Russia’s claim of victory in the eastern Ukrainian town of Bakhmut suggests that the brutal urban fighting that marked the deadliest battle of its war in Ukraine may be over. But what comes next is far from clear.
As Moscow heralds a “mission accomplished” moment in its war, Ukraine, while insisting Bakhmut has not fallen completely, sees an opportunity to seize the initiative from the outskirts of the city if Russian forces no longer push towards the center. from the city.
Russia’s capture of Bakhmut would be a powerful symbolic success for Moscow. It would mark the first Ukrainian city to take since Lysychansk last summer, and would be a setback for Kiev, which expended precious ammunition and sent some of its most capable forces to try to thwart Russia’s devastating attack on the city for months. Thousands of soldiers from both sides are believed to have been killed in nearly a year of heavy fighting there.
But the city now lies in ruins, and controlling it would not necessarily help Moscow achieve its broader stated goal: conquering the entire eastern Donbas region, now that Ukrainian troops have worn down Russian forces and breached their defenses in some areas. up to the city. North and south.
Now that Russia has apparently taken the city, he must hold it.