Fall of Bakhmut: Will it become turning point for Putin?

Capturing of key transport and logistics hub could be a key event in Russia-Ukraine conflict; It could be a big morale booster for the Russian forces

| Updated: 21 May, 2023 5:25 pm IST
The fall of Bakhmut is a big win for Russian President Vladimir Putin

NEW DELHI: As Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy flew out of Kiev, on a French government plane, in a visit that was kept under wraps, to make a surprise appearance at the G7 Summit, his battle-weary country suffered a big loss when it lost the key city of Bakhmut.

The salt-mining town, which Russia calls by its Soviet-era name Artemovsk, witnessed the longest and bloodiest battle in Ukraine’s conflict with Russia.

While both sides have suffered casualties in the battle, the win by the Russian forces can be a game-changer for the Russian forces in their long-drawn conflict with Ukraine.

The Pentagon and NATO painted the loss as more symbolic, perhaps influenced by the fact that the once bustling city of 70,000 is more rubble now.

But one cannot deny the fact that Bakhmut, a key regional transport and logistic hub, provides a base for the Russian force in Donetsk, which is part of the industrialised Donbas region dominated by a Russian-speaking population.

Militarily, the victory became important for the Russian forces as it brought two big cities in the Donetsk region, Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, within the range of its artillery forces.

During the year-long conflict, both sides have said that Bakhmut has been important to destroy and distract each other’s forces ahead of an expected major Ukrainian counter-offensive.

President Zelenskyy often portrayed Bakhmut as a symbol of defiance that is giving the mighty Russian army more pain than anything else. Ukraine often boasted that Bakhmut’s defiance had worn the Russian forces down ahead of their planned offensive.

Incidentally, during World War II, the Nazi forces hauled up 3000 Jews into a nearby mine shaft and closed it, leading to a painful death by suffocation.

The win could also serve as a major psychological boost for the Russian army, as it is their first major win since July last year. On the other hand, the loss could affect the morale of the Ukrainian troops, who have been harping on their resistance to their much larger rivals.

However, various military experts felt that losing the city could be a big blow for the Ukrainian forces, as the city had helped them get support from Western countries, a key feature of their resistance.

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