Heavy fighting continues in Bakhmut between Ukrainian and Russian forces. With that, significant amounts of casualties continue to stream in.
Soldiers of the 24th brigade in the Bakhmut direction pic.twitter.com/I6iFQwweh0
— Grahworin ???? (@grahworin) December 21, 2022
When the city of Popasna fell to Russian forces, primarily made up of Wagner PMCs, back in May, focus shifted west towards Bakhmut. The city holds strategic value due to key highways that lead northwest towards Slovyansk and northeast towards Lysychansk. A railroad also cuts through Bakhmut heading north to the city of Siversk, where it then splits going west to Lyman or east deeper into Luhansk, and heading south to Horlivka. With all of this being said, the capture of Bakhmut would have provided Russia several strategic pathways for its ground lines of communication for their Kharkiv spearhead at that time, which could have helped encircle Ukrainian forces at Severodonetsk and Lysychansk with a pincer move involving Russian forces from Lyman to the north.
However, Ukraine’s Fall counter offensive in Kharkiv resulted in the total collapse of the Russian frontline that makes up the northern edge of the cauldron for their Donbas operation. With the recapture of Izyum, Lyman, and Kupiansk by Ukrainian forces amid Russian troop withdrawals, the importance of taking Bakhmut was put into question as there were no fronts or encirclement operations for it to support anymore, but Russian forces continued regardless. Over the next few months, Russians slowly advanced towards the city, but by November, fighting had morphed into stagnated trench warfare backed by near constant artillery shelling.
Many people die in Bakhmut due to diseases and lack of medicine. In the local cemetery, there are hundreds of rows with new crosses, many of them signed by hand, without indicating the date of birth, only the date of death. 2/
?: Kostiantyn and Vladyslava Liberov pic.twitter.com/5HNfh1XuFC
— Stratcom Centre UA (@StratcomCentre) December 21, 2022
The fight for Bakhmut is considered the bloodiest throughout the entire invasion. The city is often called a “meat grinder” due to the high number of casualties being sustained by both sides. As for exact casualty counts, they are unknown as neither side has provided a clear number of those killed and wounded. However, battlefield assessments suggest casualties are significant and may reach into the hundreds every day. In November, the mayor reported that 120 civilians had been killed by shelling, but there has not been an official update since the fighting intensified.
With high numbers of dead comes expanding cemeteries or finding new places to bury them. Over the past few days, Ukrainian media have released photos of a cemetery on the outskirts of Bakhmut, which can also be seen in footage posted to social media. I geolocated the cemetery in question to hillsides northeast of the city near (48.6021917, 37.9314720), which is away from the fighting.
At the cemetery on the way out of #Bakhmut, there are many new graves where civilians are buried.
Their number is growing every day.
Damn russians kill #Ukrainians every day.#RussiaIsATerroristState #stopputin #stoprussia pic.twitter.com/EZlETWtzCr
— Alf Really ?????????????????? (@vik8867dn) December 20, 2022
I was able to locate the area due to the curved track lines in the hillside. From satellite imaging, it appears to be some sort of dirt bike course, but I was not able to find anything online to confirm it even though it doesn’t really matter. Due to the topography, I was not able to geolocate its exact location on the hillside.
The recent photos of the graves suggests that many have been dug recently. Likewise, footage going around showing attempts to rapidly expand the number of graves are likely to keep up with the influx of dead and to also make headway before the ground freezes any further as temperatures continue to drop.
As the war enters Winter, casualties will increase drastically. Bakhmut’s medical facilities remain overwhelmed amid shortages in medicine. Likewise, trench warfare is a hotbed for disease while dropping temperatures increase the risk of hypothermia, frostbite, and death from exposure. The cold will be unforgiving for both Ukraine and Russia as fighting continues on the outskirts of the Bakhmut. Ukrainian forces have begun digging trench lines throughout the inner city in the event current frontline positions are overrun. The fate of Bakhmut remains unknown as Ukrainian forces continue to hold out against continuous waves of Russian forces and shelling. At this point, the tactics are just throwing as many men as they can into fighting, further feeding the meat grinder until one side faulters.