The Ukrainian army admits that Russian Wagner mercenaries have reached the western border of the city of Bahmut. Russia has thus practically captured the entire city, says the think tank that follows the war Institute for the Study of War (you move to another service).
Ukrainian forces are no longer in possession of an “insignificant” strip of urban territory along the T0504 highway, the Ukrainian military says. Deepstatemap map service (you switch to another service) it appears from the map that Ukraine was still in possession of a small residential area next to the highway crossing on Sunday.
In the Kremlin, the takeover of Bahmut has been celebrated as a historic event, reports ISW. On state television, Russian experts have speculated that the capture of Bahmut would create the conditions for the Russian army’s continuous penetration deeper into Ukraine, towards Slovyansk and Kramatorsk. State media have even compared Bahmut to the capture of Berlin that ended World War II in Europe.
In Russia, influential, ultra-nationalist war bloggers have also been pleased with the takeover of Bahmut, but put the achievement in more realistic terms.
The general perception of Russian bloggers is that “Bahmut is not Berlin”, but one step in a difficult operation to achieve Russia’s goals in Ukraine.
Wagner was exhausted
One of Russia’s most influential war bloggers Igor Girkin gave a gloomy picture on his own channel of the mood among the Russian troops after the Battle of Bahmut.
According to Girkin, all Russian troops are exhausted after devoting themselves to the “pointless” battle for Bahmut for months.
The Wagner soldiers who practically took over the city were so tired that they stopped immediately after “crawling” to the administrative western border of the city, writes Girkin.
Ukraine is advancing on sites
According to Western experts, the loss of the Bahmut urban area does not change the military picture of the war in Ukraine, ISW says. On both the northern and southern sides of the city, Ukraine has the initiative.
The Ukrainian army says its forces are gradually advancing and threatening Russian supply links from both directions.
According to ISW, the attacks are carried out by the 3rd Assault Brigade, the elite unit of the Ukrainian army. It faces the Russian 200th Guards Motorized Infantry Brigade to the north of Bahmut and the 72nd Motorized Infantry Brigade to the south.
Both the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and Russian war bloggers say that the counterattacks of the Russian forces have failed.
Russia has brought units from other fronts, such as artillery from Avdijivka, to reinforce Bahmut’s forces, says ISW.
Where are Russia’s reserves?
Western military experts have begun to suspect that Russia’s military power is waning. All reliable units have already been brought to the front.
For example, the use of the 72nd Brigade, known for its low morale, on a demanding front line has attracted attention.
In the fall, Russia carried out a large-scale campaign, which would have brought up to hundreds of thousands of new soldiers to the front after the training period. The launch was thought to change the balance of power in the war in a direction favorable to Russia.
However, the soldiers recruited in the fall have not significantly changed their settings. Teacher of military strategy at the Swedish National Defense University Joakim Paasikivi tells by email that the men are already at the front.
About half of the recruits came to the front already in the fall to make up for the losses suffered by the units, and the rest in January, Paasikivi says.
During this year, Russia has called up about 100,000 more men, a researcher at the Estonian International Center for Defense and Security tells Yelle Ivan Klyszcz.
These men are largely still in various stages of education. They would have been used at the point when the expected invasion of Ukraine begins. Russia hopes that they would be able to respond effectively to the attack by Ukraine, Ivan Klyszcz predicts.
The opinion of many experts is that it doesn’t matter who controls Bahmut. At the moment, it is more relevant that one Ukrainian brigade ties up a significant number of Russian troops. In this situation, Russia has to withdraw troops from other fronts to protect its own troops in Bahmut. This could create space for a major offensive by Ukraine.