The Battle of Bakhmut also known in Russian as the Battle of Artemovsk was one of two principal engagements arising in the first year of the Russian Special Military Operation on the territory of Ukraine in 2022. The other major engagement being the Battle of Mariupol in the spring of 2022.
The cities of Bakhmut and Soledar sit atop gypsum salt mines, with an extensive network of underground mineshafts and caverns large enough to drive vehicles into. For this reason, Bakhmut and Soledar were made the operational hub and command center for the network and trenches and fortifications along the 800-kilometer plus frontline of contact over the past 9 years since 2014 when the Donbas war began. If one city or the other falls, the entire Donbas front will collapse.
The small town of Bakhmut (pop. 70,000) was fortified by the Zelensky regime at NATO's direction. NATO tactics were developed for insurgent warfare in the Middle East and Afghanistan, but proved catastrophic in large-scale industrial warfare. NATO/Ukraine kept feeding more and more forces into the open cauldron of the Bakhmut meat grinder. And not just the Ukrainian Territorial Defense, who were ill-trained and ill-equipped for combat, but also NATO military contractors.
Newsweek magazine was the first major Western propaganda organ to reveal that the much vaunted HIMAR systems, M777 Howitzers, and other sophisticated weaponry were operated, not by Ukrainian forces, but rather by Western alliance contractors. NATO troops resigned their commissions with the NATO Army they had been serving in, typically the United States, Poland, Romania, the UK, Canada and others, immediately signed a contract with a private military company paid by NATO, the Zelensky regime, and the U.S. Congress, and then donned Ukrainian uniforms.
The Wunderwaffe provided by the United States and NATO take months of training to learn to operate properly. The Zelensky regime didn't have months to train AFU forces to use these weapons. NATO casualties in Bakhmut began to stack up, and NATO could no longer maintain the fiction that only Ukrainian forces were fighting and hide the fact that NATO was directly involved in combat. Poland was the first to reveal to the public how many troops were killed, and the number of NATO deaths and casualties grew throughout the winter campaign. NATO played into Russian hands, helping Russia with its overall stated aims from the beginning - the demilitarization of Ukraine, which was becoming expanded to the de-NATOization of Europe through attrition of resources.
Summer campaign - the Bakhmut-Soledar front
The battle for Severodonetsk-Lysychansk metropolitan area ended with the victory of Russian-led forces. AFU forces suffered about 7,000 casualties in the Battle of Severodonetsk-Lysychansk. The front line of Bakhmut/Artemovsk – Soledar-Seversk, also known as the Zelensky Line, became the new hotspot. On June 28, 2022, it was reported that the Ukrainians had amassed about 20,000 troops which had been withdrawn from several surrounding fronts around the town of Siversk (pop. 10,000) in the Northern Donetsk Republic, between Izium and Lysychansk. Another 20,000 were reported around the Bakhmut fortress. Bakhmut is a crossroads of multiple roads and rail lines and sits on high ground. Control of the Bakhmut area would help secure the Seversky-Donetsk canal, which is essential to the water supply of the city of Donetsk, cut off by the Kiev regime since 2015.
On August 1, 2022, Russian forces were reported to have entered the outskirts of Bakhmut (Russian: Artemovsk; pop. 72,000). The Ukrainian bunkers built around Bakhmut were likened to North Korean DMZ bunkers. Ukrainian soldiers occupying Bakhmut reported that civilians in the city were anxious to fly the Russian flag.
On August 2, 2022, the Russians destroyed 130 members of the 58th mechanized brigade, and 70 members deserted and were arrested by Ukrainian forces.
On August 4, 2022, fighting was reported in the city of Bakhmut. With the Russian breakthroughs, the entire Ukrainian frontline began collapsing from Siversk to Soledar.
On August 6, 2022, Ukrainian forces were reported as destroying bridges in Bakhmut to slow the Russian advance.
On August 11, 2022, fighting in Bakhmut and Soledar was reported as some of the heaviest along the front. Russian and allied forces entered the industrial areas of these two cities first. Soledar has one of the largest salt mines in the world, which Ukrainian forces retreated into.
On August 13, 2922, the Russian MOD reported the destruction of the 7th of 16 HIMARs the U.S. sent to Ukraine.
The advance in Bakhmut was slowed because the city was heavily mined with illegal mines under international conventions of French manufacture.
On August 17, the Russian surge toward Bakhmut continued from the north and south. In Siversk, the Siversk cauldron was forming up.
On August 19, 2022, fighting was reported in the center of Soledar.
On August 25, 2022, a Ukrainian counterattack in Bakhmut, where Ukrainians existed in large numbers, failed.
On September 19, 2022, the Russian MOD reported that "During the fighting in the area of the village of Zaitseve of the Donetsk People's Republic, the 24th battalion of the National Formation "Aidar"* of the 53rd mechanized brigade lost more than half of the personnel." Fighting was reported on the eastern portion, inside the city of Bakhmut.
