Bakhmut has become a bloody symbol for both Ukraine and Russia – with the cost paid in human lives

Claim and counter-claim are flying between Moscow and Kyiv over the eastern city, writes Kim Sengupta. But there is one undisputed fact – the massive death toll and pain felt by those who have called it home

Tuesday 23 May 2023 10:16 BST
<p>The destruction of Bakhmut </p>

The destruction of Bakhmut

Vladimir Putin declared victory in Bakhmut at the weekend, but Volodymyr Zelensky denied that the city has fallen and claimed that Ukrainians were in the process of encircling the enemy. The longest and bloodiest battle of this war continues with its lethal toll.

Around 70,000 people lived in this small city in Donbas before the Russian invasion 15 months ago. More than 100,000 have been killed and injured since then in the struggle for control which has been going on for 10 months, with entire neighbourhoods razed to the ground.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose Wagner mercenary group has played a prominent role in the Bakhmut assault, announced that he will hand the city to the Russian military next week. Kyiv’s deputy defence minister, Hanna Maliar, has insisted he will be in no position to do so. The fierce struggle continues with Ukraine poised to seize “dominant heights on the flanks,” she has said.

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