As Ukraine Clings to Bakhmut - What's Its Strategy and What's at Stake?

As Ukraine Clings to Bakhmut - What's Its Strategy and What's at Stake?


No matter how often Russia attacks, Ukrainian forces remain determined to hold onto Bakhmut, an eastern city which was the scene of one of the bloodiest battles during their invasion last year. Moscow has said capturing Bakhmut would open the way to full control over all of Donbas industrial region - which had been one of their primary objectives when they invaded Ukraine.

What’s at Stake?

Russia has spent the past year invading and occupying parts of Ukraine, a former Soviet republic which gained independence. Its aim has been to capture and annex eastern regions like Donetsk and Luhansk - known as "Donbas region" - which it refers to as one of Ukraine's most strategic industrial zones.

On the battlefield, it has been a bloody battle in which Russian forces have made little territorial gain and at times suffered devastating setbacks. The battle for Bakhmut, a salt mining town in Donetsk region, has been one of Russia's longest and bloodiest battles since it invaded Ukraine last August; Moscow hopes to seize control over this industrial belt in Donbas.

Russian forces continued their advance toward Bakhmut, as Ukrainian soldiers stood firm and repelled multiple attacks. They have engaged in what has been described as "defensive warfare," reminiscent of World War I trench warfare.

Military officials and soldiers from both sides report that the battle is raging along three main arteries that provide essential lifelines to thousands of Ukrainian troops fighting in and around Bakhmut. The main route, known as the Vymchak-Bakhmut highway, connects Kyiv with Donetsk and is currently uncontested by Russian forces.

It is an essential artery for Ukrainian military supplies, including fuel which has run out during the winter months. The situation is even more precarious since Russia has been bombing power stations in the region to shut down Ukrainian power lines, leaving millions without electricity and heat for days at a time during this heating season.

In addition to the Vymchak-Bakhmut artery, Russian forces have been attacking other key routes as well. These include Donetsk-Bakhmut road and Dzhoda-Bakhmut highway - which Ukrainian military sources frequently report being cut off by Russian forces.

What’s the Strategy?

Ukraine Clings to Bakhmut

Thousands of Ukrainian soldiers are desperately holding onto their positions in the eastern city of Bakhmut, facing an increasingly hazardous and costly battle. Recently, Russia launched its first major offensive since entering Ukraine last year with plans to seize salt-mining Bakhmut and surrounding Donbas industrial region - a key pillar in their strategy for military victory over Ukraine.

Ukrainian troops are fighting valiantly at the front lines, under constant Russian artillery fire. The Ukrainians are mounting a fierce defense and degrading their enemy while desperately trying to hold onto their city.

Volodymyr Nazarenko, a deputy commander in Ukraine's National Guard, described their strategy as one of "inflicting as many losses on Russia as possible." As Russia moves ahead, Ukrainian forces are trying to deter it by cutting off its lifelines. According to local residents who have used this road recently, its main westward route may soon be blocked off.

Russian forces have been making progress on the eastern edge of Kiev, closing in on a main road that leads to its western edge. Reuters has witnessed intense shelling along this route which appears to be an attempt by Moscow to block access for Ukrainians in and out of the city. A bridge near Khromove was also damaged.

Some mercenaries from the private army Wagner, which is supported by Russian forces and leading the assault on Bakhmut, have released videos taunting Ukraine, saying there is only one path left for them to escape. They urged President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to order a withdrawal.

Russian news articles have spread what many experts consider to be false information about the battle for Bakhmut, including claims that Ukraine possesses chemical weapons and is using them against Russians. State-owned RIA Novosti has repeated an unfounded accusation made by Denis Pushilin - head of separatist group Donetsk People's Republic - that Ukraine used chemical weapons near Bakhmut.

What Could Force a Withdrawal?

Over a year into the war, Bakhmut has become a symbol of Ukrainian resolve as they stand against relentless shelling and Russian troops suffer heavy casualties.

Russia has made incremental advances around Bakhmut in recent weeks, though at a cost of thousands of lives. Now the Kremlin is trying to encircle the city so it can seize control of one key supply route linking Ukrainian-held towns in eastern Ukraine. Should Bakhmut fall, it would mark an important milestone in Russia's series of gains since capturing two out of four regions illegally annexed by Ukraine last fall.

According to a military Telegram channel, the Kremlin has deployed some of the finest units from the infamous Wagner mercenary group to try and encircle Bakhmut. These men, led by an unsavory millionaire with connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin, are renowned for their brutal tactics.

Yan Gagin, an advisor to a pro-Russian separatist area in eastern Ukraine, reported that Russia has cut off supplies to Kiev's forces near Bakhmut. "We have cut off all ammunition and manpower supply lines of the enemy in Artemovsk - the city of Bakhmut," he stated.

