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28 Feb, 2023 21:02

Ukraine sends more reinforcements to Artyomovsk ‘meat grinder’

The Donbass city is almost encircled and Western officials have reportedly been urging Kiev to retreat for weeks
Ukraine sends more reinforcements to Artyomovsk ‘meat grinder’

Kiev has sent reinforcements to the strategically vital city of Artyomovsk/Bakhmut, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Anna Maliar said on Tuesday. The city has been pounded by Russian artillery, to the point where Kiev’s Western backers have reportedly called on President Vladimir Zelensky to cut his losses and withdraw.

Maliar announced the deployment of reinforcements on national television, with various Ukrainian media outlets carrying her comments. According to the deputy minister, the decision to reinforce Artyomovsk (called Bakhmut in Ukraine) was “made by the military, who are not guided by political motives.”

Artyomovsk is a major Ukrainian stronghold and logistics hub in the People’s Republic of Donetsk (DPR). Russian forces, primarily members of the Wagner private military corporation, have systematically seized outlying settlements around the city in a months-long campaign, and now control the areas to the north, south and east of Artyomovsk.

While Zelensky declared a month ago that “nobody is going to surrender Bakhmut,” he has since said that the city will only be held “while it remains reasonable” to do so. Doing so, however, has proven costly. While Ukraine has not released the number of troops it has lost in Artyomovsk, Zelensky has admitted that fighting there is “hell,” while a prominent Ukrainian reporter described the situation all across the Donbass front last year as “a senseless meat grinder.”

The current state of attritional warfare plays to Russia’s strengths, allowing Russian forces to leverage their artillery superiority. Wagner founder Evgeny Prigozhin stated last month that seizing a settlement like Artyomovsk was a secondary goal compared to “the destruction of the Ukrainian army and the reduction of its combat potential.”

According to a recent Washington Post report, senior US officials believe that Zelensky “attaches symbolic importance” to the city, and fears a collapse in morale if it is surrendered. According to the Post and other US media outlets, the White House has been pressing Ukraine since January to relinquish Artyomovsk and look for opportunities to attack elsewhere.