Ukrainian soldiers fighting in Bakhmut fear they are being “sent to their deaths” amid a relentless push by Russian forces to capture the city.
Putin’s forces are said to be two to three times larger than the Ukrainians on the Bakhmut front, where about 20,000 to 30,000 soldiers are currently fighting.
Relentless Russian bombing has devastated the city, with soldiers fighting house-to-house battles in the ruins.
“When they take us to Bakhmut, I already know that they are sending me to die,” said a Ukrainian soldier named Volodymyr. Independent of Kiev.
The 54-year-old infantryman from the 93rd Mechanized Brigade said he had trouble eating after months of fighting.
“(The Russians) keep shooting at us, but we don’t have artillery,” he said. “So we have nothing to attack them with. I don’t know if I will come back or not. We are just getting killed.”
Both Russia and Ukraine have made gains in the city during 7 months of fighting.
It has become the longest battle since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine more than a year ago.
Ukrainian soldiers say they see the fight in Bakhmut as a desperate challenge for survival against Russia’s “endless” reserves of artillery ammunition and manpower.
Volodymyr is being chased by a 29-year-old soldier who he found dead after being hit by shrapnel.
“I knew he was dead, but I just kept wrapping his head (in a bandage),” he said. Independent of Kiev.
Russian troops first tried to recapture Bakhmut in early August, but were repulsed.
Fighting eased in the following months as the Russian military faced Ukrainian counteroffensives in the east and south, but it resumed in full swing late last year. In January, the Russians captured the salt-mining town of Soledar, just a few kilometers north of Bakhmut, and advanced on the city’s outskirts.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky promised to protect the city from Russian troops.
But Sergeant Mykola warned that if Russia kept up its current pace of attacks, “it could be a few weeks and that’s it” before Ukrainian troops were pushed out.
“The situation is very difficult now, because they have already experienced the taste (of victory in Bakhmut),” Mikola said. “And now they know there’s little left.”