Tensions continue to rise as hostilities escalate between Russian and Ukrainian forces in the region surrounding the damaged city of Bakhmut.
This marks an intensification in the ongoing, brutal battle for control of Eastern Ukraine, which is a part of Russia’s larger conflict.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described the situation in Bakhmut and the neighboring city of Soledar as dire. “Everything is entirely destroyed, almost no life left,” Zelenskyy said in a recent statement.
He also reported that the surrounding land is “covered with the corpses of the Russian soldiers and blemishes from the strikes. This is what madness looks like.”
Russia’s annexation of Donetsk and three other Ukrainian provinces in September has been met with resistance, and their troops have faced challenges in making further advancements.
The battle for control of the region intensified in November following the Ukrainian military’s recapture of the southern city of Kherson.
Hanna Malyar, Ukraine’s deputy defense minister, has accused Russia of using “a large number of soldier groups” in the fight for Bakhmut and of using artillery, rocket launchers, and mortars without regard for their own soldiers’ lives.
Pavlo Kyrylenko, the governor of Donetsk appointed by Kyiv, also criticized the Russian attacks on Soledar and Bakhmut as relentless and indiscriminate.
The situation on the ground is dire, with wounded soldiers arriving at medical facilities near the front line around Bakhmut on a continuous basis.
Medics at a stabilization center for combat casualties are working tirelessly to save lives, but the severity of injuries often makes it impossible.
Moscow supported the leaders of the occupied areas of Donetsk, Denis Pushilin recently stated that Russian forces came “very close” to annexing Soledar.
However, he acknowledged that the gains were coming at a high cost. Control over Soledar would provide an advantageous position for an assault on Bakhmut and the town of Siversk further north, where Ukrainian fortifications are also strong.
The UK Defense Ministry agrees with this assessment of the situation, reporting that Russian troops, along with soldiers from the Wagner Group, a Russian private military contractor, have made significant advancements in Soledar and it seems they’re in complete control of most of the settlement.
They added that while Moscow’s immediate objective is likely to take control of Soledar, in order to encircle Bakhmut, Ukrainian forces have been able to maintain stable defensive lines and control of the major supply routes in the area.
The fighting in the region has also been complicated by the presence of disused salt mine tunnels running for about 200 kilometers underneath the area, leading to concerns that they could be used for infiltration by either side.
In light of the escalating violence and mounting casualties, calls for a peaceful resolution to the conflict are growing louder.
However, with Russia’s Defense Minister, Shoigu, coming under criticism for his handling of the situation, it remains to witness what actions will be taken to bring an end to the fighting.