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Harrowing Details of Bloody Bakhmut Battle Revealed by Ex-Ukraine Official

There is “no alternative” but to fight to the death for either Ukrainian or Russian troops in the embattled Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, a former Ukrainian minister has told Newsweek.

Fighting for Bakhmut remains “intense,” ex-Ukrainian infrastructure minister Volodymyr Omelyan said as he reaffirmed Ukraine’s commitment to the frontline city.

The battle of Russian forces to capture the eastern Ukrainian settlement of Bakhmut has dominated coverage of the war for many months. Both Russian and Ukrainian forces are determined to control the ruined city, which has become the site of both urban warfare and heavy bombardment.

“First of all, it’s our city,” Omelyan told Newsweek. “We are not going to surrender.”

Omelyan’s battalion, part of Ukraine’s infantry forces, had been stationed in Bakhmut and was involved in the fighting for the ruined settlement in early March. Soldiers with the battalion had recently moved out of the area, although he said he could not be specific about the details of the battalion’s movement for operational security.

He had limited military experience before he joined Ukraine’s armed forces on February 24, 2022, as Russia’s troops crossed over into the country.

One of the most difficult things to see, he said, were the civilians who remained in the city, enduring urban warfare, bombardment and strikes.

“It’s really awful, and I feel very sad about that,” he said. “But we do understand that there is no chance for us to step back, and we should fight.”

The city had a pre-war population of 70,000, of which only a few thousand are thought to be still residing in the settlement as of March.

Ukrainian President Zelensky arrived in the frontline city on Wednesday, telling gathered military forces he was “honored” to “award our heroes, to thank you, to shake your hands.”

“Bakhmut is standing. Defense forces hold the city,” the head of Zelensky’s office, Andriy Yermak, wrote on Twitter.

On Wednesday morning, Ukraine’s General Staff of the Armed Forces said Russian forces continued with “offensive actions” in Bakhmut, with considerable losses of personnel, weapons and military equipment.

“Our defenders fought back numerous enemy attacks around the clock,” the General Staff said in a Facebook post. The previous day, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) think tank said Russian forces had not made significant gains in and around Bakhmut over the previous day.

Russian forces are likely concentrating on attacks from the north of the settlement, the think tank said. This area includes the AZOM industrial complex, which Russian military bloggers have claimed is largely controlled by the Wagner mercenary group.

The ISW said they could not confirm reports of Russian fighters advancing from the southwest to the center of the city through the early parts of this week.

The British defense ministry said on Wednesday that Ukrainian forces had started a local counterattack in the west of the city in the previous few days and that heavy fighting continued in the center.

“The Ukrainian defense remains at risk from envelopment from the north and south,” the ministry said.

But although morale remains “strong,” Omelyan said, “some of my brothers-in-arms are simply tired of killing one after another.”

“It’s exhausting,” he added, calling for further ammunition and armored personnel vehicle deliveries from Kyiv’s backers.

There is “no alternative” but to fight to the death for either Ukrainian or Russian troops in the embattled Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, a former Ukrainian minister has told Newsweek.

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