Why Bakhmut matters

 The eastern city of Bakhmut has been the site of a months-long assault by Russian forces that has forced thousands from their homes and left the area devastated.

Bakhmut has not yet fallen under total Russian control. On his official Telegram channel on Saturday, Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin — whose mercenaries have played a huge part in Russia's advance — claimed to have taken 95% of the city.

Ukrainian soldiers have dug in, while Wagner troops have sought to encircle the city in a wide arc from the north, making sluggish progress since the capture of the nearby town of Soledar in January.

The fall of Bakhmut would mark a rare breakthrough by Russia in what has become a slow-moving ground war in the east that has at times resembled the trench warfare of World War I.

But, despite the time, manpower and resources poured into capturing the city, its strategic value has always been dubious.

Bakhmut — a relatively small city in eastern Donestk — is not the sort of city Moscow would have hoped to be fighting for in the second year of its invasion.

Instead, the city has come to be prized more for the symbolic value its capture would lend to Russia. It would give Russian President Vladimir Putin a much-needed victory — and relief from criticism at home of his faltering invasion of Ukraine.

Earlier in May the US said that 20,000 of Russia's troops have been killed in action in recent months in Ukraine with most of its efforts having “stalled and failed."

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