Tuesday, 6 December 2022 — The van says…
This is one of the luckier members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Many more like him have already perished, Kiev expending the lives of unwilling soldiers in a game it can never win.
Those following current affairs in Eastern Europe cannot have failed to notice the bloody fighting in Artemovsk (Bakhmut) over recent days and weeks. As a stronghold of Ukrainian defenses, it is a very tough nut to crack, yet there may be more to Russia’s assault in the town that meets the eye. This article will examine why there may be more to Moscow’s moves in the area than are at first apparent.
The Battle for Bakhmut
Prior to the current war, the town of Bakhmut (which has also been known through history as Artemovsk and Artemivsk) had a population of roughly seventy thousand people, this meaning that whilst it was a sizable municipality, it was not by a long way the largest conurbation in the region. The current conflict has blown the significance of this area out of all proportion, a previously unknown town now taking center stage in much of the Western media today.
Being where it is, this area would always have had strategic importance for any army in the region. Just as with other towns in the area, it was heavily fortified after the Maidan coup of 2014, this making an assault a very difficult proposition for the Russians. Moreover, with it being a crossroads for rail and road, it is the last stop before Slavyansk and Kramatorsk, both of these towns being of far greater significance that Artemovsk proper. These are just a few of the reasons that Russia had to take the town, yet faced with the difficulties previously mentioned.
The Kingpin for Kiev
The battle for Artemovsk has been under way for months now, yet it is only over the last few weeks that the fighting has become as intense as it is today. This battle has been engineered by Kiev and the West into something akin to Custer’s Last Stand, Western media reporting allegedly heroic acts on the part of the Ukrainians. With the importance that Zelenskiy and his allies have placed on this battle, it is imperative that the Ukrainians win, yet this is far-departed from the reality of the situation.
Holding the Fort
Artemovsk is therefore of paramount importance for Kiev, not only as part of military plans, but also as a Ukrainian tour de force, Zelenskiy needing to show that his country is capable of fighting in order to justify continuing assistance from the West. To that end, every asset imaginable is being employed in the town’s defense, men and machines being ferried from afar in a vain effort to stave off the inevitable.
Every available body has been sent to the zone, many of the Ukrainian soldiers being very poorly trained as well as being woefully under equipped. We know for certain that the training for newly-inducted troops that was carried out in the UK only lasted for twenty days whereas in peacetime, it would have taken six months. This would not have been quite so appallingly bad were it not for the fact that they were trained according to the NATO COIN (Counter Insurgency) program, this being guerrilla warfare which is based around ‘pickup warfare’, highly mobile groups destroying civilian objectives and infiltrating the population. This military doctrine presumes that opposing forces do not have heavy weaponry such as artillery or tanks.
It is hardly surprising to find that those individuals unfortunate enough to be drafted into the Ukrainian Army were simply not up to the job in hand; they were unwilling conscripts that had not received any training in intense warfare such as this and were up against Russian opponents who excelled in this very form of combat. Affairs became so bad in the late fall that US instructors were brought to the region in order that they manage the situation in the hope that casualties could be reduced.
We are all familiar with the misguided muppets who have turned up in-country as freedom fighters, yet there are far more overseas soldiers in Artemovsk than any battle that has gone before. It is becoming increasingly apparent that as Ukrainian troops have returned after being trained abroad, they have been accompanied by a goodly number of soldiers from their host nations. This has been especially prevalent when coming from NATO member states in Eastern Europe, the number of foreign fighters wearing Ukrainian uniforms now making up a large percentage of all those on the frontlines. This has caused some anger with some in-theater due to they being far better equipped, yet notwithstanding, everyone in the region is being sent to Artemovsk in a last-ditch effort to keep the Russians from taking the town.
Were the above points not bad enough, the manner in which operations are being conducted is little more than a death warrant for those who attempt to fight Russian assets in an increasingly hostile environment. With supply issues meaning that food and even basic medical care are becoming more difficult, it is sheer madness that servicemen are being led to into combat like lambs to the slaughter. Rather than massed assaults, ‘penny packets’ of less than a hundred infantry supported by a small number of armored vehicles are used against the artillery and missiles of Russian forces. Rather than die, many attempt to surrender, yet recent days have seen evidence of Ukrainian firing squads operating against those who choose life over death.
Another huge mistake from a Ukrainian standpoint was the underestimation of Russian determination and the fact that Moscow’s men will both continue and persevere until they have attained their objectives. Whether commanders deluded themselves into thinking that the Russian withdrawal from Kherson was a Ukrainian victory is unknown, yet militarily, masterminds from both East and West simply failed to recognize the steadfastness and stoicism of Russian personnel.
With all that said, it is obvious that nothing would bode well for Ukrainian efforts in the area, recent days and weeks turning battles into a bloodbath, thousands being killed and injured every week.
With so many pitifully trained soldiers being sent into battle, it is little wonder that casualties are as high as they are. In Artemovsk, estimates of killed and wounded on the Ukrainian side oscillate between five hundred and a thousand per day. Not only does that tell us of the carnage being suffered, but also how desperate Kiev is to prevent the Russians from forging forward. This level of attrition however is completely unsustainable, not even the most aloof of generals being able to justify a slaughter of this scale.
A Numbers Game
The military hierarchy on the other side of the lines is equally aware of the Ukrainian predicament, and this to a degree may explain why Russia is taking its time over the assault and not pushing more forcibly even when it could. The brutal truth is that every combatant killed or disabled in the battle for Artemovsk is a combatant that Russia does not have to face in the future. Moscow most certainly knows where its red lines lie, and it is certain that they are nowhere near the current frontlines. Not only that, with the quantity of equipment that is being destroyed daily, the Ukrainian Army is going to be ever harder-pushed to assemble forces capable of opposing Russian advances after this action has been completed.
As the meat grinder of Artemovsk continues, an increasing number of irregular individuals will also perish, and not all of these are Instagram idiots. It is known that upwards of a thousand Polish ‘combatants’ have already been eliminated, yet with there being so many other questionable commandos being present, if a large number of these fail to return to wherever their homes may be, this will likely cause burgeoning problems for a number of Western governments. Quite how a number of nations will attempt to explain away their deaths is a question for another day, yet just as Artemovsk is a turning point for the Ukraine, it may also be the point where other nations are forced into admitting their involvement in the war.
The battle for Artemovsk is a do-or-die event for Kiev. The situation both in the cities and on all fronts becomes worse by the day, yet if Zelenskiy is to continue riding on the Western gravy train, he needs a big win and soon. That is simply not going to happen, yet the way in which Russia is playing this game might mean that Kiev’s backers may lose a lot, and equally soon.
From a Ukrainian standpoint, Every available body has been sent to Artemovsk, yet this is only leading to overcrowded makeshift hospitals and morgues with a lot more bodies abandoned on the battlefield. Ukrainian soldiers are effectively unwilling knifemen who have been dragged to a gunfight, their only real chance of survival being surrender.
From a Western perspective, if Zelenskiy loses, against a dreadful economic backdrop, governments cannot continue to back a lame horse. Far more importantly, if Western troops wind up dead in a war where they should not even be present, an ever-more irascible Western public will more than nag, demanding answers to this and more questions, above all in Poland.
For Russia, Artemovsk is a stepping stone westwards, yet rather than just taking one pace forward, this assault can be used to dilute future opposition at the same time as it may open a very bloody can of worms for those who have chosen to obstruct Moscow at every opposing.
The current action truly is a turning point for the Ukrainian War as a whole, a loss of territory compounded by a deficit of both human and material resources for the future.
Artemovsk today is turning into hell on earth for some and simply hell for others…