'Nothing left': Zelensky acknowledges loss of Bakhmut
Russian troops successfully gained control over Bakhmut, and Zelensky acknowledges its loss.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky emerged on Sunday to acknowledge Bakhmut's defeat to the Russians, saying there was "nothing left" of the city.
When asked if Ukrainian soldiers were still holding out or if Russia had taken the city, Zelensky was evasive, saying only, "You have to understand there is nothing" there.
"For today, Bakhmut is only in our hearts."
Retired US Air Force Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski told Sputnik that the Russian forces' control over the important transport hub of Bakhmut on May 20 marks a critical turning point in the battle between Kiev and Moscow.
The liberation of Bakhmut demonstrates that Ukraine's political leadership's approach has failed, because what happened there will be directly blamed on Zelensky and his remaining cadre, Kwiatkowski said.
Russia's victory in Bakhmut is significant "practically and symbolically," she said. “In practical and strategic terms, control of the city in its entirety allows the start of rebuilding and normalization there for the people of the city, and real hope for the end of the [Bakhmut] "meat-grinder." While Ukrainian forces may still attack the city from the west and north, the decision on who holds the city is in practical terms already decided, the former analyst for the US Department of Defense said.
For months, the besieged city of Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) had been the hub of warfare between Russia and Ukraine. The hard-fought city was finally seized on May 20 by assault units of the Wagner Group private military company (PMC) and the Russian armed forces.
The fact that Russian troops proved to be highly successful in expelling the Ukrainian armed forces from Bakhmut points to a “decisive change along the dividing line between Ukraine and Russia”, Kwiatkowski explained.
The timing is critical in this case, since it occurred during or before the "anticipated" Ukrainian counteroffensive, she added. “Just as the Wagner Group returns east for rest and recuperation, the Ukrainian Army, both soldiers, and leadership, should be similarly returning "home" to rest and regroup. Clearly, the Ukrainian strategy to hold ever tinier portions of the city at a huge and disproportionate cost to its remaining military has failed,” Kwiatkowski said.
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The fall of Bakhmut by Ukraine may also put a dent in the West's thus far unwavering willingness to supply arms to Ukraine. “The decision in the West, in DC and Kiev, will need to be made - escalation into a direct NATO-Russia war, which will cost everyone and lead to catastrophe, or to cut losses, and settle the conflict so that the West can stop bleeding money and armaments, and start buying up the western part of Ukraine,” Kwiatkowski emphasized.
According to the analyst, Zelensky is increasingly behaving “as if he does not understand the reality of the situation.” “He acts like this loss will not be blamed by Ukrainians on his "leadership" and capabilities to deliver on his many promises. At best, he faces a blow to his credibility at home, and at worst he may not be able to return to Kiev safely from his current, and since the war started rare, overseas travel.”
As for the so-called collective West, it may use the liberation of Bakhmut as a sign that it is “time to settle,” Kwiatkowski said.
“With the complete fall of [Bakhmut], Zelensky's usefulness to the West, and to his own people, has suddenly become very limited,” the Retired officer concluded.