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12 Apr, 2023 19:18

Ukrainians question why they are fighting in Donbass town – Bild 

Kiev's troops are "tense and worried" as Russia takes the upper hand in Artyomovsk, tabloid claims
Ukrainians question why they are fighting in Donbass town – Bild 

Many Ukrainian soldiers are not convinced the town of Artyomovsk – which they call Bakhmut – is worth clinging to, as Russian forces are advancing street by street, the German outlet Bild reported on Wednesday.

“Bakhmut is hell,” wrote freelance journalist Jan Humin, who visited the town last week and wrote about one 28-year-old soldier who was badly injured. The armored ambulance refused to start, so the soldier from western Ukraine had to be evacuated by a jeep on a dirt road, dodging Russian artillery fire.

“The positive energy that surprises you everywhere in Ukraine, even when things are going badly, cannot be felt in Bakhmut,” Humin added. “Few soldiers feel like talking; while the sound of constant impacts is heard, they sit still and wait for what is to come.” 

The Russians are “slowly but surely winning” the seven-month battle for the town, with only two roads still connecting the “almost surrounded” Artyomovsk to the Ukrainian rear, according to Humin. The Russians are advancing street by street and “it seems only a matter of time” before they capture the town completely.

“The mood among the military is tense, focused, and worried. Many wonder what they are fighting for in Bakhmut. Is it really still worth defending this devastated city against the repeated attacks of the Russian armed forces,” the Bild correspondent added.

Russia’s interest in taking Artyomovsk is a matter of public record. The town is the linchpin of the Ukrainian army’s entire position in the Donbass, and taking it would allow further advance deep into Ukrainian-held territory, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said last month. Up the road from Artyomovsk lies Slavyansk, where the Donetsk People’s Republic rebellion against the US-backed coup government in Kiev began in 2014.

The Wagner Group private military company has taken point in the storming of Artyomovsk, enveloping the town to the north and the south while also fighting street by street, building by building, to take the urban area. On April 2, Wagner fighters captured the city administration building. Wagner leader Evgeny Prigozhin has claimed the fighting in Artyomovsk has “almost destroyed the Ukrainian army.” 

The fighting has continued, however, as the government in Kiev has continued to funnel men, ammunition and supplies into the shrinking salient. President Vladimir Zelensky has vowed to hold the town at all cost, even as his Western backers have warned that such efforts were depleting the forces intended for Ukraine’s “great spring counteroffensive.”