Source: www.nytimes.com : 2022-07-09 18:24:06 : Carlotta Gall and Kamila Hrabchuk
BAKHMUT, Ukraine — Russia’s defense ministry has said that it is conducting an “operational pause” in the war in Ukraine to allow units that have been fighting to rest, prompting military analysts to suggest that Russia was not ready to press into a full assault within Donetsk Province after its capture of neighboring Luhansk.
Yet while Russian troops have eased up on the sort of intense, all-day artillery strikes that they unleashed to help capture the final city in Luhansk Province, they have begun launching almost daily strikes on the next line of cities — Sloviansk, Kramatorsk and Bakhmut.
On Friday, families were fixing broken roofs and windows in the city of Bakhmut after another night of Russian shelling. One man died, and three were wounded when multiple rockets smashed into a street of small one-story houses on the eastern side of the city.
Ukrainian forces are operating from bases in the city, and the steady boom of their artillery firing out toward Russian positions resounded while a team of New York Times journalists was visiting. Less than 10 miles from Russian lines, Bakhmut is an important military stronghold for the Ukrainian Army and a strategic target for Russian forces who are preparing to advance into the area.
Yet residents were out early, walking to the shops or to work in the cool morning before the 35 degree Celsius heat — about 95 Fahrenheit — of the Ukrainian summer descended by midday. People lined up outside the central market to withdraw cash from two working A.T.M.s and shopped for essentials in the market, ignoring the roar of multiple rocket launchers that sounded to the north of the city.
Dozens of Ukrainian soldiers mingled with civilians at the market and bought supplies in a large supermarket. Some drove new battle-green sport utility vehicles, but others used personal cars daubed with homemade camouflage paint jobs. One team had to push start their car, a rusty old Lada sedan.
The Russians have particularly maintained pressure on Bakhmut, with daily rocket attacks and even aerial bombardment, probably targeting the large Ukrainian military presence in the city, said Pavlo Dyachenko, the press officer for the Bakhmut police force.
Mr. Dyachenko said he had been standing on a street corner at 7 a.m. on Sunday when Russian jets fired four rockets into the center of the city. The explosions gouged a huge crater, 12 yards across and 12 feet deep, on one of the main avenues, and broke apart and tossed aside the underground water and sewage pipes.
On a small street on the eastern side of town, a family was sweeping up burned debris and glass from a rocket strike that had burned their cars and the neighbor’s house.
“There was a huge noise,” said Raisa, 70, who was sleeping in the front room with her husband, Volodymyr. “The doors were blown off, and then I saw the cars were burning. We opened the window and threw our bags out and climbed out.”
“I was struggling and I went out with only one slipper,” she added. “I could not find the other.”
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