Strategically, Bachmut has different meanings: Russia sees the city as a hub for its own offensive, while Ukraine uses the position to inflict heavy losses on Putin's troops in a war of attrition. Now Russia is said to have taken over a large part of the city.
According to their own statements, the Russian mercenary group Wagner has conquered the entire eastern part of Bakhmut. "Everything east of the Bakhmutka River is under the complete control of the private security company Wagner," said Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin in an audio recording distributed by his press service. The Ukrainian side has not yet confirmed this partial withdrawal. The information cannot be verified independently either.
The fight for Bachmut has been going on for months. The Wagner mercenary group operating there on the Russian side has meanwhile encircled the city from the east, north and south. Nevertheless, Kiev wants to keep the "Fortress Bakhmut," as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy emphasized. However, there had already been reports from independent military observers that there were indications that the eastern part of Bakhmut had been abandoned. The defenders were only holding a smaller bridgehead there anyway.
The Bakhmutka River, which runs through the city, could now serve as a natural barrier for the defenders to make further Russian attacks from that direction more difficult. However, it remains important for Ukraine to secure the access routes in the west in order to supply the garrison with supplies.
According to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, the capture of the city is crucial for the continuation of the offensive. "This city is an important node (for the lines) of defense of Ukrainian soldiers in Donbass," the minister told Russian state television. "Control over them will enable new offensive operations in depth against the defense of the Armed Forces of Ukraine."
In terms of territory, the city plays a lesser role in Ukraine. The main reason why Bakhmut is being defended is that the war of attrition recorded extremely high losses on the Russian side. NATO intelligence estimates that for every Ukrainian soldier killed defending Bakhmut, there are at least five Russian soldiers. A military official from the North Atlantic Alliance told CNN.