Russia pummels forces in battle for Bakhmut  


Ukrainian military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov told USA Today that Russia’s losses rendered it unable to mount a major offensive after this spring…reports Asian Lite News

Ukrainian troops slowly eased out of their most precarious defences in Bakhmut during the last week of February and the first of March but they did not give up the eastern city to Russian forces.

Ukraine’s tactic was likely to limit its losses while continuing to suck in Russian forces into what now ranks as the war’s longest and most hard-fought battle.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has set the conquest of the eastern provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk, known collectively as the Donbas region, as one of his goals – and Bakhmut in Donetsk is key to that.

“We understand that after Bakhmut, they could go farther,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told CNN. “They could go to Kramatorsk. They could go to Sloviansk. It would be open road for the Russians after Bakhmut to other towns in Ukraine in the Donetsk direction.”

Ukraine made a strategic decision to hold onto Bakhmut for as long as possible, reinforcing it with elite units on Sunday as Russian forces from the Wagner mercenary group entered its northern suburbs.

Zelenskyy said his top commanders were in favour of “continuing the defence operation and further strengthening our positions in Bakhmut”, a city with a pre-war population of about 70,000 people.

He did not elaborate on the reasons but the Institute for the Study of War suggested that Bakhmut has been a meat grinder for Russian forces, diverting them from other parts of the 800km-long (497 miles) front.

“The Ukrainian defense of Bakhmut remains strategically sound as it continues to consume Russian manpower and equipment as long as Ukrainian forces do not suffer excessive casualties,” the United States-based think tank said in a war assessment.

“Russian forces are unlikely to quickly secure significant territorial gains when conducting urban warfare, which usually favours the defender and can allow Ukrainian forces to inflict high casualties on advancing Russian units – even as Ukrainian forces are actively withdrawing,” it said.

Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, has put a figure on that logic, saying Ukrainian forces have lost one soldier for every seven Russians in Bakhmut.

White House officials reported on February 17 that the Wagner Group alone, which has predominantly fought in the Bakhmut area, has suffered 30,000 casualties, including about 9,000 fatalities, in one year of war.

Russia committed an estimated 190,000 soldiers to the invasion it launched on February 24, 2022, and has since added another 316,000. Ukraine has estimated more than 150,000 Russian soldiers have been killed.

Ukrainian military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov told USA Today that Russia’s losses rendered it unable to mount a major offensive after this spring.

“Russia has wasted huge amounts of human resources, armaments and materials,” he told the newspaper. “Its economy and production are not able to cover these losses. … If Russia’s military fails in its aims this spring, it will be out of military tools.”

Ukraine began to show signs of easing out of Bakhmut on February 28 when presidential adviser Alexander Rodnyansky said a tactical withdrawal from parts of the city was not out of the question.

“So far, [our troops have] held the city but if need be, they will strategically pull back because we’re not going to sacrifice all of our people just for nothing,” Rodnyansky said.

“I believe that sooner or later, we will probably have to leave Bakhmut,” Ukrainian parliamentarian Serhiy Rakhmanin said on Ukrainian NV radio the following day. “There is no sense in holding it at any cost.”

“But for the moment, Bakhmut will be defended with several aims: Firstly, to inflict as many Russian losses as possible and make Russia use its ammunition and resources,” he said.

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