Ukrainian Troops Inflict Catastrophic Losses Against Russia in Longest-Running Battle
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KYIV, Ukraine – Russia's assault on the eastern Ukrainian town of Bakhmut has now become the longest-running battle in Russia's ongoing invasion. Ukrainian forces have managed to hold the city and inflict catastrophic losses against all odds.
For more than seven months, Russian mercenaries and conscripts have been throwing everything they have at this small city, with some estimates putting the death toll as high as a thousand per day. Despite the heavy losses, Russia remained determined to take what's left of Bakhmut, making slow gains at encircling it even as their constant shelling reduced their prize to rubble. What was a thriving city of 70,000 now lies in ruins.
Experts predicted a large winter offensive by Russia that never materialized. And as the spring thaw arrives, British intelligence suggests Russia is shifting to a defensive posture in eastern Ukraine, anticipating a massive counterattack.
Open Source Intelligence Expert Ryan McBeth explains, "I think that Russia wanted to preserve some kind of breakthrough or attack this winter, but I don't know if they have enough artillery ammunition to do so. And I say that because I bought satellite footage of Bakhmut. There is one area apartment that was obviously either a Ukrainian supply depot or a command post. That place should have looked like the surface of the moon. And yet there were only 13 shells. And that was the first indicator I had that Russia may be running out of critical ammunition that it needs to force an attack."
Russia has not made significant gains since July. One reason for that is Petro Kuzyk. He commands Ukraine's elite Svoboda battalion and has spent months resisting the Russian advance.
Commander Kuzyk tells us, "The battle in Bakhmut is a nightmare for infantry. The only place to hide is a hole in the ground. You can't expect support from heavily armed vehicles. It's not easy to dig the trenches. Russian artillery turns them to mush just in 30 minutes. We gained a lot of experience, but unfortunately, we paid dearly for it."
McBeth explains, "I think that Russian progress has been intermittent. They're making some gains, and then they get pushed back. The front lines are very fluid, and I think you can see that by the lack of barbed wire. The lines are so fluid, there's no point in getting up there and putting up barbed wire. That'll only give you a small defensive advantage."
Kuzyk says, "The intensity is very high. I would say that we put out of action about 1,000 enemy personnel in the past 4 months. And more than that were injured. That's just in our zone of responsibility. Sometimes it was hard to walk the area in front of us without stepping on dead Russians."
Commander Kuzyk says the Ukrainians have managed to hold out against far superior numbers, even despite a shortage of ammunition.
"The way we fight is very far from NATO standards because our infantry has to do a lot of extra work. We cover the shortage of ammunition with the blood of young soldiers. But we are ready to keep on doing this because we don't have any other choice," he says.
Russia may take the city, but at a cost of more than 10,000 dead Russians, analysts say it's difficult to call that a win.
Regardless, Commander Kuzyk claims his men will fight to the end.
"We are scared that this war will be passed to new generations unsolved. We trust our president, but there could appear a foreign politician who will start the game with negotiations as a way to save face for Putin," he says.
For now, Ukraine needs more military chaplains to help men who have been fighting for over a year. New chaplains who are eager to aid the war effort were recently ordained at Kyiv's ancient Saint Sophia's Cathedral.
Junior lieutenant military chaplain Gennadiy Rohmanenko says, "In the fog of war, a person sometimes loses his bearings. Therefore, the most difficult thing for a soldier in these conditions is to remain human. So chaplains do everything possible to treat a soldier's soul after their combat duties. It means helping them to remain human, with a capital H."
Commander Kuzyk says, "We trust the leaders of our army. We trust our Commander-in-Chief 100%. But the problem has to be solved once and forever. They have to pay for their mistakes, and the idea to attack Ukraine should never again enter their minds."
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