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Ukraine's Battle of the Somme: Cold, Mud, Dirt and Blood

  

SAY WHAT? - This weekend, as Russia's brutal, pointless, little-heeded war against Ukraine lurched on, grim images emerged on social media of Ukrainian soldiers caught in the bloody quagmire around Bakhmut, an eastern city that after months of fighting has devolved into a ravaged landscape of splintered, shell-torn trees, yawning artillery craters, strewn dead bodies, and sodden Ukrainian forces hunched in a muddy, freezing, deadlocked trench warfare against relentless enemy barrages that in its desolation and destruction some have likened to "the new Passchendaele." That infamous 1917 clash, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres, saw the Allies suffer roughly 300,000 casualties and inflict almost that many on the Germans in one of the most costly battles of World War One; it is remembered not only for its horrific loss of life but its freezing, sucking mud, "a monster," that drew soldiers to their deaths.

In "a bloody vortex for two militaries," Russian leaders desperate for a victory have been focused on moving reinforcements to the killing fields of Bakhmut. After so many reverses for their elite units, fighting has reportedly fallen to a mix of separatist militias, mercenaries and newly mobilized, ill-trained conscripts backed by massive artillery barrages, often aided by drones to make them particularly, lethally accurate. Amidst reports of Russian assaultson a "World War One hellscape," observers cite Russia's stunning disregard for their own troops, with commanders sending "single use" soldiers out in waves "like meat" to find Ukrainian positions; with Russian losses estimated at up to 300 a day, Ukraine "has become one giant graveyard" for them. Others say Ukraine's wet, cold winter is "the biggest killer" for "under-trained, under-supplied, ambivalently led" recruits lacking proper food, gear, boots or shelter, with dozens freezing to death.

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