The battlefront in Ukraine has not undergone major changes for months, if anything slow advances that do not allow the balance to tip to one side or the other. But in recent days it seems that the Russian initiative in Bakhmut, the current epicenter of the conflict, could bear some fruit. On Thursday Moscow and Kyiv confirmed a new and intense Russian assault, although they differed on the results, and this Friday the intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of the United Kingdom assured in its daily report that the Ukrainian troops have had to cede parts of the city to the russian push.
Over the past two days, Russian troops have resumed the offensive on Bakhmut, which in Russia is called Artemivsk, a name it had until 2016. Moscow has intensified artillery fire and the Russian attack seems more coordinated after “the forces of the The Russian Defense Ministry and the Wagner Group have improved cooperation,” London said on Friday. In recent months, the head of Wagner’s mercenaries, pro-Kremlin oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, has accused the Russian command of not sending enough supplies to his men.
Bakhmut, which had 70,000 inhabitants before the conflict, has become Russia’s main target this winter to revive its advance into eastern Ukraine. Surrendering this stronghold, in addition to a morale boost after the autumn withdrawals in Kharkiv (northeast) and Kherson (south), could allow Russian troops to advance towards other more important cities and then try to control the entire Donetsk province, the declared objective of the pro-Russian authorities in that region.
Moscow said Thursday that its troops had managed to prevent the Ukrainians from entering and leaving the city. “The airborne troops are supporting the advance of the assault troops, blocking the transfer of Ukrainian army reserves to the city and the possibility of withdrawal of enemy units,” said Russian Defense spokesman Lieutenant General Igor Konashenkov. .
Kyiv, for its part, denied it. His army spokesman, Serhí Cherevati, said his troops could still “send supplies, ammunition and medicine” as well as evacuate the wounded.
The city suffers from an intense Russian offensive, “with 40-50 assaults and 500 shelling daily”, according to Kyiv
Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar admitted on Telegram that there was fighting on the entire eastern front, but that “most of the offensive efforts” by Russia were taking place “in the Bakhmut sector,” with “their most professional and using a significant amount of artillery and aviation.” According to her, every day the Russians carried out “40 to 50 assault operations and about 500 bombing raids.” But she claimed that the Ukrainian forces repelled the attacks in almost all areas.
Wagner’s boss, Prigozhin, said it was too early to consider the city surrounded. Days before, he assured that his men controlled 80% of the city, a figure that the Ukrainians see as exaggerated.
With the Russian initiative underway, it appears that Kyiv is forced to back down. According to British military intelligence, “the Ukrainian defense still holds the western districts of the city, but has come under particularly heavy Russian artillery fire over the previous 48 hours.”
Faced with this situation, “they face significant resupply problems, but they have made orderly withdrawals from the positions that they have been forced to cede.”
And Konashenkov, the Russian Defense spokesman, assured this Friday in his daily part that Wagner’s mercenaries “are carrying out high-intensity hostilities to seize the neighborhoods of the western areas” of Bakhmut