Inside Putin's 'meat grinder' battlefield as his butchers reduce city to 'burnt ruins' in 'First World War hell' | The Sun

THE battle for a Ukrainian city has descended into "First World War hell" as Putin sends his butchers into a relentless fight described as a "meat grinder".

Volodymyr Zelensky said Putin's troops have reduced the eastern city of Bakhmut to "burnt ruins" as Ukrainian soldiers compared the scenes to First World War-style trench conflict.

The city – once home to 70,000 people – has been bombarded by intense shelling for more than six months as Russia pounds Ukrainian trenches day and night with artillery.

Putin's merciless troops are trying to blast across a desolate no man’s land littered with bodies on the eastern edge of Bakhmut – but Ukraine's fierce troops are fighting back and mowing them down.

Kostyantyn, a Ukrainian machine-gunner, said his comrades are downing Russian forces with grenade launchers and machine guns – describing it as a "conveyor belt" of Russian troops.

He told the Financial Times: "For what? A f*****g metre of our land."

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Amid a huge and growing number of casualties, he added: "They are just meat to Putin, and Bakhmut is a meat grinder."

With no electricity of running water, Ukrainian soldiers said Bakhmut has become a ghost town and becoming a wasteland like nearby Izyum and the southern city of Mariupol.

Volodymyr, a senior officer, described the fighting as "hell, just hell".

One of the city's last remaining residents, Oksana, 75, told Sky News: "Why are they [Russians] so stubborn when it comes to our Bakhmut? And here: war, war, war.

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"They have been hitting us all the time for more than half a year already."

She added: "We are in the Stone Age. It is terrifying to live like this in the 21st century.

"And no one in the world can help us. How can it be?"

Despite the heavy fighting, Russian gains have been minimal with the frontline changing by no more than a few metres in recent weeks.

But Zelensky warned that the situation in the frontline city "remains very difficult".

He said "a very fierce confrontation is ongoing there" – warned "every metre counts".

"The occupiers actually destroyed Bakhmut," the Ukrainian president said in his nightly address to the nation on Friday.

In Bakhmut and other key areas of Donbas "there is already no place left to live in… that has not been damaged by shells and fire," he said.

Russian troops are also trying to advance near Lyman – which was recaptured by Ukrainian forces in November, the region's governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said.

The latest battles of Russia's war in Ukraine have centered on four provinces that Putin illegally claimed to have annexed in September.

Russia's grinding eastern offensive succeeded in capturing almost all of Luhansk during the summer.

Donetsk escaped the same fate – but the Russian military has poured manpower and resources around Bakhmut in an attempt to encircle the city.

After Ukrainian forces recaptured the southern city of Kherson nearly a month ago, the battle heated up around Bakhmut.

Taking Bakhmut would rupture Ukraine's supply lines and open up a route for Russian forces to blast towards Kramatorsk and Sloviansk – key Ukrainian strongholds in Donetsk.

Last week, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warned there was a "real possibility" of full-blown war between NATO and Russia.

In a chilling message, the head of the security alliance said he fears the Ukraine war will "get out of control".

Asked what he fears most this winter, Stoltenberg told Norwegian broadcaster NRK: "I fear that the war in Ukraine will get out of control, and spread into a major war between NATO and Russia."

"If things go wrong, they can go horribly wrong," he added.

He said he was confident such a situation would be avoided – but warned it remained a "real possibility". 

"I understand everyone who is tired of supporting Ukraine," he said.

"I understand everyone who thinks that food prices and the electricity bills are far too high.

"But we have to pay a much higher price if our freedom and peace are threatened through Putin winning in Ukraine."

Meanwhile, the UK's Ministry of Defence said Russia and Iran are ramping up their military ties at an "unprecedented" level as the Ukraine war rages on.

The ministry said the two countries were developing a "full-fledged defence partnership".

In an intelligence update, it said: "Iran has become one of Russia's top military backers since Russia invaded Ukraine.

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"Iran’s support to the Russian military is likely to grow in the coming months: Russia is attempting to obtain more weapons, including hundreds of ballistic missiles.

"In return Russia is highly likely offering Iran an unprecedented level of military and technical support that is transforming their defence relationship."

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