“They run at us like zombies”

For several months now, the Russian group “Wagner” has been trying to storm Bakhmut in the Donetsk region. Attackers don’t seem to care about their lives for a long time.

Bachmuth shows the madness of the Russian attack Ukraine especially clear. The Russians, led by Wagner’s mercenary group, had been trying in vain to conquer the city for several months Region to take Donetsk – although it has long since lost its strategic importance. Minimal gains in territory are offset by huge losses to the attackers, but they don’t care.

“With night vision goggles, we can see them rushing towards us like zombies,” Ukrainian soldier Jura told the Finnish portal Iltalehti. His reporter visited Ukrainian defenders in Soledar, a suburb northeast of Bakhmut. “They just come at us in big groups. When we start shooting, they don’t even try to take cover. They just run like in slow motion,” says a soldier of the 93rd Motorized Infantry Brigade, describing the behavior of the soldiers. Russians.

Ukrainians withstand attacks

The soldier suspects that the Russian attackers are under the influence of drugs. “Nobody acts like that. Doesn’t go down, doesn’t go down when we shoot—nothing.” However, the problem for defenders is the large number of attackers, says Jura: “Their number is increasing. In fact, Bakhmut is the only combat zone in Ukraine where the Russians are still on the offensive.

Two men in Bachmut: Before the war, the city had a population of 70,000, now about 15,000 people still live in the city. (Those: Efrems Lukatskis)

“They tried to break through from different directions: from the north from Izyum, then from Mariupol, now from Popasna,” Vadym Skibitskyi, Deputy Chief of Military Intelligence of Ukraine, said recently t-online. According to Skibitsky, it was a losing battle: “But our lines withstood the attacks.” In October, even Wagner’s boss Yevgeny Prigozhin admitted that his troops were only 200 meters a day away from Bachmut. Since then, they have not been able to achieve any significant breakthroughs.

“They treat them like disposable soldiers”

Despite this, the commanders were sending new groups of poorly armed or equipped men against well-fortified Ukrainian positions day after day. In early November, Ukrainian army commander Valery Salushnyi spoke of up to 80 attacks a day, mostly on ordinary infantry: “They treat them like disposable soldiers,” Ukrainian artilleryman Volodymyr wrote in the Washington Post. The victims of the Russian side are mainly recently mobilized reservists and prisoners, whom Wagner’s group recruited by the thousands in Russian prisons.

Military experts have long wondered why the Russians were stuck in Bakhmut of all places. In early summer, Russian troops were still advancing in the region. At the end of June, the Ukrainian army had primarily Sieverodonetsk and a week later, the sister city of Lisichansk give up

From a Russian perspective, Bakhmut was a logical next step, since from there the strategically important cities of Kramatorsk and Slovyansk are within range of Russian artillery. Thus, the capture of Bakhmut would have been crucial to conquering the entire Donetsk region, the Kremlin’s stated goal. But a lot has happened since then.

Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin: Taking Bakhmut would be a political success for him. (Source: Mikhail Svetlov)

Prigoshkin will triumph in Bachmut

At the beginning of September, the Ukrainian army launched a surprise offensive in the northeast of the country and in a few days liberated the entire Kharkiv region, which borders directly on the Donetsk region.

After releasing Kupianska and Izyum, two important Russian supply centers in eastern Ukraine, Bakhmut actually lost its strategic importance to the Russians as they could not defend the Donetsk region without Izyum. Meanwhile, war observers believe that the continuing attacks on Bakhmut are purely politically motivated: for Wagner’s boss Prigozchin, the capture of the city would be a political triumph.

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