Russia’s relentless assault on Bakhmut is sacrificing waves and waves of unprepared men being sent to their deaths.
But multiple defenders of this embattled city in Donetsk Oblast feel that they are in a similar boat, according to interviews with more than a dozen soldiers currently fighting in or around Bakhmut.
During their brief visits to the nearby town of Kostiantynivka, Ukrainian infantrymen told the Kyiv Independent of unprepared, poorly-trained battalions being thrown into the front line meat grinder to survive as best they could with little support from armored vehicles, mortars, artillery, drones and tactical information.
“We don’t get any support,” says a soldier named Serhiy, who has been fighting on the front lines in Bakhmut, sitting down with his friend, also named Serhiy, for a conversation in a small cafe in the Kostiantynivka market. Both men are in their 40s but one of them is a bit older than the other.
All soldiers in this article have been identified only by first name or callsign because they spoke to a publication without authorization by a press officer.
They say that Russian artillery, infantry fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers are often allowed to strike Ukrainian positions for hours or days without being shut down by Ukrainian heavy weapons. Some complained of poor coordination and situational awareness, allowing this to happen or making it even worse.
Mortarmen spoke of extreme ammunition scarcity and having to use weapons dating back to World War II. Drones that are supposed to provide critical reconnaissance information are also scarce and are being lost at very high rates in some parts of the battlefield.
All this leads to terrifying casualties of both dead and wounded. “The battalion came in in the middle of December… between all the different platoons, there were 500 of us,” says Borys, a combat medic from Odesa Oblast fighting around Bakhmut. “A month ago, there were literally 150 of us.”
“When you go out to the position, it’s not even a 50/50 chance that you’ll come out of there (alive),” says the older Serhiy. “It’s more like 30/70.” [Continue reading…]
The Wall Street Journal reports:
Shielded by a small hill from Russian positions a half-mile away, a Ukrainian soldier spotted via drone feed a new foxhole that appeared overnight northwest of the embattled city of Bakhmut.
Three troopers of Russia’s Wagner paramilitary organization had crawled through no man’s land to establish a firing position, likely for a grenade launcher. The drone’s camera zoomed to Russian trenches behind.
“Corpses, corpses, corpses one atop another,” said Oleksiy, a soldier with Ukraine’s Third Storm Brigade who watched the footage and coordinated the response. “And now, look, these brave lads have come out our way.”
“They don’t even have their body armor on,” he shouted to a fellow trooper operating an American-made MK-19 grenade launcher above the staccato exchange of machine-gun fire. One of the bullets whizzed overhead. “Let’s hit them now.”
With a series of clinks, a volley of grenades flew to the Russian trench. “Done,” said Oleksiy.
These Wagner men, too, joined a long list of casualties that the group, which now relies mostly on convicts recruited in Russian prisons, has incurred in the monthslong battle for Bakhmut.
With their policy of executing on the spot troopers who attempt to retreat or surrender, and a disregard for losses that is shocking for modern warfare, Wagner’s disposable penal battalions have emerged as a unique threat to Ukrainian defenders, advancing at the time when the regular Russian military remains largely stalled.
No military in a democratic society can keep sending wave after wave of soldiers to near-certain death to gain another few hundred yards. Even Russia’s regular armed forces, known for their high tolerance of casualties, shy away from dispatching troops on clearly suicidal missions. Yet it is precisely such an approach that has allowed Wagner to come to the verge of capturing Bakhmut, at a cost that Ukrainian and Western officials estimate at tens of thousands of Russian casualties. [Continue reading…]