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Ukraine Fortifies 4 Points in Remaining Part of Bakhmut

Russians continue swift advance, but in race against time to take Bakhmut before major Ukrainian counteroffensive.
Leo Timm
Leo Timm covers China-related news, culture, and history. Follow him on Twitter at @kunlunpeaks
Published: April 17, 2023
Ukrainian servicemen exit an armored personnel carrier in the frontline town of Bakhmut, in Donetsk region, Ukraine, February 9, 2023, amidst a mounting Russian offensive in the area. (Image: Yevhenii Zavhorodnii/REUTERS)

With Russian forces in control of the eastern two-thirds of central Bakhmut and pressing on the city’s northern and southern flanks, the Ukrainian defenders have mostly fallen back to four redoubts in their remaining territory.

The battle for Bakhmut has raged since summer 2022, with the Russian regular army and Wagner mercenaries making slow progress since operationally encircling the city in February. Ukraine has maintained tens of thousands of troops in and around Bakhmut to hold it for its strategic and geographical importance, a goal President Volodymr Zelensky has stressed on several occasions.

In the last two weeks, the Russians made rapid advances, taking Bakhmut’s city center and government administration building. On April 14 and April 15, the attacker secured the city’s train station and most of its north-south rail line in fierce back-and-forth engagements.

The situation in northwest-central Bakhmut on around April 15, 2023. (Image: Screenshot/Weeb Union/via YouTube)

Meanwhile, assault units of the Wagner group pressed on Ukrainian positions in the northwestern sector west of the rail line.

Weeb Union (WU), a YouTube channel that follows day-to-day changes on the Ukrainian front line, notes the new situation in Bakhmut, revolving around the Ukrainian army’s fortification of a Soviet-era residential area.

Soviet apartment blocs are typically large concrete buildings for mass urban housing, and as such provide good cover for defending soldiers. This district lies due west of the Bakhmut train station, and is connected by a road that runs southwest towards the Ukrainian-held towns of Ivaniske and Chasiv Yar.

This road is the subject of a secondary concentration of Ukrainian forces, who have thus far managed to hold the line, WU reports. Russian assaults on Ivanivske (which would cut off the road and hence the supply line) over the last month have also been repelled. Further west, a Russian thrust towards Chasiv Yar was blunted as well.

Ukrainian troops also hold two lower-density neighborhoods northwest and northeast of the Soviet apartments, which will allow the defenders there time to further entrench their positions.

The main Ukrainian defensive positions in western Bakhmut as of April 17, 2023. (Image: Screenshot/Weeb Union/via YouTube)

Despite holding the road, the Ukrainian military has had difficulty resupplying its forces, given near-constant Russian artillery strikes on the path. Muddy ground has made it hard to move vehicles across the plains for an alternate route.

The Russian troops are in a race for time to take Bakhmut, as the Ukrainian government has been planning a major counteroffensive that could take place in late spring or summer. Alexander Roberts, a French Canadian YouTuber who also covers the Russo-Ukrainian War on his History Legends channel, has analyzed that the offensive is likely to center on defending or retaking Bakhmut.

Bakhmut commands an important point in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine. Last September, Russia officially laid claim to the Donbass and two other Ukrainian oblasts (provinces) as Russian territory.

The all-out Russian invasion of Ukraine began on Feb. 24, 2022, when Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation” essentially aimed at keeping Ukraine out of the U.S.-led NATO alliance and within the Russian sphere of influence.