The Russian military is pouring its resources into capturing the small city of Bakhmut, puzzling intelligence analysts who say the city in Eastern Ukraine is of little strategic importance.

Russian troops are attempting to encircle the city in the Donetsk region, one of four regions Russia has claimed as its own. But Bakhmut, which had just about 70,000 residents before the war, would offer little advantage, according to the UK Ministry of Defense.

“Russia has prioritized Bakhmut as its main offensive effort since early August 2022,” the ministry said Saturday in its daily intelligence update. “The capture of the town would have limited operational value.”

The update said taking Bakhmut would be primarily a “symbolic, political objective” for the Kremlin, which has seen massive losses on the battlefield in the past few months, including November’s retreat from the key city of Kherson, which it had held since the early days of the war.

Ukrainian soldiers fire artillery at Russian positions near Bakhmut in the Donetsk region, Ukraine.
Ukrainian soldiers fire artillery at Russian positions near Bakhmut in the Donetsk region, Ukraine.

Service members with the Ukrainian Army fired an artillery piece as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues.
Service members with the Ukrainian Army fire an artillery piece as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues.

“The capture of the town would have limited operational value although it would potentially allow Russia to threaten the larger urban areas of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk,” the Defense Ministry said of Bakhut. “However, the campaign has been disproportionately costly relative to these possible gains.”

The effort has also decimated the city, which has historic importance to Ukraine. A video posted online by an adviser to Ukraine’s internal ministry showed aerial shots block after block of bombed-out homes, apartment buildings, and businesses.

“What was once people’s homes are now just empty shells,” said the adviser, Anton Gerashchenko. “Russian world destroyed the worlds of many Ukrainian people.”

Ukrainian soldiers were seen carrying a wounded solider into a hospital.
Ukrainian soldiers seen carry a wounded solider into a hospital.

Ukrainian military launched several fire rockets at Russian positions near Bakhmut.
Ukrainian military launch several fire rockets at Russian positions near Bakhmut.

Service members with the Freedom of Russia Legion under the Ukrainian Army.
Service members with the Freedom of Russia Legion under the Ukrainian Army prepare to fire a mortar.

Separately, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky ridiculed Russia for burning through its resources, human and military, in the fight.

“Kremlin eliminates thousands of its conscripted, prisoners, mercenaries and military near the city that has no strategic importance,” the president’s adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak wrote. “All to prove themselves: we can still do something! No, you cannot. Forget about Bakhmut.”

Earlier this week, a senior U.S. defense official highlighted the historical importance of Bakhmut for Ukraine during a briefing with the Department of Defense, pointing to World War II atrocities that occurred in the town.

A picture of an elderly man reacts as he sits in a basement used as a bomb shelter.
“Russia has prioritized Bakhmut as its main offensive effort since early August 2022,” the UK Ministry of Defense said.

A Ukrainian soldier receives first aid in a hospital in Bakhmut.
A report said taking Bakhmut would be primarily a “symbolic, political objective” for the Kremlin, which has seen massive losses on the battlefield in the past few months.

“Bakhmut was a location in which there were 3,000 or so…Jews that were put inside a tunnel or a cave and sealed up by the Nazis,” the unnamed official said. “And so I think there is a large connection to Bakhmut itself from the Ukrainian people.”

The official also said that the city has a “pretty decent intersection of road and rail” which would allow advances in multiple directions.





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