The battle for Ukraine’s Bakhmut: A timeline

Wagner claims control of Bakhmut but Kyiv says fighting continues. Here are some key moments in the battle for the city.

Ukrainian soldiers fire a cannon near Bakhmut,
Ukrainian soldiers fire a cannon near Bakhmut, an eastern city where fierce battles against Russian forces have been taking place, in the Donetsk region [File: AP Photo/Libkos]

The battle for the city of Bakhmut in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region has become the longest and bloodiest of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Here is a timeline of key events there:

May 8, 2022 – Ukraine confirms its forces have withdrawn from Popasna, a town around 24km east of Bakhmut, with a major road running between the two settlements. Russian forces can now advance towards Bakhmut and pound it with artillery.

August 9, 2022 – British defence intelligence says the Bakhmut axis has been Russia’s most successful front during the last 30 days and troops have advanced about 10km in the region.

October 8, 2022 – The start of the assault on Bakhmut city by Wagner fighters, according to Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin.

October 15, 2022 – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says the situation in Bakhmut is “the most difficult” of all the front lines. “We are holding our positions,” he says.

December 20, 2022 – Zelenskyy pays a surprise visit to the city, where he hails his “superhuman” troops and urges them to fight on.

January 25, 2023 – Ukraine’s military says it has withdrawn from the town of Soledar, north of Bakhmut. Two weeks earlier, Prigozhin posted a photo of himself along with some of his fighters in what he said was one of Soledar’s salt mines.

February 3, 2023 – Zelenskyy says Ukraine will fight “as long as we can” for Bakhmut. “Nobody will give away Bakhmut … We consider Bakhmut our fortress,” he says.

March 10, 2023 – After appearing to plan a retreat in early March, and Western allies questioning the strategic importance of Bakhmut, Ukraine decides to reinforce its beleaguered soliders in Bakhmut, saying that battle is locking down Russia’s best military units.

March 22, 2023 – Zelenskyy makes a surprise visit to troops near Bakhmut to thank them for their bravery and hand out awards.

April 2, 2023 – Prigozhin hoists a Russian flag by what he says is Bakhmut’s city hall. He says taking the building means Bakhmut has been captured by Moscow “from a legal point of view”. Ukraine rejects his claim, saying it is not clear where Prigozhin raised the flag.

April 11, 2023 – Prigozhin says Wagner controls more than 80 percent of Bakhmut. Ukraine denies this, saying it controls “considerably” more than 20 percent of the city.

April 26, 2023 – The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence says fighting has reached Bakhmut’s western outskirts over the past week, especially around the settlement of Khromove on its northwestern edge, as Ukraine seeks to retain control of the main access road.

May 1, 2023 – Ukraine claims to have ousted Russian forces from some positions in Bakhmut amid fierce battles.

May 10, 2023 – Ukraine’s ground forces commander says Russian units in some parts of Bakhmut have retreated by up to two kilometres.

May 19, 2023 – Ukraine says it has repelled attacks by Russian forces trying to recapture ground around Bakhmut. Prigozhin says “heavy, bloody battles” are continuing and his men are close to completely capturing Bakhmut.

May 20, 2023 – Prigozhin says Wagner forces have completed the capture of Bakhmut. Ukraine says the situation there is critical, with its troops still defending the southwestern part of the city.

Source: Reuters