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Bakhmut in ruins as the fighting continues.
In a remarkable turn of events, Russian forces have retreated from the outskirts of Bakhmut, Ukraine, possibly brought on by the increased activity and the possible start to a resurgent counteroffensive by Ukrainian troops. This retreat signifies a significant setback for Russia, with both sides now reporting the most significant Ukrainian gains in six months. Moreover, the long-awaited Ukrainian offensive appears to be underway, as their forces have steadily advanced, bolstered by hundreds of new Western tanks and armored vehicles received earlier this year.
Ukrainian Advances and Russian Reaction
The retreat from Bakhmut, confirmed by Moscow on May 12, follows reports of Ukrainian advances south of the city. This coordinated push by Kyiv suggests a strategic move to encircle Russian forces in Bakhmut, which has been a coveted objective for Moscow throughout the bloodiest phases of the conflict.
Although Ukrainian officials have downplayed the extent of their offensive, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy acknowledged the need for more time for equipment to arrive. However, Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner private army leading the campaign in Bakhmut, labeled the recent Ukrainian advances as the commencement of Kyiv’s long-anticipated campaign.
The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed Ukraine’s assault north of Bakhmut, involving over 1,000 troops and up to 40 tanks, marking the most substantial Ukrainian offensive since November. While the Russian forces successfully repelled 26 attacks, troops in one area fell back to regroup in more favorable positions near the Berkhivka reservoir northwest of Bakhmut.
Civilians Caught in the Crossfire
It has been 15 months since the start of this war; all that time, civilians residing near the front lines felt the brunt of it, exacting a heavy toll on them, losing their homes and interrupting their peaceful lives. As a result, Moscow has initiated the evacuation of civilians from Ukraine’s partially occupied Zaporizhzhia province, where residents have endured the harrowing experience of shelling and witnessed the destructive aftermath of relentless attacks.
The devastating impact of the war is vividly recounted by Lyudmila, a 22-year-old resident of Kamianka-Dniprovska, who sought refuge in Berdyansk:
“We’ve had shells land nearby, and when it landed, the entire sky was red.”
Escalating Tensions and Strengthened Defenses
As tensions escalate, Russia’s Black Sea Fleet has strengthened its defenses in response to intensified Ukrainian drone strikes targeting the Crimean port of Sevastopol, the fleet’s home base. The fleet commander highlighted the need for enhanced security measures amidst the flurry of attacks. Reports state that Russian forces have thwarted several attempts by Ukrainian forces, though the actual effectiveness of the attack is currently unknown.
A Defining Moment
President Zelenskyy, who has been rallying the nation for the impending counteroffensive, acknowledged the challenging road ahead. However, he emphasized that Ukraine is stronger now than in any previous year of the war, with the much-needed Western military assistance boosting their capabilities. Furthermore, Zelenskyy expressed gratitude to British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for the commitment to long-range cruise missiles, a significant step in breaking the Western taboo surrounding the provision of such weaponry due to fears of provoking Russia.
The conflict in Ukraine has reached a turning point, with Ukrainian forces making notable gains while Russia’s winter campaign yielded limited territorial acquisitions. As the war’s trajectory could be determined by a defining moment in the near future, both sides gear up for what could be a protracted and critical battle.
A Possible End of the Beginning
As Ukraine’s long-awaited counteroffensive unfolds, the words of Winston Churchill come to mind: “Now, this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” This war began over 15 months ago and has witnessed countless struggles, sacrifices, and shifting dynamics. The retreat from Bakhmut and the resurgent Ukrainian offensive mark a crucial phase in the conflict—a moment where the tides may turn, and the aspirations of a nation for freedom and independence begin to take shape.
The Ukrainian people truly are remarkable, going through this arduous journey with bravery and resilience. From the frontlines to the towns and cities affected by the conflict, they have demonstrated unwavering courage in the face of adversity. They stand as one aiming to restore their territorial integrity while pursuing peace and justice with the support of their allies. As the long-awaited counteroffensive gathers momentum, hopes for a resolution and lasting peace in Ukraine are reignited. The world watches with anticipation, longing for the day when the guns fall silent and the people of Ukraine can finally embrace a future free from the shadows of war.
** To learn more about the history of warfare, click here.
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