By September 24, 2022, Ukrainian forces began destroying the bridges in Bakhmut.
On September 27, 2022, the Wagner group entered the settlement of Zaitseve.
By October 6, 2022, NATO/Ukraine had amassed about 30,000 forces around Bakhmut.
On October 10, 2022, unified Russians forces recaptured the village of Spirne.
According to LPR Gen. Viktor Vololatski, by mid-October 2022, 80% of the forces on Soledar-Bakhmut front were NATO and mercenaries, the bulk from former Warsaw Pact countries with Ukrainians constituting only 20% of the force. The Wagner group continued making progress into the city of Bakhmut.
On October 18, 2022, the Russian MOD reported the destruction of three US-made AN/TPQ-37 and AN/TPQ-50 mobile missile radar finder systems in the areas of Bakhmut, Vyemka and Soledar.
On November 25, 2022, the Ukrainians lost 60 troops and 5 armoured vehicles. The AFU 58th Mechanized Brigade refused to fight.
On November 27, 2022, reports indicated that hospitals in Bakhmut were full with over 500 Ukrainian wounded and no chance to evacuate them. At Chasiv Yar (pop. 12,000) slightly to the west of Bakhmut, the Russians killed 100 NATO forces and destroyed 6 armored vehicles.
By the first week of December 2022 Ukraine/NATO was losing approximately a battalion per day in Bakhmut. The head of the Wagner group Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed that the Russians have the task of destroying the Ukrainian army and reducing its combat potential but not storming the city. Daily total losses for the Kiev regime from November 10, 2022, to December 10, 2022, averaged 800 dead for a combined total of 24,000, or the equivalent of 6 to 7 NATO brigades. The German army as of 2022 had only 8 brigades. Joe Biden and the EU gambled that Russia would fold in two months, by April 2022, with Russia sanctions. However, by December 2022 it became apparent that NATO was not prepared for war it provoked with Russia.
Winter campaign - the Bakhmut meatgrinder
In late November 2022 Russian troops went back on the offensive in several directions. The offensive of the Wagner Group continued in Bakhmut and on its outskirts, where the Ukrainian group risked being surrounded. A section of the railway line was cut.
To stay warm, tank crews left their engines on at all times, making detection and subsequent destruction of both armor and ground troops by Russian forces all the more easier. Many Ukrainian troops reported they had not seen their commanders in three weeks and were running out of food. Ukrainian soldiers would try to keep warm in their bunkers and trenches. When they lit a fire to cook or keep warm, the smoke was spotted by drones directing artillery fire and the NATO/Ukraine forces were immediately killed. The soldiers suffered from maladies long thought to have ended with World War I, like trench foot. While in a defensive posture for a prolonged period of time, and unable to leave the trench because of constant artillery shelling, the soldiers typically relieve themselves on the trench floor. The trenches fill up with water from rain and snow, which gets into the soldiers' feet. The soldiers' feet literally rot in the trenches. Below freezing temperatures causes frostbite in the extremities, then infection and the loss of limbs.
In early December 2022 Ukrainian units again attempted a counteroffensive in the area of Opytnoe on the southern outskirts of Bakhmut. Wagner fighters repelled the attack, forcing the enemy to retreat with losses. Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut, which were a mixture of various units, including groups of NATO mercenaries, suffered heavy losses. According to Ukrainian and Western sources, the Ukrainian Army was losing hundreds of fighters killed and wounded daily. Troops from other units were sent to plug the holes in the defense lines.
Just as Hitler did during the Second World War, Zelensky ordered that there be no Ukrainian retreat from the town, this meaning that there was no solution to a hopeless situation for the Ukrainian military. Ukrainian officers ensured that by blowing up the bridge providing an escape route to Slavyansk that Ukrainian soldiers could not retreat.
On December 9, 2022, it was reported by the Polish newspaper NDP (Independent Political Journal) that without the support of NATO, the fighting in Ukraine would end within a week. NDP reported daily losses of the AFU near Bakhmut reached battalion size, 500 to 800 soldiers daily; hospitals in the city of Konstantinovka were overcrowded. LPR officials claimed that Ukraine is transferring up to 500 men per day to Bakhmut to replenish losses. Even Kiev regime chief propagandist Alexei Arestovych admitted that Russian artillery strength in the sector had a 9 to 1 advantage. Bakhmut was becoming the largest and most costly battle of the war for Ukraine.
Newsweek spoke with 'former' U.S. Colonel Andrew Milburn who, together with 'volunteers', trained Ukrainian soldiers: "They've been taking extraordinarily high casualties," Milburn said of the units training with the American Mozart PMC. "The numbers you are reading in the media about 70 percent and above casualties being routine are not exaggerated." A unit with 50% casualties is usually no longer able to fight and withdrawn from combat. But Zelensky left the units on the frontline until nearly nobody was left in them.
