The Washington PostThe Washington Post

As Russians inch forward near Bakhmut, Ukrainians dig fallback defenses

By Steve Hendrix and Serhii Korolchuk

16 Feb 2023 · 6 min read

Editor's Note

"This is a war of feet, not miles." The Post has a vivid, on-the-ground report from the epicenter of the fighting in eastern Ukraine, where the battle for Bakhmut has become a Ukrainian rallying cry.

DONETSK REGION, Ukraine - The closest Ukrainian artillery position to the raging battle for Bakhmut is tucked into a leafless tree line about 13,000 feet from the enemy. The fighters here have been hanging on for weeks, lobbing 122mm shells at the Russians straining to encircle the city. If the Russians push even a bit closer, the Ukrainians will have to move their guns back simply to keep from firing over the enemy's heads, the platoon leader said Tuesday.

"If they get any closer our guns are not effective," said the leader, Oleksander, as a crossfire of Ukrainian howitzers and Russian rockets whistled overhead. His own mobile artillery piece boomed into the snowfall, shaking flakes onto the log-covered bunker where his troops have been living since December, as smoke drifted from the spent shell they use as a chimney.

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