Ukraine War Turns Once-Lively Bakhmut into Ghost-like City

    07 February 2023

    The war in Ukraine has completely changed the eastern city of Bakhmut.

    The city used to be a popular tourist site, where visitors could explore the area's late 19th century buildings. The city also has a large lakeside park and offers locally-produced wines.

    But that has all changed. The longest battle against invader Russia has turned Bakhmut into a ghost town. Bakhmut sits about 100 kilometers from Russia's border.

    Ukrainian soldiers ride in a Humvee in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Libkos, File)
    Ukrainian soldiers ride in a Humvee in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Libkos, File)

    Even after months of bombings and attempts to surround Bakhmut, Russian forces have not captured the city. But, the continued attacks have made it impossible for civilians there to have a normal life.

    Ukrainian Petro Voloschenko is a soldier known on the battlefield as Stone. He told the Associated Press about current life in the city, "It's hell on earth right now; I can't find enough words to describe it."

    The 44-year-old Voloschenko, who comes from Kyiv, arrived in the area in August when the Russian attacks started. Since then, he has celebrated his birthday, Christmas and New Year's in Bakhmut.

    Today, the city is in ruins. Most houses have been crushed completely or are so damaged they cannot be lived in.

    Only a few thousand people remain in the city, which had a prewar population of 80,000. Those people rarely see daylight though because they spend most of their time sheltering underground.

    Explosions happen all hours of the day. And, Russia could bomb the city anywhere at any time.

    Bakhmut lies in the Donetsk area, one of four provinces Russia illegally seized in the autumn. But currently, Russia only controls about half of the province. To take the remaining half, Russian forces must go through Bakhmut, said Mykola Bielieskov. He is a researcher at Ukraine's National Institute for Strategic Studies.

    "Without seizure of these cities, the Russian army won't be able to accomplish the political task it was given," Bielieskov said.

    The situation in Bakhmut worsened during the summer after Russia took the last major city in neighboring Luhansk province. It then sent troops and equipment into the effort to capture Bakhmut. Ukraine did the same to defend the city.

    In a recent speech, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described the situation in Bakhmut as "very tough."

    "These are constant Russian assaults. Constant attempts to break through our defenses" Zelenskyy said.

    For now, Bakhmut remains completely under the control of Ukraine's army. In January, Russian forces seized the town of Soledar, which sits less than 20 kilometers away. But Russia's push into the area has been very slow, military experts say.

    I'm Bryan Lynn.

    The Associated Press reported this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English.


    Words in This Story

    tourist – n. someone who visits a place for pleasure and does not live there

    wine – n. an alcoholic drink made from the juice of grapes

    ghost town – n. a once lively, successfully town emptied of all or most life and activity

    hell – n. a place or state of torture and suffering

    province – n. a large area some countries are divided into because of the kind of government they have

    accomplish v. to succeed in doing something good

    task – n. a piece of work, especially something unpleasant or difficult

    tough adj. hard or difficult

    constant – adj. happening a lot or all the time

    assault n. an attack