Ukrainian troops in encircled Bakhmut “on the outskirts”.
BACHMUT, Ukraine: In the basement of an apartment building in Bakhmut, a soldier with the call sign “Fox” said he didn’t know how much longer he and his comrades could hold out in the Ukrainian frontline town.
Russian forces have been attempting to seize the eastern salt-mining town since last summer in what has become the bloodiest battle of the year-long invasion of Moscow, and Kiev’s military leaders have described the situation as very tense.
While some Ukrainian soldiers tried to sound optimistic and vowed to hold the nearly devastated city for as long as possible, the 40-year-old fighter gave a completely different account.
In an interview, the soldier said that the Ukrainian troops fighting for Bakhmut did not have enough soldiers and ammunition and were discouraged.
“Everyone’s nervous,” Fox said.
He spoke to AFP from a basement where he and his comrades had set up camp.
He sat on a bed with his assault rifle by his side as he recounted the difficulties the troops are facing.
“Lack of sleep, cold, rain, the weather is constantly changing, constant shelling, constant infantry attacks,” the cloaked soldier said.
Last year Fox suffered an injury and was unable to serve in the infantry. He now transports supplies to troops in the trenches and evacuates the wounded.
Bakhmut has little strategic value, but President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukrainian troops would fight for it as long as possible.
Military observers say both Russia and Ukraine have suffered huge casualties in the battle for the city.
Fox said it was difficult to make predictions, but it was becoming increasingly difficult to withstand heavy Russian attacks and artillery fire.
“We don’t feel any support from our artillery,” he said.
“I think Bakhmut will most likely fall.”
Other soldiers said it was important to remain optimistic despite the dire circumstances.
“If we’re feeling down, if we’re apathetic, we won’t prevail. But we’re in good spirits,” said a grenade launcher with the call sign “Kai” and grinned broadly.
“We didn’t run away. We’re all here,” the 44-year-old told AFP at a house where he and his comrades were staying.
Another mortar gunner, who goes by the call sign Ded (“grandfather”), struck a similar note.
“I’m totally optimistic,” the 45-year-old Ukrainian soldier said in Russian, with an assault rifle behind him.
He puffed on his cigarette and expressed hope that Ukrainian troops would not only retain control of Bakhmut, but also recapture Crimea annexed from Moscow.
But Fox said it’s important not to underestimate the enemy.
“We’re fighting against a strong attacker,” he said.
“They suffered great losses, drew consequences and changed their strategy.”
Backed by regular Russian forces, the notorious Wagner mercenary group led the attack on Bakhmut and the surrounding settlements.
Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, an ally of President Vladimir Putin, has recruited fighters from prisons and is touting his force as Russia’s strongest combat unit.
Even Fox said the course of the battle showed that not all Russian soldiers were “idiots, alcoholics and drug addicts”.
“They have smart people there. People who know how to fight,” he said. “They think they learn the same way we do.”
Bakhmut now faces “an enormous price,” the soldier said.
“Every street is covered with our blood.”
Fox stopped criticizing his commanders but said he didn’t know why Ukrainian troops were still fighting for Bakhmut.
“Maybe that’s a political decision,” he said.
A year into the war, Fox said he was glad just to be alive.
He joked that even cats – believed to have nine lives in the shared myth – consider him “lucky”.
Source: Crypto News Deutsch