Ukraine Needs 'Another Solution' to Win Bakhmut 'Meat Grinder': Politician
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Ukraine Needs 'Another Solution' to Win Bakhmut 'Meat Grinder': Politician

Oct 07, 2023

As the battle in Bakhmut rages on, one Ukrainian representative believes additional soldiers are not the answer to achieving military success in the region.

Ihor Zhdanov, co-founder of the national Ukrainian Open Policy Foundation, wrote in an op-ed in the Kyiv Post that Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Russian mercenary Wagner Group, and others have coined this current phase of the conflict as the "Bakhmut meat grinder."

It is a reference to the 10-month battle conducted in Verdun, France, during World War I. But instead of additional reservist soldiers infiltrating the area on both sides of the military equation, Zhdanov encourages "another solution" akin to what occurred during the Battle of Stalingrad.

The current stage of the war remains volatile as winter soon approaches.

"The war is now in an extended, grinding phase," John Ciorciari, associate dean for research and policy engagement at the University of Michigan's Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, told Newsweek. "The first full winter under sanctions will invite dissent within Russia, especially after Putin's much-criticized mobilization effort.

"Putin needs to show some credible wins domestically. Internationally, however, the destruction of Bakhmut is apt to backfire, reminding the West of the grim road ahead if Ukraine does not continue to receive ample support."

Zhandov appeared confident.

"The situation remains difficult and hectic, but we are convinced that with the military and technical assistance of the West, the AFU [Armed Forces of Ukraine] can eventually claim the much-desired—albeit expensive, in all senses of this word—victory," Zhdanov said.

He referenced an interview conducted by The Economist of AFU General Valery Zaluzhny, who said that in his eyes the war began in 2014 with the Russian annexation of Crimea and has continued to the present.

Zaluzhny called it "crucial" to hold military lines, as "it is 10 to 15 times harder to liberate it than not to surrender it."

The second part of that strategic task involves a focus on February "to wage a war with fresh forces and reserves." It could "at best" occur in March, or "at worst" by January's end, and may not start in Donbas but in the direction of Kyiv or Belarus.

"Our troops are all tied up in battles now, they are bleeding," Zaluzhny said. "They are bleeding and are being held together solely by courage, heroism and the ability of their commanders to keep the situation under control."

The third strategic imperative is further reliance on Western allies to provide continued air defenses, as the United States recently promised with Patriot air missile defense systems. It was considered a response to continued, debilitating attacks on critical infrastructure that has left significant portions of Ukraine without water and electricity for various periods at a time.

"In my personal opinion, I am not an energy expert but it seems to me we are on the edge," Zaluzhny said. "We are balancing on a fine line. And if [the power grid] is destroyed...that is when soldiers' wives and children start freezing. And such a scenario is possible. What kind of mood the fighters will be in, can you imagine? Without water, light and heat, can we talk about preparing reserves to keep fighting?"

When asked if that includes further mobilization of soldiers, the general said his army already has "enough" soldiers. Instead, he referred to additional tanks, armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles, and ammunition.

Zhdanov said the Patriot systems, in addition to German Leopard-2 tanks and Swedish Saab JAS 39 Gripen fighters, can "finally change the strategic situation at the front in favor of Ukraine."

Newsweek reached out to the Ukrainian and Russian defense ministries for comment.