“It used to be that visitors would browse through Bakhmut’s late 19th century buildings, enjoy walks in its rose-lined lakeside park and revel in the sparkling wines produced in historic underground caves. That was when this city in eastern Ukraine was a popular tourist destination.
No more. The longest battle of Russia’s war has turned this city of salt and gypsum mines into a ghost town. Despite bombing, shelling and attempts to encircle Bakhmut for six months, Russia’s forces have not conquered it.
But their scorched-earth tactics have made it impossible for civilians to have any semblance of a life there.
“It’s hell on earth right now; I can’t find enough words to describe it,” said Ukrainian soldier Petro Voloschenko, who is known on the battlefield as Stone, his voice rising with emotion and resentment.
Voloschenko, who is originally from Kyiv, arrived in the area in August when the Russian assault started and has since celebrated his birthday, Christmas and New Year’s there.
The 44-year-old saw the city, located around 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Russia’s border, gradually turned into a wasteland of ruins. Most of the houses are crushed, without roofs, ceilings, windows or doors, making them uninhabitable, he said.
Out of a prewar population of 80,000, a few thousand residents remain. They rarely see daylight because they spend most of their time in basements sheltering from the ferocious fighting around and above them. The city constantly shudders with the muffled sound of explosions, the whizzing of mortars and a constant soundtrack of artillery. Anywhere is a potential target.
Bakhmut lies in Donetsk province, one of four that Russia illegally annexed in the fall — but Moscow only controls about half of it. To take the remaining half, Russian forces have no choice but to go through Bakhmut, which offers the only approach to bigger Ukrainian-held cities since Ukrainian troops took back Izium in Kharkiv province in September, according to Mykola Bielieskov, a research fellow at Ukraine’s National Institute for Strategic Studies.
“Without seizure of these cities, the Russian army won’t be able to accomplish the political task it was given,” Bielieskov said.”
Comment: Crunch time for all. pl’
War’s longest battle exacts high price in ‘heart of Ukraine’ | AP News
The US is asking Cuba (Cuba!) for arms to send to Ukraine and offering up US arms in lieu.
As they say, I’ve seen enough. I think it’s obvious who is winning this one if it doesn’t spill beyond Ukraine’s borders. Is that something you would like to see, or are you of the thought that the Russians won’t dare.
In Reuters today:
“… Two U.S. officials said a new $2 billion package of military aid to be announced as soon as this week would for the first time include Ground Launched Small Diameter Bombs (GLSDB), a new weapon designed by Boeing. (BA.N)
The cheap gliding missiles can strike targets more than 150 km (90 miles) away, a dramatic increase over the 80 km range of the rockets fired by HIMARS systems which changed the face of the war when Washington sent them last summer.
That would put all of the Russian-occupied territory on Ukraine’s mainland, as well as parts of the Crimea peninsula seized by Moscow in 2014, within range of Kyiv’s forces….”
The RU shelling of Bakhmut started back in May 2022 eight months ago. The ground offensive soon followed. And RU forces have advanced what – maybe less than ten km? Amazing defense, the Battle of Stalingrad lasted only five months. The UKR flanks at Bakhmut don’t look good, but if needed they will withdraw before being put in a cauldron like Paulus in ’42. RU propaganda brigades will claim else-wise, But it will be BS. Zaluzhnyi, a veteran of Debaltseve, will be mindful and watch those flanks closely.
Leith – it’s a while ago now that there seemed to be something odd about the Russians method of conducting this war. They seemed to be content to more or less sit around not doing that much. I wondered why. I looked up the records of the Imperial War Museum to see what Falkenhayn had intended at Verdun.
It was very simple, his plan. He was attacking an iconic location. He could therefore rely on the French defending that location come what may. With his superior artillery he could destroy the troops being fed in by the French with fewer losses his side.
It didn’t work. He did inflict enormous casualties but took them too. But that “Falkenhayn scenario” is the approach being adopted by the Russians along that long line in the Donbass.
I’ve lost count of the number of analysts I’ve seen using that same example. They usually call it the Verdun Scenario. I saw Reisner using just that term quite early on. Prigozhin confirmed that was the Russian approach a while back and Surovikin has explicitly stated that’s what’s being done.
It’s now called the “meat grinder”. The Russians don’t need at present to attack all over Ukraine to destroy Ukrainian troops. Kiev sends them to the front line where, with superior artillery and easy logistics, the Russians can destroy them there.
