Bakhmut has turned into a Russian ‘slaughter-fest’
America’s top general said the city of Bakhmut has become a “slaughter-fest for the Russians” and that Vladimir Putin’s forces are getting “hammered” by Ukraine.
In Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region fighting in recent months has concentrated on Bakhmut, with Kyiv saying it is holding out in the urban hub to exhaust Russian troops.
General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress around 6,000 Wagner Group mercenaries were fighting in Bakhmut.
He said: “They’re conducting combat operations right now in Bakhmut primarily. It’s probably about 6,000 or so actual mercenaries and maybe another 20,000 or 30,000 recruits that they get, many of whom come from prisons.
“They are suffering an enormous amount of casualties in the Bakhmut area. The Ukrainians are inflicting a lot of death and destruction on these guys.”
He said the Russians had made “no progress whatsoever” for the last 21 days and it had been “very costly”.
The general added: “So it’s a slaughter-fest for the Russians. They’re getting hammered in the vicinity of Bakhmut and the Ukrainians have fought very, very well.”
Colonel Yevhen Mezhevikin, a Ukrainian commander in Bakhmut, said he was confident Ukraine’s forces could hold the city and push the Russians back.
He told the New York Times: “The enemy exhausted all its reserves. The density of assaults dropped by several times.
“Before, they could assault in all directions simultaneously and in groups of not less than 20, 30 or 40 people, but gradually it is dying down.”
Meanwhile, the nearby city of Avdiivka has reportedly been levelled by Russian attacks, with more than 80 per cent of its houses destroyed.
Vitalii Barabash, head of the Avdiivka City Military Administration, said its infrastructure had been “completely ruined”.
He said: “It is impossible to restore or repair, but only to demolish and rebuild. There is not a single house left standing. The city probably hasn’t had a single building standing since summer.”
Having so far failed to capture Bakhmut, Russia has in recent weeks switched its focus to Avdiivka.
Gen Milley also warned about growing links between Russia, China and Iran.
He said: “I wouldn’t call it a true full alliance in the real meaning of that word, but we are seeing them [Russia and China] moving closer together, and that's troublesome.
“Then, if you add in Iran, those three countries together are going to be problematic for many years to come I think.”