ERR in Bakhmut: A city under desperate siege

Destruction of an apartment block in Bakhmut.
Destruction of an apartment block in Bakhmut. Source: Kristjan Svirgsden/ERR

The eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, Donetsk Oblast, has been in the front-line in Russia's war on Ukraine for several weeks now, with many buildings destroyed and residents fleeing, ERR reports.

The city is in effect under a siege conducted by the infamous Russian mercenary firm Wagner.

Bakhmut once far from the fighting has for over a month been the scene of fierce battles between Ukraine's army and that of the Russian invaders.

A military medic, Sokol, told ERR that: "There was a time when we had to stabilize up to 130 wounded per day.

"We have people working here who came to the medical corps from a civilian position to save the lives of our boys fighting at the front," he added.

A bridge over the nearby Bakhmutovka River has been destroyed, though some civilians still remain.

One, Oleg, told ERR that: "Something collapses all the time. My mother is here, who was born in 1931. Where would I go with her? She is a disabled person in the primary category."

Another, Nikolai said: "My wife decided to stay here, and I support her in that. When peace comes, I want to help rebuild the city - God willing, as soon as possible, because we are already very tired. I don't know what sleep means any more."

The stabilization point referred to above is in the city and sees an endless flow of wounded, though around 90 percent can be saved, and sent to hospitals in the rear.

A Ukrainian soldier, Mantu, lost an arm 18 months ago, but continues to serve.

He said of the Russian troops, many of whom are fighters with mercenary organization Wagner, that they seem to be unaffected by the injuries and deaths of colleagues or of explosions and chaos around them, pressing on almost as if under the influence of narcotics.

At the same time, they do not evacuate their own wounded, leaving them to fend for themselves, he said.

For the Ukrainian side, the main issue is keeping ammunition supplies up, even as the people remain strong in spirit, Mantu said.

Some civilians are also using any down time to try and help with the clean-up operation, Ivan told ERR.

Medics have also been saving the lives of Russian prisoners of war, even if it turns out they may have been involved in atrocities – Sokol told of one prisoner who had stolen a smartphone which had, judging by the photos and videos contained, belonged to a Ukrainian girl perhaps 13 or 14 years of age, while further interrogation revealed the hapless Russian soldier had previously been deployed to Bucha, the scene of the mass killing of civilians early on in the war.

ERR's Anton Aleksejev and Kristjan Svirgsden have frequently been based in various locations in Ukraine since the war started, providing regular reportage from the ground.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Marko Tooming

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