According to the gossip – maybe more than that – both Zaluzhnyi and the Pentagon do not want this to continue. There are plans for deploying training up new forces for a later Ukrainian offensive, armoured brigades and the like, and they don’t want to see such losses while that’s being prepared.
But Kiev is still insisting on feeding troops into the meat grinder. I suspect Zelensky can do nothing else. The government is Kiev is in a more precarious position than is usually acknowledged and the admission that the great sacrifice of Ukrainian troops was in vain would shake it further.
What we’re seeing is large numbers of Ukrainians getting killed simply because neither Washington nor Kiev can yet admit defeat. Whatever one’s view on the war or on the way it’s being conducted, that pointless loss of so many men is wrong and should stop.
This war will end either with a straight military defeat or, admittedly less likely but still possible, with political change in Kiev. There is no way it’s going to be won. Therefore these men should not be sacrificed.
It is certainly a meat grinder. But RU troops are the ones taking the worst of the casualties. You, or others, will say: “The Russians can afford massive casualties, the Ukrainians can’t afford a tenth as much.” Perhaps. Or not? It’s a shame that both Russian and Ukrainian boys are being sacrificed.
What we’re really seeing is huge numbers of Russians getting killed simply to save face in the Kremlin. For political reasons Putin previously proclaimed all of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts as Russian territory. But they never could take all that. The current Russian lines in Donetsk Oblast are not much bigger than they were a year ago. So now he wants to use Bakhmut as the gateway to occupying the rest of of that province. And then perhaps he could tell Moscow that he made good on protecting Mother Russia. Ukrainians are stopping him from doing that. But I suspect that for now Bakhmut is a sideshow and a Russian offensive will be further north. I hope Zaluzhnyi has eyes everywhere.
I do agree with you though “that pointless loss of so many men is wrong and should stop.” Although you are 180 degrees wrong about which side is taking the majority of the casualties. And by the way Russian forces at Bakhmut and everywhere else actually have inferior logistics, except those units much nearer to the Russian border. I recommend balance in reading about this wat. Both sides try to put a spin on what is happening at the front. Don’t believe 100% of what RT and other of Putin’s so-called news organs say. Don’t believe 100% of what Kyiv claims. Listen to both, then decide which one is closer to true.
…war, not wat…
Xin lỗi. I’m getting fumble-fingered in my old age.
không có chi
Yes, the Colonel’s site is merciless. Type wrong and it’s there for good. The children used to enjoy reading my comments here. Not for the substance! They found that boring. But for the typing errors and particularly the little bits that dropped down to the bottom of the box and I forgot to delete.
I know what you mean about taking information on trust. I myself feel very strongly on this one that the Russians are in the right and we in the wrong. Naturally that colours how one looks at the information put out by both sides. Bound to.
But I’ve “known” from the very start that we’re on a loser here. No way Russia was ever going to be defeated militarily. And on the sanctions war, the key area of the conflict, even more so.
As an American you’ll see that sanctions war differently. If the worst comes to the worst you have enough food and power. But for a European!
The Europeans said to the Russians from the start they intended to break the Russian economy. At the same time assuming that the Russians would continue to supply them with what they needed to keep their own economies going!
That’s why I regard Scholz, the most powerful man in Europe by far, as such a loser. Dumb and sly at the same time.
Dumb because it was never going to work. Sly because for all the brave talk he was getting Russian piped gas at dirt cheap prices all along and intended to keep it that way. Shan’t detail here what the Germans were getting up to on the natural gas market at the same time but I can assure you, Europe was no band of brothers back in 2022. More quietly cutting each others’ throats while failing to cut the Russians’.
The Europoodles, I call ’em. And HMG with our ersatz Churchill the worst of the lot. Even were I to believe that we were in the right I’d still be appalled at the incompetence, dithering and duplicity our European leaders have displayed in the course of this conflict.
Not that they matter in the wider context any more. It’s Washington has had the steering wheel all along. And there the Nulands, Sullivans and Blinkens have, I believe, steered the West into the biggest shambles ever.
I think this conflict will be a shot in the arm for the Russians. They’ll be working away still at pulling their country out of the state it got into in the ’90’s. Could be a shot in the arm for the Americans. It’s a lively political scene you have over there and from the turmoil a better course could well emerge.
It won’t be a shot in the arm for the Europoodles. No point trying to resuscitate a corpse.
Fred W –
I never could get the dialects straight but then I’ve always had a tin ear. Was thinking more like không có gì, must be a north, south, or central thing.
