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Ukraine’s Verdun


Unable to advance its lines elsewhere an invading army masses its men and material in an attempt to take over a small, isolated city that lies to their west. Defending forces make a determined stand and stop the initial assault from making dramatic gains. The battle lasts several weeks and months and is then transfigured. The war’s longest and deadliest episode is its most strategically meaningless but also its most symbolically meaningful.

For more than seven months, such a battle has been raging in Ukraine’s eastern city of Bakhmut between Russian and Ukrainian forces, and it has come to resemble one of the most infamous military campaigns of the First World War.

The German army attacked Verdun, an eastern French city, in the early hours of the 21st of February 1916. All Quiet at the Western Front. The brainchild of Germany’s new chief of staff, Erich von Falkenhayn, the attack began with an unremitting artillery barrage That pulverized the wooded field into a lunar landscape. “Imagine if you can,” wrote one French officer, “a steadily growing storm raining only paving stones,…

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