Hell on Earth. How Russia destroys the city of Bakhmut in Donetsk region
The city of Bakhmut used to be a flourishing and calm city in the Donetsk region with businesses working and people having peaceful lives. But in 2014, it faced the reality of the Russian occupation. And eight years later, after Russia started the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, this city has become a place of fierce fighting and great suffering.
For the last several months, Bakhmut and nearby territories became the number one priority for Russian invaders in their attempt to fully occupy the Donetsk region. But they never managed to do so thanks to brave Ukrainian defenders who risk their lives for every meter of Ukrainian territory.
Because of the Russian constant shelling, the city of Bakhmut now resembles hell on Earth: sounds of explosions, fires, buildings ruined to pieces, and no means for a normal life, no light, no heat, no water.
Nevertheless, Bakhmut does not give up. It stands. It stands for the whole of Ukraine thanks to brave defenders, medics, volunteers, rescuers, and critical workers who stay there protecting the sovereignty and freedom of Ukraine.
We invite you to read some historical facts about the city of Bakhmut and what it turned into after the start of the full-scale Russian invasion.
The oldest city in Donetsk region
Bakhmut is one of the oldest cities in the Donetsk region, with more than 450 years of history. 1571 is considered to be the year of Bakhmut’s foundation. Although some historians believe it started to develop earlier. At first, it was a border post that later became a fortified town.
In the 17-18th century, large deposits of salt were discovered there — so its population started increasing fast. The salt became a hallmark of Bakhmut. Even its coat of arms depicts an alchemical salt symbol. By the end of the 19th century, the first salt and gypsum mines, and brick and glass factories were opened on Bakhmut’s outskirts. French, Dutch and other European investments came to the city.
In 1917, after the proclamation of independence of the Ukrainian People’s Republic, Bakhmut became the first city in the Donetsk region to unfurl the Ukrainian flag over a state building. Back then, Bakhmut became the center of the revival of the Ukrainian movement in the region. Ukrainian educational institutions were working, and mass Ukrainian rallies were held.
Several years later, the city came under Moscow’s control again. In 1924, Bakhmut was renamed Artemivsk in honor of one of Stalin’s henchmen — Fyodor “Artem” Sergeyev. The city bore this name until 2016.
Occupation in 2014
After Russia started its assault on Ukraine’s sovereignty in 2014, Bakhmut (back then Artemivsk) was temporarily occupied by Russian and Russian-backed militants for several months — from April to July. On July 6, 2014, units of the National Guard and the Armed Forces of Ukraine liberated the city from the Russian invaders.
Despite being located only 30 kilometers from the frontline, famous for its sparkling wine factory and salt mines, Bakhmut has been flourishing and developing over the past years until Russia started its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, turning the city into a real battlefield.
Russian attempt to occupy the city in 2022
The battle near Bakhmut began in May 2022 and strongly intensified in August.
After months of Russia’s brutal war, Bakhmut is nothing like before. Only 12,000 people of the pre-war 80,000 city residents remain there. There is no heating, water or electricity. The city is daily under constant Russian shelling.
Bakhmut and nearby territories became a place of fierce confrontation between the Ukrainian army and Russian invaders. In some spots, the fighting near the city is so heavy that it resembles the trench warfare of World War I.
As Financial Times correspondent Christopher Miller reports from the frontline, Ukrainians are fighting for mere meters of territory. “Ukrainian soldiers described the intensity of the recent fighting in and around Bakhmut, particularly the artillery barrages, as greater than anything they had experienced anywhere in Ukraine since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion in February,” Miller wrote in the article.
According to British intelligence, Russia has prioritized Bakhmut as its main offensive effort since early August 2022. However, it still has not been able to capture the city after four months of attempts, thanks to the resistance of the Ukrainian army.