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'Bakhmut Meat Grinder': Zelensky PR Stunt or Something More?

© Sputnik / Viktor Antonyuk / Go to the mediabankPMC "Wagner" artillery crew near Artemovsk.
PMC Wagner artillery crew near Artemovsk. - Sputnik International, 1920, 16.03.2023
While the Ukrainian leadership may well be insistent on holding the city of Artemovsk (Bakhmut) for the sake of publicity, there may also be other factors at work.
The city of Artemovsk, referred to in Ukraine and the US as Bakhmut, has become the site of one of the most intense battles between Russian and Ukrainian forces since the launch of the special military operation last year.
Despite the fact that Artemovsk is relatively small and does not seem to possess any strategic significance, Ukrainian forces have already lost hundreds – if not thousands – of soldiers while attempting to hold the city.
While Russian forces in the area seem content to destroy piecemeal the Ukrainian military units Kiev keeps sending to Artemovsk, certain media reports suggest that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Valery Zaluzhny have different views on the matter.
While Zaluzhny reportedly believes it would be prudent to pull out from Artemovsk, Zelensky insists that the city must be held regardless of how many people Kiev may lose.
Dmitry Kornev, military expert and founder of the Military Russia web portal, told Sputnik that losing Artemovsk would not be a big loss for the regime in Kiev, as the city is essentially a “dot on the map that Ukraine decided to fight for.”

“It is just a few city blocks, almost completely demolished, a fortified area where Ukrainian military units still remain,” he said, adding that the city is nearly encircled by the Russian forces. “So we are cutting off that appendix, capturing it.”

For Russia, Kornev argued, victory in Artemovsk will mean that troops simply move towards the next Ukrainian defensive line.
The expert agreed that Kiev uses Artemovsk as a PR opportunity, a way to promote the supposed "resilience" of Ukrainian troops to its audience in the West.
At the same time, he argued, seeing how the Kiev regime closely cooperates with the US and NATO, and that the people who do the military planning for Ukraine are far from stupid, the Ukrainian forces may be holding on to Artemovsk not just for the sake of publicity.
Wagner PMC near Artemovsk in the Donetsk People's Republic - Sputnik International, 1920, 14.03.2023
Ukrainian Forces Prepare for Counterattack Near Artemovsk, Says PMC Wagner Founder
Kornev also remarked that, unlike the United States, which tries to minimize its own personnel losses during conflicts, the Ukrainian leadership is quite content to send its people into the meat grinder in order to achieve whatever objectives it pursues, and Ukrainian leader Zelensky has got nothing to lose at this point.

"If Zelensky wins, one way or another, the US will stand next to him, pat him on his shoulder and tell him: ‘Good on you. And good on us. This victory was made possible by us'," he said. "And in case of his defeat, they would stand a bit farther from that pedestal and say: 'Well, we helped him, but he failed'."

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