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Artyomovsk (Bahkmut) Is Liberated!

May 21, 2023, 2022 (EIRNS)—The Russian Defense Ministry issued the following announcement at 5:15 p.m. EDT yesterday: “Artyomovsk has been completely liberated as a result of offensive actions by Wagner assault detachments supported by artillery and aviation of the Yug Group of Forces.” In its daily update of this morning, the ministry added that “Aviation and artillery of the Yug Group of Forces have foiled enemy’s attempts to counter-attack from the areas of Konstantinovka, Bogdanovka, and Krasnoye (Donetsk People’s Republic).” Russian forces also destroyed a bridge near Krasnoye that was used by Ukrainian troops to bring reinforcements to Artyomovsk.

Putin issued his congratulations to the forces involved this morning. “The President congratulated the Wagner assault units as well as all service personnel of the Russian Federation Armed Forces who had rendered them the required support and protected the flanks, on the completion of the operation to liberate Artyomovsk,” said a statement posted by the Kremlin press service. “All military personnel who distinguished themselves in the operation will be recommended for state decorations.”

Zelenskyy apparently didn’t acknowledge the loss of Artyomovsk, when he met with Biden in Hiroshima, this morning. TASS reports that during Zelenskyy’s interaction with Biden, someone from the audience shouted out a question addressed to the Ukrainian president: “Is Bakhmut still under Ukrainian control?” The questioner followed by an additional line: “The Russian Federation claims to have taken Bakhmut.”

Zelenskyy replied, “I think no.” And then added: “But you have to understand that there is nothing left there. They destroyed everything. There are no buildings. It’s a pity, it’s a tragedy, but for today Bakhmut is only in our hearts.”

Ukrainian presidential spokesman Sergey Nikiforov said that Zelenskyy was responding to an additional line. That is, the words “I think no” refer to the phrase: “The Russian Federation claims to have taken Bakhmut.” At the same time, Nikiforov glossed over the fact that there was a clear question about whether Artyomovsk remains under Ukrainian control. “The president has denied Bakhmut has been taken over,” Nikiforov wrote on his Facebook page.

There is some caution on what the liberation of Artyomovsk means militarily, however.  Alexander Kots, the military correspondent of Komsomolskaya Pravda, noted that while estimates of Ukrainian losses run as high as 50,000 killed in the 244 days of the battle, Artyomosk is still surrounded by heavily fortified Ukrainian positions in Avdeevka, Druzhkovka, Konstantinovka, Kramatorsk, Slavyansk, and other places.  Kiev’s main defensive line in Donbass,” he says, “runs along this axis.”

Then there’s the question of the much-anticipated Ukrainian offensive. “An attack by the Ukrainian armed forces was predicted to take place in the 20s of May,” notes the Ukraine Watch Telegram channel. “The Ukrainian armed forces have not abandoned plans for an offensive. These plans were prepared, and the equipment and people that have been saved are being brought to the front line. By all indications, activation may begin in the next few days.”

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