For 92 years Artemivsk stood as a city inside Donbas, the administrative centre of Bakhmut Raion, around 55 miles (89km) north of ‘s major hub Donetsk. Then, in 2016, the city, home to some 71,000 people, changed its name to Bakhmut, known as an increasingly thriving space, designated a “city of regional significance”. Today, Bakhmut is anything but.
, the town is now a bombsite, where just three percent of its once lively population remains — chiefly made up of elderly men and women who have lived most of their lives there.
And fears for Bakhmut’s future are still being grimly predicted as Russia closes in on taking control of the city and cutting off supply lines to other regions in Ukraine.
Wave after wave of “ferocious” fighting has torn out the soul of Bakhmut. Russian military personnel are reportedly striving to take down any Ukrainian forces they see, despite their enemy “not retreating anywhere”.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner mercenary group’s leader, hailed his troops as “fighting to the last” in a Telegraph report, adding: “In the northern quarters of Artemivsk, there are fierce battles for every street, every house, every stairwell.”
Ukraine, described how Russia was now “attacking from three sides”, and had “reached one of the main highways into the city, and are closing in on the outskirts”.
“It feels like Bakhmut is on borrowed time,” Ms Guerin continued. “If so, Ilya and Oleksii intend to use every second of it. The two Ukrainian National Guardsmen move swiftly and silently across open ground on the frontlines and then plunge into a trench.”
She described how Ilya, an “IT guy turned intelligence officer”, would velcro explosives to drones before sending the machine off to target Russian fighters around 500 metres away. Oleksii, the drone pilot, joked they were “giving them a gift”.
He continued: “The aim is not to kill a lot of soldiers but to make them afraid of our sky, to make them watch out every second. It’s psychological pressure.”
Despite Oleksii’s brave stance to “protect Bakhmut and the area around it as much as we can”, Ukraine and its President Volodymyr Zelensky, who will be making a surprise visit to the UK today, are considering withdrawing from the city as the body count takes its toll.
, is aiming to secure Bakhmut before February 24, which is the anniversary of Moscow’s invasion of neighbouring Ukraine last year.
Though the region is still contested, the Ministry of Defence in Britain has confirmed that Russian forces are now at an advantage, as they can “now shell the M03 and the H32 roads, Ukraine’s main supply lines into the town”, the Telegraph’s senior foreign correspondent Roland Oliphant wrote this week.
would never be an option, and they were in fact putting more resources into defending it. But the Moscow juggernaut has continued its relentless purge,
Last month Putin’s troops took control of Soledar, a nearby settlement around 11 miles (18km) from Bakhmut, as well as the village of Bilohorivka, though Serhiy Haidai, a Ukrainian governor, denied this.
He added: “Our troops remain in their positions, nobody has captured Bilohorivka, nobody has entered there, there is no enemy there.”
But the brutal life inside Bakhmut continues, for now at least. Among those still present include Anna, a seven-year-old child, who lives in the area with her mother, Yuleia, grandfather Valery, two cats and Muskha, the family dog.
Though sharing the enduring positivity only a child can radiate, Anna detailed how she “sits in the cellar almost all day long” but on occasion would take Muskha for a walk, despite her being “afraid of these booms and constantly comes back”.
Yulia continued: “Of course, I am worried. But I think it is more or less safe. At least we have everything here, everything is prepared. We think nowhere in Ukraine is safe and we have no means to go abroad.”
Ukraine’s fight continues.