Ukrainian volunteers detailed in comments to The Times how they were unprepared to fight Russian forces near the city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk Oblast, where the two sides have been locked in heavy battles for months.
The report came after Russia’s Wagner Group said it took Soledar, a small mining town three miles northeast of Bakhmut. Ukrainian volunteers told The Times that they were supposed to hold the line in the area, but they weren’t armed with any of the advanced equipment the US and NATO have been pouring into the country.
“We had our Kalashnikov rifles and a few grenades and that was it,” one volunteer said. “If we had had night-vision goggles, or something like that, we might have been able to see the Russians.” They were ordered to withdraw from the area, and Russia’s capture of Soledar could help Russian forces encircle Bakhmut.
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that some Western and Ukrainian officials were worried that Ukraine was sacrificing too many soldiers and resources to hold on to Bakhmut. The report reads: “Western — and some Ukrainian — officials, soldiers and analysts increasingly worry that Kyiv has allowed itself to be sucked into the battle for Bakhmut on Russian terms, losing the forces it needs for a planned spring offensive as it stubbornly clings to a town of limited strategic relevance.”
One Ukrainian commander told the Journal that the casualty rate might not be sustainable. “So far, the exchange rate of trading our lives for theirs favors the Russians. If this goes on like this, we could run out,” he said.
It’s unclear how many casualties there have been in the war, with both sides offering vastly different estimates. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley claimed in November that both Russian and Ukrainian forces have suffered “well over” 100,000 casualties, including both dead and wounded.