Russia, Wagner Group Offenses in Bakhmut ‘Lowest’ Since January: U.K.
According to British intelligence, Russian soldiers fighting for control of Bakhmut have seen their “lowest level” of offensive action in recent days amid a “depletion” of troop strength in the Ukrainian city.
Bakhmut has become the site of some of the most intense fighting in the Russia-Ukraine war, as Moscow looks to deliver a rare battlefield victory after months of stagnation. Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his “special military operation” in Ukraine on February 24, 2022, aiming for a quick and decisive victory. However, Ukraine’s fervent defense effort has blunted its military gains.
Both Ukraine and Russia have waged a fierce battle to control the city, as experts say Russia taking the city would offer its troops more of a symbolic victory than a strategic one. Moscow, fighting alongside the Wagner Group paramilitary unit, has defended its gains in the city to counter reports that its army has struggled throughout the war.
However, the UK Ministry of Defense on Saturday reported that its intelligence has found a lower rate of offensive action among Russian troops in its daily intelligence update.
Ukrainian soldiers are seen firing an M777 howitzer near Bakhmut on Friday. Amid the battle for Bakhmut, a town in eastern Ukraine, the UK Ministry of Defense said on Saturday that Russian troops had been conducting fewer offensives in recent days.ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images
“Russia is conducting some of the lowest levels of local offensive actions seen since at least January 2023,” the update said. “This is most likely because Russian forces have temporarily depleted the combat power of deployed formations to such an extent that even local offensive actions are not currently sustainable.”
Moscow is likely to try to “regenerate the offensive potential of the force” when personnel and ammunition stocks are replenished, meaning Russian commanders will be forced to make key decisions about how to move forward in the city in the coming days, according to update.
“Meanwhile, commanders are likely to be forced to choose between conducting offensive operations and conducting a reliable full-line defense,” the ministry wrote.
However, the update revealed that Russia has still made some gains in Bakhmut. In particular, its troops “took bases” west of the Bakhmutka River, which flows through the center of the city.
Latest Bakhmut Updates: Think Tank Warns Russia ‘Near Climax’
The British intelligence update is just the latest sign that Russia may face obstacles in Bakhmut. For months, Russia appeared to be making progress against Ukraine, last week claiming it had “favorable positions” against Ukraine.
Last week, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a US-based think tank, said Russia was taking a “tactical pause” in the months-long campaign to capture the city.
On Thursday, ISW wrote that Russian troops in Bakhmut appeared to be “close to climax,” a military term that refers to the point at which a unit is too stretched or exhausted to continue its advance. The group noted a lower number of Russian attacks throughout the week.
Newsweek contacted the Russian Defense Ministry via email for comment.