The defense of the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut goes on, and while the situation is hard, the number of casualties Ukrainian defenders have inflicted on Russian troops remains high, defense expert Rainer Saks says, noting the attritional nature of the siege.
Appearing on ETV current affairs show "Ringvaade" Wednesday, Saks said: "You can well believe that there is a discussion among the military themselves about the continuation of the war, while President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has intervened now, saying that the city must be defended."
"I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but it's better if politicians don't directly get involved in the course of a war The problem here is whether the battles of attrition in Bakhmut justify themselves, or not. There is also the question of what the fall of Bahmut would mean politically. That said, everyone, the military and the experts, have been reassuring us that the surrender of the city would not represent any gain for Russia."
Once Ukraine has constructed enough defense features in the Bakhmut area, it will not be easy for the Russians to move on to other areas, if the city eventually falls, Saks said. The Ukrainians have both surrendered and defended cities in the course of the war, now over a year old in its current phase.
"We have examples of how the Ukrainians have retreated from Sievierodonetsk (around 60km from Bakhmut-ed.) and then surrendered it. With Mariupol, the decision was made to defend it, but that city was bombarded to the ground. Ukraine has decided to continue the defense [of Bakhmut] at least for a while longer. The risk of encirclement is not non-existent, but Ukraine has responded very adequately to such situations in the past," he went on.
"Defensive facilities were already being built there as early as 2014-15. The flip side is that the recapture of each territory requires additional resources and sacrifices - this is not a pleasant perspective either," Saks added.
Nonetheless, the death toll on the Russian side is very high, too. "In this sense, these battles have fulfilled the goals of the Ukrainians. They have been able to exhaust them so much," said Saks.
Bakhmut has been pounded by Russian forces for over seven months, the BBC reports, with just a few thousand civilians left living in underground shelters, without running water or power. The BBC estimates Russian losses there at 20,000-30,000, adding that despite this, it would represent a symbolic victory for the Kremlin, were it to prevail.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mari Peegel,
Source: 'Ringvaade', interviewer: Marko Reikop.