Bakhmut's battle

Image: Bakhmut/Artemovsk (Source: Telegram)


The Russian government does not intend to open peace talks on Ukraine that do not focus on creating a new world order.

After NATO's massive financial and military aid to the Ukrainian government and then the Russian retreat to the east of the country, the epicenter of the war in Ukraine became the city of Bakhmut (see map 1). The city is part of a region in the province of Donetsk, which is claimed in its entirety by the government of Vladimir Putin. After taking the city of Soledar in the same province in early 2023, Russian forces are fighting for control of Bakhmut. The city is logistically important for opening the way towards Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, Ukrainian strongholds in Donetsk. In addition, the route to the interior of the country, including Kiev, passes through Bakhmut.

Map 1

Source: AEI's Critical Theats Project and Institute for the Study of War

Bakhmut had a population of around 70, but today it numbers around 4. It was abandoned by civilians over months of intense fighting between Russian and Ukrainian/NATO forces. Described as the bloodiest campaign of the war in Ukraine, the battle has been the longest and deadliest for both sides and now appears to be trench warfare.

As recently as February, after becoming bogged down in this fighting, the Russians began an attempt to choke off supplies from Bakhmut. The blockade of Ukrainian supplies began in the area of ​​Chasov Yar and Berkhovka, two towns through which the lines of communication to the city pass. The Russians try to take the regions north and south of Bakhmut, achieving advances (map 2). The aim is to place the city in a tactical siege so that Ukrainian troops are cut off from supplies of ammunition, medicine and fuel.

Map 2

Source: Al-Jazeera and Institute for the Study of War.

On the side of Western forces, Kiev is resisting attacks and is awaiting the arrival of more Western weapons, including Ramstein coalition tanks, as well as additional Ukrainian forces trained to use these weapons. The objective is to contain the Russian advance and, with these weapons and trained military units, conduct a counterattack. Ukraine received 49 of the 258 main battle tanks promised by the coalition. Recently the UK announced that it had finished training a second group of Ukrainian soldiers. Poland is said to have transferred four fighter jets to Ukraine.

Among these and other Western supporters, the United States – the war's biggest economic and military financiers – announced that it would provide an additional $500 million in munitions, rocket artillery, anti-aircraft systems and other systems. Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder said there are about 11.000 Ukrainians in training in 26 countries. Furthermore, alleged top-secret documents leaked from the Pentagon at the end of March indicate that NATO countries have special forces operating within Ukrainian territory: 50 soldiers from the United Kingdom; 17 soldiers from Latvia, 15 from France; 14 from the United States and one from the Netherlands.

Faced with the Western offensive, the Russian state proclaims a new doctrine of foreign policy. She claims that Russia aims to create the conditions for any state to reject neocolonialist and hegemonic goals; that the USA is the main instigator, organizer and executor of the aggressive anti-Russian policy of the collective West; and defends what he called the Russian world and traditional spiritual and moral values ​​against pseudo-humanist and other neoliberal ideological attitudes.

Vladimir Putin's government does not intend to open any peace talks on Ukraine that do not focus on creating a new world order. The Zelensky government has already announced that it will not negotiate while Vladimir Putin is in power. Meanwhile Bakhmut's battle continues.

* Caio Bugiato Professor of Political Science and International Relations at UFRRJ and at the Graduate Program in International Relations at UFABC.

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