This article was written by M.A. candidate Grant Turner.
For months, experts have been wondering why Russia is determined to capture Bakhmut and its surrounding territory, in spite of a staggering death toll and loss of resources. From March through early September, it made strategic sense to attack the key supply routes around the city and particularly to its north, because Kremlin forces were attempting to create and then capture the Slovyansk-Lysychansk-Bakhmut pocket. However, by the second week of September, Russia began losing most of its gains in the area and facing territorial losses elsewhere due to the launch of Ukraine’s eastern counter-offensive and subsequent Kherson counter-offensive. Nonetheless, the fighting surrounding the city has steadily intensified even though it has little to no strategic value, and it has distracted the Kremlin’s forces from more strategically significant priorities in the Kharkiv, northern Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson regions.