In response to these developments, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky declared the fighting in Bakhmut "most difficult," yet essential for his country's security and defense. He further warned that if the Ukrainian military were to withdraw from Bakhmut it would only be to save its soldiers' lives.

Zelensky's remarks have caused some debate as to whether Ukraine really plans on withdrawing. A deputy defense minister, Hanna Malaar, stated this week that reinforcements had been sent to Bakhmut but did not specify if they were there as cover for an imminent withdrawal or simply strengthening Ukrainian defenses.

Alexander Rodnyansky, an economic adviser to Ukraine's president, stated in a CNN interview that the government was sending more troops into the battle of Bakhmut in order to guarantee victory against Russian forces. But he cautioned that this conflict has already altered Ukraine's economy and infrastructure; any victory for Russia could only bring more destruction.

What’s the Price?

As Ukraine Clings to Bakhmut

Since Russia's full-scale invasion began one year ago, the tiny, destroyed city of Bakhmut has served as a symbol of Ukrainian resistance. Protecting it and other historic sites like Mariinka and Soledar have slow down Moscow's efforts to extend their control over eastern Ukraine.

But defending a besieged city comes at a cost. Kiev has been forced to enlist the assistance of mercenaries, many recruited from prisons by Russian paramilitary groups known as Wagner. These mercenaries are engaged in combatting Russian forces that have also been supported by VDV airborne force elite.

However, in recent weeks those defenders have been unable to stop Russia's advances. According to the Institute for the Study of War (a US-based think tank), Russian forces have encircled a significant portion of Bakhmut and its surrounding villages.

It remains uncertain if this trend will reverse itself in the near future, but if so, Kiev would suffer its first significant territorial setback in months.

Russia could also benefit if it took control of the town, giving itself a strong foothold to pursue its territorial ambitions throughout eastern Ukraine's industrial Donbas region. It has long held claims to the region's oil fields - which provide Kiev with vital revenue - and non-ferrous metal plant - vital to keeping the country's economy running smoothly.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has increasingly cast the conflict as a pivotal moment in his nation's history, asserting that it was necessary for Russia's survival and future. As such, Moscow's military has refocused their resources on Ukraine's eastern front and continues to extend its control over the region more than one year after beginning its invasion.

Even in the face of seemingly never-ending attacks, Kiev's troops have shown they possess a fierce morale. Colonel general Oleksandr Syrskyi visited besieged Bakhmut over the weekend to instill morale and strategize with units defending the town and surrounding villages, according to Reuters news agency.

Pennsylvania Airport Closed After Suspicious Package Is Found

Pennsylvania Airport Closed After Suspicious Package Is Found

On Friday night, approximately 100 passengers were evacuated from a small airport in Pennsylvania after discovering an unusual package inside one of their bags. As bomb technicians and local police investigated the bag which had been checked onto a flight to Chicago, the airport was shut down.

Investigators found a bag about three inches across that contained a circular device with powder concealed within wax paper and plastic wrap. Additionally, there were two fuses: one quick fuse and another "hobby fuse" that burns slower, investigators noted.

Passengers were evacuated

At Pennsylvania Airport, passengers were evacuated as a suspicious package was discovered. No flights were in or out at the time of the evacuation; nevertheless, the airport remained shut down temporarily while investigators worked to uncover what had been hidden inside a checked bag.

ABC News reported that a suspicious package was hidden inside of a rolling suitcase and discovered by Transportation Security Administration employees. Mark Muffley, who was carrying it, was arrested and charged with multiple offenses.

An FBI bomb technician discovered a suitcase containing an approximately three inch circular device encased in wax-like paper and clear plastic wrap. Inside was mixture of "flash powder" and dark granulars which were typical materials used for commercial grade fireworks. There was also a "quick fuse" similar to candle wick, as well as a "hobby fuse" burning more slowly. This device had been hidden within Muffley's bag until TSA workers discovered it during their inspection for explosives.

Once TSA discovered the suspicious item, it alerted the FBI who then reached out to police in Carbon County to assist with their investigation. On Monday night, agents from the FBI arrested Muffley at his home in Lansford and charged him with having an explosive at an airport and possessing/attempting to place one on an aircraft, according to court papers.

Penn State University posted a video clip to Twitter featuring law enforcement explosives canines clearing the terminal as they were doing their work. Police noted that the airport would reopen soon, as expected by their tweet.

Authorities did not specify how long it took to locate and remove the suspicious device from a flight, though. Passengers on those flights were informed of their delay, and a shuttle bus provided them with food according to an airport statement.

An FBI spokesman confirmed the airport reopened shortly before 2 p.m. and sealed off the area where a suspicious package had been discovered. A photo posted to Twitter depicted an Essex County Sheriff's Bomb Disposal Unit vehicle outside of the terminal building.

