The Russians continue hammering away at Bakhmut in Ukraine, as earlier claims that they had surrounded the city have proven premature. Russian Wagner Group mercenaries have been making bloody, brutal frontal assaults for weeks and gained ground slowly, trying to trap Ukrainian forces in the city.
Both sides are continuing to fight over the city for different reasons. The Ukrainians know that while Bakhmut holds no strategic value, it connects to different road networks that traverse the remainder of Donetsk, as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told CNN. Meanwhile, the Russians want to gain a political victory.
“We understand what Russia wants to achieve there. Russia needs at least some victory – a small victory – even by ruining everything in Bakhmut, just killing every civilian there,” Zelensky added. Putting their “little flag” on top of the city, would help “mobilize their society in order to create this idea they’re such a powerful army,” the Ukrainian president said.
On Saturday, the U.K. Ministry of Defense tweeted that two bridges in Bakhmut, vital to Ukrainian resupplying had been destroyed.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a Washington DC-based think-tank, wrote on Friday that Ukrainian troops had blown up the bridges, a sign they were preparing to withdraw and slow the Russian advance.
However, Ukrainian officials told the New York Times that they conducted a counterattack that opened up another road which would make resupplying their troops in the city somewhat easier. Ukraine has also heavily fortified some areas to which roads out of Bakhmut lead, so the Russians won’t advance speedily if they take the city.
ISW added that “the Battle of Bakhmut may, in fact, severely degrade the Wagner Group’s best forces, depriving Russia of some of its most effective and most difficult-to-replace shock troops.” Therefore, a victory in Bakhmut may cost more to Russia’s military than it will be worth.
Many military analysts believe that Ukraine is just prolonging the fight long enough to bleed Russia’s best offensive troops into becoming combat ineffective, as it did a year ago, and then, at a time of its choosing, will counterattack with the advantage of Western armor.
Feature Image: Wagner mercenaries pass by a destroyed tank in Bakhmut. (Twitter via @LogKa11)
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