I’ve always enjoyed reading your comments here. You write a refined and gentlemanly sort of prose. Even so we disagree on much.
Regarding taking information on trust, here is that misattributed Bismarck quote from the Chris Snow page that was linked to below: ”People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war, or before an election.”
You shouldn’t be so hard on Scholz. He was only looking out for the best interests of his country. But he has seen the light and has stated recently the only way for the war to end is for Russia to withdraw from Ukraine.
gì is what I would expect too. But I learned it as “không có chi”, which I think was the version at the DLI course for southern dialect. A quick internet search indicates that gì is the more common form in the South. I spent most of my time in the delta, so could have picked it up there regardless of DLI.
Fred W –
Never got to DLI. They sent me to a short 8-week course in Hawaii prior to my deployment. So I stumbled a lot with the tonal sounds.
There is a slight difference in tone. “Không có chi” is “It’s OK”, a polite respond to someone saying sorry. “Không có gì quan trọng (nothing important )” is a respond similar to saying “No problem” or “Fuggedaboutit”. You’d don’t oftenly hear a person says “Không có chi” to a subordinate.
Tony L –
Thanks for the insight.
Ukrainians have apparently told the Pentagon that their 200s (KIA) stand at 235,000. Given that they’re trying to draft blind, and handless men, that figure is believable. Russian 200s (KIA) are calculated at between 23,500 and 30,000. All Western news is based on Ukrainian propaganda.
Russia’s stated aims at the beginning of the SMO was the de-militarisation and de-nazification of the Ukraine. It appears that they are achieving their aims.
Those figures are absolute bullshit. I don’t know whose ass you pulled those numbers from, but they’re not even close to any of the reasonable casualty estimates out there. The Ukrainians don’t even suggest Russia has lost anything like 235,000 KIA. Here’s a more in depth discussion of casualty estimation.
TTG, Snow the First?
“30 plus year old historian and professor and expert for modern european history with a focus on “culture of remembrance”, and ethics. Personal focus on geopolitics and world affairs.”
Ok, I am not a fan of Russia’s criminalization of Memorial either, or comparative legal trends.
But expert? This war must have lots of experts around.
What happen after 2013? He entered the field of cyberscribes as expert? See pdf below:
chi is the more common form in the South. Too much cut and paste.
Here’s two Australians, both with military background, discussing Bakhmut and Wagner. One of them is there still and took active part in combat.
wiz – I have seen segments of that interview but I couldn’t find the full thing. Thanks very much. It’s a great interview.
Piss poor planning on NATO. Both sides have made critical mistakes but NATO has made a lot more. The fortifications are good in this area but only for slowing, it will not stop Russia. Who knows where this goes but it’s not stopping.
Pat Lang welcome back! Trust ur repairs went well.
Indeed! Good to see the Colonel back in the saddle.
IMO, this is all keeping the seat warm, until the “real” offensives start back again. Putin is going to have to go big to breakthrough the Ukrainian army defenses. Will they succeed or not will only be known once the “big” resumes in earnest.
For those who believe that Ukraine is doomed to military defeat and subjugation by the Russian army, I suggest you should contemplate the failure of the Hostomel airport capture by Russia’s elite airborne forces when the Ukrainian army was least prepared on the opening day of the invasion. While Biden and US intelligence were loudly proclaiming an imminent Russian invasion, even Zelensky was skeptical. And it showed in their military preparedness on those initial days after the Russian ground, air and sea attacks.
The Ukrainian army is in much better fighting condition today. As Col. Lang has noted many times that an army that comes through a tough fight gets better and stronger. The Ukrainian army are clearly at a disadvantage in numbers of both men and material, however, they’ve not only survived a year but have pushed back the Russian army on many fronts.
I wouldn’t count them out now. On the other hand if the Russian army fails in its next major offensive then it will likely be the end of Putin.
If Ukraine’s army is so much stronger now then why such rush to supply it with tanks and ammo and IFVs, APCs and AA and pretty much everything ?
Where has all the initial equipment go, plus the stuff we’ve sent them since ? The UK sent some 10 000 NLAWs alone.
They had a lot of gear, plus according to “experts” they captured hundreds of Russian tanks in Kharkiv offensive.
You think only the Ukrainians are learning from experiance ?
Initially, “experts” overestimated the Russian military and underestimated the Ukrainian one. Now it is the reverse.
We’ll see what the next offensives bring, but IMO the Russians are much more dangerous now than they were in the beginning.