The airport was closed

On a flight to Chicago, an unknown package was discovered in a checked bag. This marked the second such incident within less than seven days after another small airport experienced similar issues.

On Friday night in State College, Pennsylvania - home to Penn State University - an incident occurred. Federal agents discovered a circular device with granular powder wrapped in paper and plastic wrap concealed within the lining of a bag. Furthermore, they noted that there was also a "quick fuse" hidden within it as well.

While inspecting a bag, an TSA officer noticed the device and alerted law enforcement. Bomb technicians then confirmed that it was not hazardous.

Investigation spanned multiple agencies. The FBI, Lehigh Valley International Airport Police Department, Allentown Bomb Squad and Bethlehem Bomb Squad all worked to uncover what was inside the bag and whether any explosive devices were present.

Due to the investigation, University Park Airport in State College was closed Friday evening. A number of flights were diverted but all landed safely at their designated terminals.

At press time, it was unclear how many passengers had been affected. A spokesperson for the airport declined to provide further information on this matter.

About 100 passengers were evacuated to campus for shelter while authorities searched through the bag's contents. The airport is expected to reopen Saturday at 4 a.m. The FBI identified the device as a "circular compound," with two fuses and granular powder concealed inside wax paper and plastic wrap, according to their investigation.

The airport reopened

On Monday afternoon, Lehigh Valley International Airport closed part of its main terminal for investigation after a suspicious package was discovered. The west side was shut down until shortly before 2 p.m. The investigation involved multiple agencies such as the FBI, Allentown Bomb Squad, Bethlehem Bomb Squad and Transportation Security Administration.

TSA officers discovered an object while inspecting a suitcase at the airport. It "set off an alarm," and officials discovered what they described as a "circular compound" with two fuses and powder concealed between wax paper and plastic wrap.

A 40-year-old man who checked the bag has been arrested and awaits a court hearing. He is accused of packing explosive materials, fuses and a lighter into his checked rolling suitcase for a flight to Florida.

On Monday morning, FBI agents discovered a suspicious item in Lansford's carbon county airport as Muffley prepared for his flight to Orlando Sanford International Airport. When questioned by authorities, Muffley informed them that he had put it into his checked luggage, according to court records.

TSA personnel inspected the bag and detected lithium batteries and butane inside. Furthermore, they discovered a small torch lighter.

Muffley was charged with possessing an explosive in an airport and trying to place or place an explosive or incendiary device on an aircraft, according to the FBI. He is scheduled to appear in court Thursday morning.

On Friday morning, the airport temporarily shut down part of its terminal due to an alert regarding a suspicious package. Reopening is expected to resume Saturday morning at 4 a.m.

On Monday afternoon, the airport near Pittsburgh was shut down after a man was arrested on federal charges for having explosive materials in his checked luggage. According to the FBI, when this suspect checked his bag for a flight to Florida on Monday morning, two fuses, a lighter and an explosive substance were discovered inside.

The suspect was arrested

Once the package was discovered, the airport was evacuated and bomb technicians determined it to not be hazardous. Subsequently, the airport reopened with passengers once again allowed in.

At approximately 1:50 p.m., the airport reopened and police and bomb squads were still present. An explosive detection dog was also inspecting the terminal according to Lisa Farbstein of Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Passengers were diverted to other areas of the airport during this investigation. Officers from Allentown and Bethlehem bomb squads joined FBI agents for on-site assessment.

Federal authorities arrested a Carbon County man after discovering what they believed to be an explosive in his checked bag at Lehigh Valley International Airport. The suspect was Mark Muffley, 40 years old from Lansford who was taking an Allegiant flight to Florida.

On Monday morning, TSA agents noticed an unusual item in Muffley's checked luggage as he prepared to board his flight for Orlando Sanford International Airport. This set off an alarm and TSA officials called the FBI who then conducted an investigation into the matter.

In a criminal complaint filed with the court, FBI agents accused Muffley of concealing an explosive device similar to those used for commercial fireworks inside his luggage. This circular object measured about three inches across and contained two fuses and powder concealed within its lining, according to the FBI.

Muffley's luggage contained a can of butane, lighter, pipe with white powder residue, wireless drill with cordless batteries and two GFCI outlets taped together with black tape. When security personnel at LVIA called the FBI about the explosive device in Muffley's bag, Muffley was arrested at his home in Lansford, Pennsylvania.

When accused of criminal mischief, having an experienced attorney on your side can be invaluable. This is especially true if the damage was extensive or if there are potential physical repercussions for those affected.

A conviction for a misdemeanor offense could result in jail time of 3, 6, or 12 months and fines up to $2,000, depending on the charge and state law. The prosecutor must prove that the defendant damaged property without its owner's consent.

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