Months into the war, we’re ending the year with the Ukraine-Russia discourse still happening. Russian President Vladimir Putin has reportedly tried to open negotiations on peace talks, but it’s an all-or-nothing option. Meanwhile, his forces began to crumble even further, especially as the winter season became more challenging for the soldiers to run missions or operations.

SOFREP has previously noted that Bakhmut will be a critical turning point for Ukraine and Russia because of its strategic and symbolic advantages for each nation. This town of 70,000 people had Russians pounding on the city with missile attacks for months as its once-elegant city center turned into debris and was made into antitank trenches. Many of its people have become so accustomed to the sound of the bombing that they “no longer pay attention” to the military happenings around the area.

“It’s been going on for moths. When is it going to end?”

However, Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky is still calling out Russians for targeting civilian areas and have pleaded to the UN and its allies that Russia is committing war crime because of this.

“Bakhmut has become the new frontier in the conflict. Prigozhin, the proprietor of Wagner, has recruited thousands of Russian prisoners for the assault on Bakhmut. In addition to the 300,000 troops that Moscow has supposedly mobilized since October, some new forces have also been sent.”

“The Ukrainian calculation is not purely military in nature. If Bakhmut were to fall, Chasiv Yar, located just to the west, would provide an excellent line of defense for the Ukrainian-controlled 40% of the Donetsk region that Russia claims as its own.”

Though Putin has announced that “better-trained soldiers” are about to set foot on the frontlines earlier this month, we have seen the opposite. There’s a barrage of Wagner troops in the front, actually blaming Russian generals for their poor planning and execution. Bakhmut has been attacked yet again after a brief retreat from the area months back.

“Chief of the General Staff, you’re a btard and a sc bag! We have nothing to fight with we have no shells. Guys are dying for us while we are sitting here and we are not able to help. We need shells. We want to fight. We are fighting against the entire Ukrainian army in Bakhmut!”

“Where are you? Help us! Where are you all at a time when our guys are dying?”

Why Does Putin Need Bakhmut?

Read Next: Why Does Putin Need Bakhmut?

So, even with the Wagner troops, and the mobilized troops who only had about two months of training before they were deployed to Bakhmut, Russian forces were falling. Even Boris Kagarlitsky, a Russian dissident and Marxist, claims it is clear to see that Russia is losing.

Serhiy Haidai, governor of the Russian-occupied Luhansk region, also posted on Telegram saying these new troops can only halt the new Russian troops. Still, they could not really push the Ukrainians on defense, adding they won’t be able to “change the general picture.”

There is also high pressure on Putin to end the war as soon as possible since no one from his camp expected it to last this long. There may be grandiose ceremonies around the celebration of war heroes and the potential of the war extending to next year, but even Putin supporters see the longevity of the war as something that could be catastrophic for the nation.

“Since September, I see a lot of changes [in Russia] and a lot of fears,” Tatiana Stanovaya, a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and founder and head of political analysis firm R.Politik, told CNBC.

“For the first time since the war started people are beginning to consider the worst-case scenario, that Russia can lose, and they don’t see and don’t understand how Russia can get out from this conflict without being destroyed. People are very anxious, they believe that what is going on is a disaster,” she said.

Still, as of writing, we see no signs of Putin backing down, even in the face of massive losses.