“If Ukraine’s army is so much stronger now then why such rush to supply it with tanks and ammo and IFVs, APCs and AA and pretty much everything ?“
That should be obvious to the most casual observer. Any army at war needs continuous replenishments of men & material. Ukraine will be receiving more modern weapons systems to enhance their limited capabilities. The timing of when they arrive at the battlefield is yet unknown.
The fact that a much smaller army with much less sophisticated weaponry have been able to defend themselves from the onslaught of a “super power” army is a point not to be missed. The Russian airforce does not have air superiority. The Russian missile and drone attack on Ukrainian infrastructure haven’t got them crying uncle. They have sunk the flagship of the Russian Black Sea fleet and damaged the Crimean bridge and mounted successful counter attacks in the Kharkiv and Kherson regions. Does Russia actually have a super-power army if they can’t defeat the Ukrainian army after a year of fighting?
Indeed, this next phase of the war is Putin’s do or die moment. All the Ukrainian army needs to do is not collapse and hold most of their defensive lines. If their counter-offensives are successful as it was last Fall, that is a bonus. The onus is on the Russian army to defeat the Ukrainian army. After all they were the ones that invaded.
You list various achievements of the Ukrainian army and I don’t dispute them. However this is not my point.
Ukraine started the war with a large fleet of tanks and other armored wehicles. According to various Western sources, it has captured more tanks than it has lost.
Yet, considering the quantities of tanks and other hardware Ukraine has been getting it suggests that the attrition is much worse than reported.
You can feel a definitive sense urgency in Ukraine trying to get more tanks, more ammo, more everything. You can even start increasingly hearing opinions that some sort of Western coalition should send troops on the ground. There are interviews with foreign fighters defending Ukraine who tells us that it is not all just zerg rushes and human waves of unequipped and untrained mobiks and convicts.
This and other info tell me that while Ukrainians have certainly learned from the past year of experience, so have the Russians.
One more year of this and the Russian army might well become the juggernaut the Western analysts thought it was before the war started.
As they should if they want to be well prepared for the next offensives this coming Spring/Summer. That’s showing good planning. They are a much smaller country with a significantly smaller military equipment industrial base compared to Russia. It would be derelict on their part if they didn’t canvas to receive as much weaponry as they could to be as well positioned as they can be for the next year.
Or not. What if the much smaller & less equipped Ukrainian army blunts the next offensives of the Russian army and in their counter-offensives breaks through in the south, just as they did last Fall?
No, this time is different.
Even Arestovich is having some doubts, and he should be well informed.
In the fall, Ukrainian offensive in Kharkiv met with little resistance and routed the Russians who were stretched thin in the area. Once they reinforced their lines, the advanced came to a stop.
In Kherson the Ruskies withdrew to avoid being cut off. It was more thanks to HIMARS than to some clever Ukrainian offensive.
Perhaps, the promised longer range artillery will make it possible for Ukrainians to cut Russian MSRs in the weeks to come, and chase them away from the south and Crimea, but somehow I doubt that.
UKR must have the tools and intel needed to stop all the RU missiles [ballistic and cruise], drones, and artillery at the source to help stop this war of attrition. Do we – NATO, the EU, and USA – really expect Ukraine to endlessly absorb the cost?
Slightly off topic, but picking up on TTG’s expert on casualities, Snow I:
The history and approaching Fall of the Russian empire:
Anatol Lieven and Artin DerSimonian
Both are interesting articles, especially the first one. Somebody the other day quoted here a Putin spokesman saying or summarized as saying ‘without Putin there is no Russia and without Russia there is no Putin’. As near as I can recall anyway. No more Putin has its appeal. A partly broken up Russia is also appealing. Partly, not smashed into tiny pieces.
There is an article in Foreign Policy by two co-founders of the Russian Action Committee, suggesting that America is definitively essential in bringing down Putin’s regime. If only you support Ukraine more and less hesitantly (Although that may have been about tanks at that point in time), it’s doable: Kasparov & Khodorkovsky. Maybe there are Western shareholders of Yukos that might feel this is good news. Vague déjà vu?
Don’t Fear Putin’s Demise. Victory for Ukraine, Democracy for Russia, by Garry Kasparov and Mikhail Khodorkovsky
January 20, 2023
… Pro-democracy Russians who reject the totalitarian Putin regime—a group to which the authors belong—are doing what they can to help Ukraine liberate all occupied territories and restore its territorial integrity in accordance with the internationally recognized borders of 1991. We are also planning for the day after Putin. The Russian Action Committee, a coalition of opposition groups in exile that we co-founded in May 2022, aims to ensure that Ukraine is justly compensated for the damage caused by Putin’s aggression, that all war criminals are held accountable, and that Russia is transformed from a rogue dictatorship into a parliamentary federal republic. The looming end of Putin’s reign need not be feared, in other words; it should be welcomed with open arms.
