Wagner advance in Bakhmut as Russian offensive appears to weaken
As Russian offensive power seemed to peter out across Ukraine’s eastern front, mercenary forces from Russia’s Wagner Group doubled down on attacks against the Ukrainian defenders of Bakhmut city in the Donetsk region during the 55th week of the war.
Ukrainian Colonel Oleksiy Dmytrashkivskyi said Russian ground attacks had decreased over the past week across the front from a high of up to 100 per day to below 30 per day, while there were between two and nine attacks at night. Dmytrashkivskyi believed Russian forces had suffered significant manpower and equipment losses.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a Washington, DC-based think tank, believed Russia’s offensive in the Luhansk region, which neighbours Donetsk, was petering out.
“The Russian offensive operation in Luhansk Oblast is likely nearing culmination, if it has not already culminated, although Russia has committed most elements of at least three divisions to the Svatove-Kreminna line,” the ISW said.
“Russian forces have made only minimal tactical gains along the entire Luhansk Oblast front line over the last week, and Ukrainian forces have likely recently managed to conduct counterattacks and regain territory in Luhansk Oblast,” the institute added.
The United Kingdom’s defence ministry in its latest intelligence update reported that fighting had also slowed round Vuhledar in the Donetsk region, and the only recent success had been seen in the battle for Bakhmut.
“Over the last week, Russian attempts to assault the Donetsk oblast town of Vuhledar have almost certainly slowed. This follows repeated, extremely costly failed attacks over the previous three months… Russia’s only recent tactical success has been in the Bakhmut sector,” the ministry said.“Over the last week, Russian attempts to assault the Donetsk oblast town of Vuhledar have almost certainly slowed. This follows repeated, extremely costly failed attacks over the previous three months… Russia’s only recent tactical success has been in the Bakhmut sector,” the ministry said.
“Their further fate is unknown,” wrote a Ukrainian military blogger. “The best things they have are backpacks. From 3 to 10 people walk in columns, behind them a [Russian] with a machine gun.”
Ukrainian Eastern Forces spokesman Colonel Serhiy Cherevaty said on March 11 that fighting in Bakhmut had intensified in the past week and that there were 23 combat clashes in the city over the past day alone. The following day, Cherevaty said more than 39 combat clashes took place within Bakhmut. The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces also reported that Ukrainian troops had repelled Russian attacks on Bakhmut.
Wagner Group mercenaries, who have led Russia’s fight in Bakhmut for months, tried in February to encircle the city – first from the south then from the north – in an attempt to choke off supplies to the Ukrainian defenders. But they have so far failed to do so.
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