VARESE, Italy. March 30th, 2023. Ukrainian President Zelensky recently told the AP that if the Russians were to fully take Bakhmut, it would likely mean the end of the war through a “compromise with them”.
“Our society will feel tired,” the president said, describing the damage a loss in Bakhmut would mean to the nation’s morale. “Our society will push me to have compromise with them”.
“If he [Putin] will feel some blood — smell that we are weak — he will push, push, push, sell this victory to the West, to his society, to China, to Iran,” he said describing his counterpart in the Kremlin somewhat like a shark.
The battle of Bakhmut was probably not where Western military minds imagined the war would be decided. The bloody siege has been described as a “meat grinder” with several hundred casualties through artillery and rockets every day inflicted on the Ukrainian defenders.
Kyiv Independent described the Russians as employing a strategy of sacrificing “waves and waves of unprepared men,” but that “multiple defenders of this embattled city in Donetsk Oblast feel that they are in a similar boat,” it wrote, based on a dozen interviews with soldiers in the city, who were not authorized to speak to the media.
“They say that Russian artillery, infantry fighting vehicles, and armored personnel carriers are often allowed to strike Ukrainian positions for hours or days without being shut down by Ukrainian heavy weapons,” the paper reported, adding that “[m]ortarmen spoke of extreme ammunition scarcity and having to use weapons dating back to World War II”.
This is journalism that needs to be celebrated, but more importantly, listened to. The team at Kyiv Independent interviewed soldiers who said the survival rate was 30% day-to-day, that Russians had employed so much artillery that defenders didn’t have enough buildings left to take cover in effectively, and commanders had no means of effectively returning fire.
Contrast this to the report given in the wake of Zelensky’s statements by CBS News’ Ramy Inocencio, Omar Abdulkader, and Tucker Reals, who instead chose to focus on Kharkiv where they were reporting from—a region where Russian forces are less active, and where a Ukrainian counteroffensive won back substantial territory in the late summer last year.
Ukraine’s forces, backed by increasingly lethal waves of Western weaponry and financial support, have managed to hold Russia’s invading forces at bay, even clawing back some occupied ground over the last six months. Holding that line are the battle-hardened soldiers of Ukraine’s 209th Battalion. Far from any halls of power, the earthen walls of trenches protect the troops as they keep a vigilant watch over the front line.
The soldiers were optimistic that with an expected Ukrainian counteroffensive this spring, Ukraine will win the war, and their country and the line they’re holding will continue to stand as a shield for democracy around the world.
A wave of reporting on March 6th and 7th shared US Sect. of Defense Lloyd Austin’s comments that Bakhmut wouldn’t represent a loss in the war since it’s more symbolic than operationally important for Kyiv. Accompanied was a slew of reports that Ukraine was preparing to begin undoing the encirclement efforts the Russians have been imposing for months and thereby turning the tide.
Between those dates, more than $350 million in US and EU military aid entered Ukraine, including 18 of the 300 battle tanks Ukraine asked for at the start of the year. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken went on record saying the US was totally against China’s proposal to mediate a ceasefire and put an end to the “meat grinder”.
Once again, as WaL reported before, the media seems to be pushing a narrative that Ukraine can win in what seems to be in reality an unwinnable situation, and dampening any antiwar sentiment from influencing Western decision-making. WaL
PICTURED ABOVE: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivers an address marking the 19th day of the Russian invasion, March 15, 2022, in Kyiv, Ukraine. PC: Global Look Press/Keystone Press Agency