From their keyboards to God’s ear.
There are western shareholders in Yukos? Since Yukos bought $800 billion dollars of mineral rights for only $200 million, in a rigged auction, in which nobody but Yukos was allowed to bid … wouldn’t US citizens owning shares in the proceeds of that corruption be a violation of US anti-corruption laws?
James, I was babbling.
Ages ago, when he was jailed, I read a quite good portrait of him in our DIE ZEIT. “If” it was part of a larger PR campaign, it did a good job. 😉
That was on my mind. It left a very specific memory trail. His Oligarch colleagues had warned him to take his money and run. But he didn’t want to. Russia, was his country, after all. For whatever reason, I most vividly recall from the article (in this context?) MK also told the author, he deeply disliked the conditions at which he had to borrow money for his business. In the West! Obviously, they all needed a lot of money for their Loan for Shares Schemes. Never had I spent a single thought on that. And they needed money thereafter to modernize. The article did not get specific. How high were the interest charges for Russia generally at the time, and what additional danger fees were heaped on their loans? So, yes, that means there were Western profiteers too.
You are not seriously suggesting that once he/they owned matters, anyone in the West worried about how it came about.
Now, how did Russia handle matters when they disowned and jailed him. I would assume they took over the Western loan conditions and served them according to contract. To the extent they understood his complex enterprise structures, both in Russia and abroad, that is. 😉
Nice to see That “PL”,,,,After “Crunch Time For All”’
You Can Tell The Nut Cracker is Ready To Crunch..Depends on
Who Has The Most Nuts..NOW…And When..Where”’and HOW.
Reads Like the Ukraine Side is close to Maxed Out..and Desperate
And Russia knows..There is Angst and Foot Dragging. And Politics
aand senses Advantage..Even Z is Talking Negations. While He
Purges His Administration of Tax Collectors..
Those Tanks..Delivery and Training are Months Out..Short term..
The Ukrainians get More Missile Range 93 Miles..
Putin Seems determined To Hold..Not Fold..Training Better..
Planning Better…Leaving Railroadsalone..and May Have some
Very Large Wins…to Be a Winner..The Question Always Is..
Advantage…Who..Where..and When..Under What Banner,,
In What Manner….”Crunch”
Jim Ticehurst – it’s the possibility of Kiev getting longer and longer range missiles supplied that seals the fate of the old Ukraine. Some sort of DMZ will have to extend all the way to the Polish frontier.
A contrarian in most respects on this war, contrarian to both sides, I’m sorry to see the old Ukraine go. It had a vile history and deep fissures but was slowly pulling itself into a nation. My personal belief is that its fate was sealed long since, with the negotiations on the Association Agreement pre-2014. But whenever its fate was sealed, it’s gone now.
long range missiles will be used as a propaganda tool in Russia.
It was long their claim that missiles from a hostile Ukraine (or Poland or Romania) could be used to attack Moscow and St. Petersburg.
If such an attack actually comes they’ll use it to justify whatever escalation they have prepared.
I believe the shortened flight times are a real concern. Ten minutes to Moscow, soon to be reduced, is not very long for someone down the chain to find out it was just a flock of birds, or a conventional missile. I don’t fancy living again with the constant danger of accidental nuclear exchange as we did during the Cold War, but now with that danger considerably increased.
But that’s one of the problems that’ll have to be sorted out after the Ukrainian war has ended. It’s then that the Russians will probably return to the security demands made in late 2021. There’s going to have to be a new “European Security Architecture”, as Macron put it, if both we Europeans and the Russians are not to be living the Scholz/Stoltenberg vision of Europe becoming an armed camp perpetually at war.
But for now, we merely wait to see what the Russians intend with the Ukraine. Some puzzles there I don’t think it’ll be that easy to solve. As outlined, occupy remnant Ukraine and that’s a heap of trouble and expense. Don’t occupy, and it remains an unpredictable NATO wild card right on their border. Vengeful Banderites with missiles aren’t what you want next door.
However they decide to solve that puzzle, the NATO intention of supplying longer range missiles to Kiev, or even the fear of that intention, will mean the Russians will have to solve it one way or another.