A new video clip shared on social media on Tuesday provided a rare view of the ruined city of Bakhmut, which has been besieged by Russian forces for months. In the nearly minute-long footage from the city, buildings were seen burning, while nearly every structure was left in ruins.
A major street in the city is now little more than a dirt road with numerous craters, while abandoned cars could be seen as rusting hulks.
As one former Trump White House official told us who saw the video: “It looks like the apocalypse.”
What We Know
“Bakhmut, the Ukrainian defenders show us the situation of a city that has known the Russian Peace,” noted @Feher_Junior, the social media account for an independent military analyst and reporter on the ground in Ukraine. The commentary was likely meant to evoke the words of Roman historian and politician Publius Cornelius Tacitus, who chronicled the Roman invasion of Britain and quoted Caledonian chieftain Calgacus who stated boldly,
“To ravage, to slaughter, to usurp under false titles, they call empire; and where they make a desert, they call it peace.”
Russia has essentially destroyed the city of Bakhmut, a city that was home to more than 71,000 people before the invasion.
As of this month, Ukrainian forces still maintain partial control of the city, which has been almost entirely destroyed. Those 4,000 or so civilians that have remained are now forced to live in shelters and have no access to water, electricity, or heat.
Both sides have continued to fight for total control of the city, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said his nation’s future depends on a victory in Bakhmut – even as military analysts have said a Russian victory would be largely symbolic.
The city has actually become a focal point for Russian commanders who are struggling to deliver any positive news to the Kremlin, the BBC reported.
However, the capture of the city could bring Russia slightly closer to its objective of controlling nearly all of the Donetsk Oblast, one of the four regions in eastern and southern Ukraine that Vladimir Putin annexed last September.
Yet, Russian losses have been so great, with some 1,100 troops killed in just recent days; that at best Russia may achieve a pyrrhic victory. That explains why Ukrainian commanders have also committed significant resources to defend the city. Their goal is simply to tie Russian forces down and prevent the Kremlin from launching any further offensives.
NATO leaders have warned that the city could fall, but again the price will be so high it will be a hollow victory for Moscow.
#Bakhmut, the Ukrainian defenders show us the situation of a city that has known the ,,Russian Peace,,#RussiaIsATerroristState pic.twitter.com/mhFg9eWCFs
— Feher_Junior (@Feher_Junior) March 14, 2023
“Over the last weeks and months, we have seen fierce fighting in and around Bakhmut, and what we see is that Russia is storming in more troops, more forces, and what Russia lacks in quality, they try to make up in quantity,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters last week.
Bakhmut has been repeatedly compared to the fighting in Stalingrad during the Second World War, while the fighting throughout the Donbas region has evoked comparisons to the trench warfare of the First World War on the Western Front.
Yet, even if this battle ends as a Russian victory, as many now expect, it could be so costly that Moscow won’t have the forces to press on its gains.
Instead, it will be forced to hold what it has gained – and from what social media has shared there isn’t much left worth holding.
Author Experience and Expertise:
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.