What you need to know about the Battle of Bakhmut as Russian fighters enter the eastern city

A view of the city of Bakhmut, Ukraine, on October 15. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian forces are moving ever closer to capturing the town of Bakhmut, after weeks of bloody fighting that have gradually worn down a resolute Ukrainian resistance. Here’s what you need to know about the Battle of Bakhmut:

Why is Bakhmut the center of attention?

Bakhmut isn’t the kind of town Moscow hoped to fight for in the second year of its invasion – it’s a relatively small place in eastern Donetsk, which remained out of reach of the slow-moving land campaign. of Russia for many months.

Russian forces have made further gains around the city, but Ukrainian forces have yet to retreat, creating a stalemate reminiscent of the endless battles for other eastern cities such as Severodonetsk during the past year.

Capturing Bakhmut would represent military progress for Russian President Vladimir Putin and give his forces the ability to launch airstrikes on more urban areas farther west.

What’s going on in the field?

There are still about 4,500 civilians in Bakhmut, including 48 children, spokeswoman for Ukraine’s regional military administration in Donetsk, Tetiana Ignatchenko, told CNN on Wednesday. She called on people to evacuate the city due to the danger.

But Ukrainian troops have acknowledged that it is becoming increasingly difficult to hold on to the town as the roads from the west are compressed by Russian forces, who have advanced both north and south of Bakhmut.

The Ukrainian military has also confirmed that Russian forces are employing more experienced fighters drawn from the ranks of Russia’s private military company Wagner as they attempt to capture the city.

What does Bakhmut mean for war?

Capturing the city would represent a long-sought success for Moscow’s forces – and provide limited strategic value. It has important road connections to other parts of the Donetsk region; east to the border with Luhansk, northwest to Sloviansk and southwest to Kostiantynivka.

If the Russians could take the high ground west of the city, the nearby industrial towns of Kostiantynivka and Kramatorsk would be at the mercy of their artillery and even their longer-range mortars. And it is unclear exactly where the Ukrainian forces would fall back if they withdrew from the city.

It also counts for Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, who was keen to show his men can deliver with the capture of Soledar and now Bakhmut.

But experts say capturing Bakhmut is unlikely to dramatically change the overall picture of the war in eastern Ukraine, where few territories have changed hands in 2023.

CNN’s Tim Lister, Vasco Cotovio, Olga Voitovych, Jessie Gretener, Eleanor Pickston and Laura Ford contributed reporting


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