Amid intensive continued fighting around Bakhmut in Eastern Ukraine, which has emerged as a centre of hostilities in the year long Russian-Ukrainian War and where Russian forces have continued to make significant gains, experienced figures have continued to feed back reports from the front of extreme military casualties. One of the latest such reports came from Konstantin Goncharov, a former Deutsche Welle journalist from Kiev who joined the military when the war began. Speaking to the German state outlet on February 28 after time on the frontlines he provided valuable insight into the state of affairs, recalling: “In Bakhmut of course its just a meat grinder. Many recruits who go there [pause] its a lottery for their lives.” He further elaborated that the “intensity of fighting and artillery shelling was colossal, even the people who lived through parts of the hybrid war from 2014 in the Donbas,” stressing that Bakhmut in particular saw Russian firepower used on an entirely different scale. “Meat grinder” has very commonly been used to describe the experience of the battles around Bakhmut for Ukrainian forces, and refers to massed deployments of numerous ground units, usually infantry, to capitalise on their numbers but in the knowledge that extreme casualties, far greater than the adversary can expect to face, are highly likely. Ukraine has been able to employ its mass mobilisation army in such ways due to its significant numerical advantage on the frontlines against Russia.
The Russian Military has reportedly focused on maximising Ukrainian military losses rather than taking territory. Former senior advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Defence U.S. Army Colonel (ret.) Douglas McGregor, reported accordingly that “the Russians went over to a defensive posture, and they have ground away at the Ukrainians who poured tens of thousands of soldiers into their meat grinder. The Russians have taken very light casualties compared to the Ukrainians, and the Ukrainians have lost most of their capable forces and capable manpower.” Former U.S. Marine Troy Offenbecker, who fought in the International Legion on the frontlines in Ukraine, strongly supported Colonel McGregor’s statements, summarising regarding the state of affairs for Ukrainian and allied forces in Bakhmut: “a lot of casualties. The life expectancy is around four hours on the frontline.” As some of the deadliest fighting since the war began clashes were ”chaotic” and were dubbed “the meat grinder” by the Ukrainians, he added. Russian artillery strikes were “nonstop,” and Western media claims of Russian ammunition shortages appeared removed from the reality of the situation.
The Ukrainian Military has seen its manpower supplemented by substantial personnel contributions from across the Western world, including not only volunteers such as Offenbecker, usually with military backgrounds, but also active personnel, such as the hundreds of British Royal Marines deployed to the front from April 2022, and much larger numbers of contractors. Colonel McGregor accordingly reported the presence of an estimated 20,000 contractors from Poland alone, allegedly wearing Ukrainian uniforms, who have played important roles in the war effort alongside other contractors from across the Western world.