Ukraine loses Bakhmut

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Sunday, May 21, 2023, that Bakhmut was “only in our hearts,” hours after Russia’s defense ministry reported that forces of the Wagner private army, with the support of Russian troops, had seized the city in eastern Ukraine.

Speaking alongside US President Joe Biden at the Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima, Japan, Zelenskyy said he believed the city had fallen, but added: “You have to understand that there is nothing,” saying of the Russians, “They destroyed everything.”

“For today, Bakhmut is only in our hearts,” he said. “There is nothing in this place.”

The Russian ministry statement on the Telegram channel came about eight hours after a similar claim by Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Ukrainian authorities at that time said that fighting for Bakhmut was continuing.

Zelenskyy’s comments came as Biden announced $375 million more in aid for Ukraine, which included more ammunition, artillery and vehicles.

The eight-month battle for Bakhmut is the longest and probably most bloody of the conflict in Ukraine.

Analysts said Russia’s victory in Bakhmut was unlikely to turn the tide in the war.

The Russian capture of the last remaining ground in Bakhmut is “not tactically or operationally significant,” a Washington-based think tank said late Saturday evening.

The Institute for the Study of War said that taking control of these areas “does not grant Russian forces operationally significant terrain to continue conducting offensive operations,” nor to “to defend against possible Ukrainian counterattacks.”

Using the city’s Soviet-era name, the Russian ministry said, “In the Artyomovsk tactical direction, the assault teams of the Wagner private military company with the support of artillery and aviation of the southern battlegroup has completed the liberation of the city of Artyomovsk.”

Russian state news agencies cited the Kremlin’s press service as saying President Vladimir Putin “congratulates the Wagner assault detachments, as well as all servicemen of the Russian Armed Forces units, who provided them with the necessary support and flank protection, on the completion of the operation to liberate Artyomovsk.” (AP)