May 21, 2023 -KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The nine-month battle for Bakhmut has destroyed the 400-year-old city in eastern Ukraine and killed tens of thousands of people in a mutually devastating demonstration of Ukraine’s strategy of exhausting the Russian military.
The fog of war made it impossible to confirm the situation on the ground Sunday in the invasion’s longest battle: Russia’s defense ministry reported that the Wagner private army backed by Russian troops had seized the city. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, meanwhile, said Bakhmut was not being fully occupied by Russian forces.
Regardless, the small city has long had more symbolic than strategic value for both sides. The more meaningful gauge of success for Ukrainian forces has been their ability to keep the Russians bogged down. The Ukrainian military has aimed to deplete the resources and morale of Russian troops in the tiny but tactical patch of the 1,500-kilometer (932-mile) front line as Ukraine gears up for a major counteroffensive in the 15-month-old war.