had to withstand phosphorus attacks, 24/7 shelling and wave after wave of suicide attacks from savages.
    There will have to be an audit of the military and civilian casualties that could have been avoided if Ukraine’s so called friends had acted decisively much earlier.

    • Like I said before, Biden has been delaying, delaying, delaying. He’s about 6 months behind.

      1st It was the missiles, then he sent HIMARS and altered the range, without telling Ukraine. Ukraine found out on the battlefield and then it was finally told to the Ukraine by the US. Then is was no Bradley’s, then it was okay, training for Bradley’s but not Bradley’s. Then is was okay for the Bradley’s but still no long range weapons. Then it was no F16’s. Then it was okay for training on the F16’s, but no F16’s. Now it’s okay for the F16’s but we’re not going to supply them. #%#$#%#wtf Biden is a mess and compromised!

      IF Ukraine had these weapons a year ago, even 6mths, This war would be a very different picture right now.

      There are also other countries supplying Russia, which no one does anything about..ie South Africa, Venezuela etc.

      Then there’s the Corportation’s from the west, who refuse to stop selling to Russia. They say they’re leaving Russia, but they don’t, they just change their name in Russia and still sell the same goods. This is widely known too the west too, but again, no one does a dam thing

      Too much lip service from the West.

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