Medical evacuation from the frontline trenches was extremely difficult. Most wounded just died in place. The equipment they used was mostly lost with them. Doctors reported 80% of all combat injuries were from shrapnel and confirmed the high casualty rate. A months' worth of NATO equipment poured into Ukraine was consumed in Bakhmut in one week.
Morale fell among Ukrainian forces. A viral video addressed to Gen. Zaluzhny and President Zelensky narrated by a Ukrainian soldier stated:
|"I want to send my greetings to AGETHA Zaluzhny and to our President. How is it going? Are they warm where you are? You say in your videos that everything is fine, that the soldiers do not need anything. We are not only killed by orks (Russians) but also by cold. Where is our aid? The Administration ignores us. The c@@@@@ only threaten us with imprisonment.
Remember this: We will definitely be back. We will survive. Not just for the victory but to hang you in Kiev, in Maidan Square. Pray that the Russians will arrive first. Then maybe you'll stay alive in jail!"
On December 12, 2022, developments were rapid as Russian forces crushed the defensive lines of the 93rd Brigade, of which almost no one remained, and the Ukrainian 71st Brigade. Wagner forces launched a large-scale attack, occupied the Siniat factory and entered the first blocks of the urban center from the east. House-to-house street fighting began in the urban center for the first time where Kyiv regime forces turned every building into a firing point that needed to be taken. Regime forces blew up all ail bridges from Bakhmut to Slavyansk. Regime forces' lives were spent to buy time to hastily erect new trenches and defenses in cities further back to the west.
Kiev regime counteroffensives elsewhere petered out due to the drain of reinforcements and supplies pulled from other fronts into the Bakhmut “vortex”. By January 4, 2023, 60,000 Ukrainian forces were reported to be trying to hold the Bakhmut front. Troops had been moved from the Zaporozhye line to the meatgrinder.
As early as January 5, 2023 Russians approached Soledar from two strike axes, from the north and from the south, forcing Ukrainian forces into a hard-fought retreat to avoid encirclement. Over the next few days, formations with Ukraine's 46th Airborne Brigade, supplemented with artillery and additional armor, managed to somewhat stabilize the situation, but not for long.
Southfront reported that Wagner group fighters claimed the AFU were using unidentified chemical weapons in an attempt to stop Russian advance on the street of Trudovye Rezervy in Bakhmut on January 7, 2023. As a result of the attack, Russian soldiers got severe burns. They were evacuated from the battlefield and hospitalized. Videos distributed by Ukrainian sources confirmed that the AFU did use chemical weapons. Ukrainian militants boasted of making “dirty bombs” on the social networks. In one video, Ukrainians are assembling kamikaze drones aimed at dropping homemade ammunition. The shells were made of small homemade cylinders filled with some kind of chemical substance. This is indicated by the weight of the contents which are different and average 700 grams. The shown head fuses also do not look like detonation devices but are more like devices aimed at mixing or spraying chemicals.
The cylinders were likely filled with hydrocyanic acid (HCN), which is a poisonous volatile liquid. 85-90% of poisoning cases end in death. The concentration of HCN of more than 0.4 mg/l causes deadly poisoning. If the concentration of the substance in the air exceeds 11 mg / l, then intoxication is possible even percutaneously.
On January 8, 2023, Russian forces cut the highway between Bakhmut and Soledar and the highway between Bakhmut and Siversk. Tactical encirclement of the remaining troops in Soledar was completed on January 9, 2023. On January 10 the Wagner group media announced the capture of Soledar; Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder and head of the Wagner group, personally took part in the campaign and was present on the battlefield. According to Ukrainian sources, Ukraine lost 17 battalions, roughly 23,000 soldiers, in the Battle of Soledar. Most of the captured POWs were from the elite 77th Airborne Brigade of the AFU, trained in the UK in late fall 2022. On January 12, at least 200 Ukrainian soldiers were reported to be hiding in the underground salt mine tunnels, along with large stockpiles of ammunition. Salt Mine No. 7 was rumored to have a tunnel that extended all the way south to Bakhmut. Salt Mine 7 was captured by Wagner fighters by January 16, 2023. Russian forces rapidly moved on in the Seversk direction.
On January 17, 2023, Moonofalabama reported counting 27 brigade size formations of Ukrainian forces in the Bakhmut area. Those forces would constitute 50% of Ukraine's battle ready forces. On January 20 Big Serge stated that "publicly available Ukrainian sources locate at least 34 brigade or equivalent units that have been deployed in the Bakhmut area. Many of these were deployed months ago and are already shattered, but over the full span of the ongoing battle this represents an astonishing commitment."