Zelenskyy fears Ukrainians will lose the will to fight and push him to negotiate with Moscow if Bakhmut falls
Zelenskyy worries that if Bakhmut falls, he’ll face pressure to negotiate with Russia.
“Our society will push me to have compromise with them,” he told AP.
Western military analysts have suggested Bakhmut is strategically insignificant.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is concerned that if Bakhmut falls to Russia, it would break the fighting spirit of his people and that they would push him to negotiate with Russia.
In a new interview, Zelenskyy told the Associated Press that if Russian forces conquered the eastern Ukrainian city, he would rapidly feel pressure from the wider world and from Ukrainians. “Our society will feel tired,” Zelenskyy said. “Our society will push me to have compromise with them.”
Kyiv has pushed back against calls for talks with Moscow as Russian forces continue to launch attacks, including in civilian areas. The Ukrainian government has repeatedly said it would not agree to any terms requiring it to cede territory to Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to annex four Ukrainian territories in September hardened Kyiv’s position in this regard and made the prospect of negotiations less likely.
Bakhmut has seen some of the fiercest fighting in the war. The fight for the city has lasted seven months, making it the longest battle in the war.
But the US has downplayed the strategic significance of the city, which had a pre-war population of roughly 70,000. And top military analysts have suggested that Ukraine is hurting its ability to launch another counteroffensive by dedicating valuable personnel and resources to holding Bakhmut. But Zelenskyy and his top military advisors have argued against pulling back their forces, and the Ukrainian leader is seemingly more concerned about the symbolic costs of losing the city than the strategic consequences.
If Russia wins in Bakhmut, it would offer Moscow its first battlefield victory in months and Putin would “sell this victory to the West, to his society, to China, to Iran,” Zelenskyy told the Associated Press. “If he will feel some blood — smell that we are weak — he will push, push, push.”
Russian forces currently occupy approximately 65% of Bakhmut, after seizing an additional five percent of the city in the last week, according to the latest assessment from the Institute for the Study of War, which has closely tracked the war in Ukraine.
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