Russia has turned Bakhmut into 'ruins' says Zelensky amid bombardment

Russians have turned Ukrainian city of Bakhmut into ‘burnt ruins’ says President Zelensky as Putin’s forces launch 20 air strikes and 60 rocket attacks on the country in last two days

  • Zelensky said Bakhmut city was now ‘burnt ruins’ in a public address on Friday Bakhmut, now consumed by the front line, used to be home to 70,000 people
  • Much of Odesa remains reportedly without power after overnight drone strikes 

Ukrainian President Zelensky said Russian forces have ‘destroyed’ the eastern city of Bakhmut in his nightly address amid a two-day aerial bombardment of the country.

Russia has reportedly conducted missile, rocket and air strikes across the country over the last 48 hours as it struggles to establish control of the regions illegally annexed in September.

Mr Zelensky said the situation remains ‘very difficult’ in frontline cities in the Donbas.

He said: ‘Bakhmut, Soledar, Maryinka, Kreminna. For a long time, there is no living place left on the land of these areas that have not been damaged by shells and fire,’

‘The occupiers actually destroyed Bakhmut, another Donbas city that the Russian army turned into burnt ruins.’

An aerial view of Bakhmut, the site of the heaviest battles with Russian forces, on 9 December

Bakhmut remains strategically significant for Russia but has gained symbolic importance too

Firefighters extinguish a fire after Russian army shelling of Bakhmut, Ukraine on 7 December

Ukrainian service members rest in their shelter in Bakhmut on Friday 9 December 2022

Local residents walk down a street in Bakhmut as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues

Bakhmut has observed relentless bombing for the last two days as Russia has looked to establish superiority over the region.

Some 20 air strikes and more than 60 rocket attacks were reported across Ukraine between Friday and Saturday 10 December, with Bakhmut seeing much of the devastation.

Some buildings remain visibly standing and residents have been seen in the streets, though more than 20 populated places came under fire towards the end of the week. 

The city sits on an important intersection of supply routes and, when fighting started in May, was judged a vital staging point for assaults deeper into Donbas.

Since Russia illegally annexed Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson from Ukraine in September 2022, the regions have become of symbolic as well as strategic importance to Putin’s war effort.

In Odesa, a key Black Sea port city to the west, drone attacks overnight also left much of the region without electricity, local government head Maxim Marchenko said. 

Ukrainian firefighters extinguish a fire after Russian army shelling of Bakhmut on Wednesday

Residential houses in Bakhmut damaged in the bombardment, Friday 9 December 2022 

Ukrainian service members carry weapons and supplies through Bakhmut on 9 December

Stretchers outside of a hospital, where soldiers are brought for treatment in Bakhmut, Ukraine

An emergency worker and his dog warm up in front of a wood-burner in a shelter in Bakhmut

Russia’s eastern offensive succeeded in capturing almost all of Luhansk during the summer. 

Donetsk managed to stage a successful resistance and the Russian military in recent weeks has poured resources around Bakhmut in an attempt to encircle the city, analysts and Ukrainian officials have said.

After Ukrainian forces recaptured the southern city of Kherson nearly a month ago, the battle heated up around Bakhmut city, demonstrating Mr Putin’s desire for visible gains after weeks of clear setbacks.

Taking the city would drive a wedge between Ukrainian supply lines and open a route for Russian forces to press on towards key Ukrainian strongholds in Donetsk, Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.

But after weeks without progress, some analysts have questioned the logic of a war of attrition around the city.

The Institute for the Study of War, a US think tank, posted on Thursday: ‘The costs associated with six months of brutal, grinding, and attrition-based combat around Bakhmut far outweigh any operational advantage that the Russians can obtain from taking Bakhmut.’ 

An apartment burns after Russian shelling in Bakhmut, Ukraine, on Wednesday 7 December

Firefighters in Bakhmut on Wednesday tackle a blaze in the city after heavy shelling 

Ukrainian emergency service workers extinguish a fire in Bakhmut, Ukraine on 8 December

Ukrainian service members rest in their shelter in Bakhmut on Friday 9 December 2022

Residents stand in the yard of their destroyed apartment building in Bakhmut, 9 December

Ukraine’s military on Saturday also reported strikes in other provinces: Kharkiv and Sumy in the north east, central Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhia in the south east and Kherson in the south.

Mr Putin has claimed Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, as well as Donetsk and Luhansk making up the Donbas, as Russian territory since September.

Having made ground in Mariupol earlier this year, Yevgeny Prigozhin’s feared Wagner Group mercenaries are understood to be leading the push into Bakhmut.

Prigozhin was recorded in September trying to recruit Russian prisoners as conscripts with the promise of release for six months of service.

Russian law does not allow prisoners freedom in exchange for military service.

This followed an ambitious target set in September to mobilise an additional 300,000 troops for the war in Ukraine after a string of successful Ukrainian counteroffensives.

Despite the heavy fighting and bombardment of key Ukrainian cities since, Russian gains have been minimal.

The front line has changed by no more than a few meters in recent weeks and Ukraine says the impending winter is likely to slow them further.

Temperatures in Ukraine are already routinely below freezing, meaning the ground is hard and difficult to dig into.

It means that advancing Russian troops cannot dig themselves defensive positions and are left badly exposed to artillery with most natural and man-made cover already blown to bits. 

A Ukrainian tank crew repairs their vehicle near the front line in Bakhmut, early December

Ukrainian soldier, wounded in conflict, receives a treatment at Bakhmut Hospital, 5 December

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