Could Bahkmut Be Putin’s Stalingrad Moment in Ukraine? – Only with hindsight can we truly see a “turning point” in a war.
Though it was clear after the Battle of Gettysburg that the Confederacy couldn’t successfully mount an invasion of the North during the American Civil War, and the Germans saw such a loss at Stalingrad that it largely remained on the defensive for the rest of World War II – neither of those conflicts resulted in the immediate end of the fighting.
The American Civil War continued for nearly two bloody years, while the Soviet Red Army actually saw as many casualties after Stalingrad.
Failed Prize for Moscow in Ukraine
The Kremlin had likely seen the capture of Bakhmut as much as symbolic as an actual strategic victory, and there have been reports it had hoped to take full control of the city in time for last week’s Victory Day celebrations that marked the end of the Second World War.
However, Moscow was forced to scale back on its parade, while other cities canceled the events outright.
At issue was security concerns, as well as a lack of equipment.
More importantly, fighting has continued in Bakhmut – even as Ukrainian officials have signaled that its recent advances in the city aren’t actually part of a broader counteroffensive planned by Kyiv to push back the Russian Army.
Ukraine had claimed to have liberated around 7.7 square miles of land on the outskirts of the city. It is a small parcel of land, but it has apparently put the Kremlin on the defensive even as its forces had sought the first significant victory in months in the ongoing fighting.
A City Destroyed
This week satellite photos have been shared online that show the smoldering ruins that once had been home to more than 70,000 people. As of March of this year, the city’s mayor claimed fewer than 4,000 remained.
They were living in shelters with no access to water, gas, or electricity.
Nearly every building has been impacted in the fighting, and entire blocks have been razed to the ground.
What were once apartment buildings, single-family homes, schools, and shops are now little more than rubble and ash. It is a gray city that could be described as a true ghost town, complete with skeletal buildings and brown earth.
Spring has not come to Bakhmut, as parts of the city that were once green are now stripped of all vegetation.
As the UK’s Independent reported, it “has been the scene of some of the bloodiest fighting” and “has taken on a particular symbolic significance that outweighs its size. Despite not carrying any strategic advantage on the battlefield, Moscow has called it a stepping stone to other cities in the larger Donbas region.”
It now could appear that the Kremlin won’t have its victory, and that could be as great of a symbolic victory for Kyiv – even if we don’t truly know if this is the turning point in the war. Time will tell, but for now, time has all but stood still in Bakhmut.
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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.