Russian breakthrough in meatgrinder Bakhmut unlikely, says MoD

Ukraine: Drone captures destruction in Bakhmut

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Russia is unlikely to “achieve a significant breakthrough near Bakhmut” in the foreseeable future because Ukraine has “committed significant reinforcements” to the area, according to the British Ministry of Defence. The eastern city in Donetsk Oblast has been surrounded both by Wagner Group forces, part of a mercenary outfit fighting in Ukraine outside of the chain of command of the Russian Armed Forces, and the Donetsk People’s Republic, a pro-Russian paramilitary organisation also known for its brutality, but any prospects of capturing the area have been thwarted. The MoD suggested that “both sides have suffered high casualties” and that, as a consequence, “Russian assaults have likely reduced from the peak in mid-December”. 

The British MoD, in their daily update, wrote: “In mid-December, Russian military and Wagner proxy forces likely increased the frequency of their infantry assaults around the Donetsk Oblast town of Bakhmut. However, many of these operations were poorly supported.

“Over the last ten days, Ukraine has committed significant reinforcements to defend the sector and the frequency of Russian assaults have likely reduced from the peak in mid-December. Both sides have suffered high casualties.

“Russian offensive operations in the area are now likely being conducted at only platoon or section level. 

“It is unlikely Russia will achieve a significant breakthrough near Bakhmut in the coming weeks.” 

Wagner Group forces have for months stationed themselves on the outskirts of Bakhmut, intent on claiming the city. 

Capturing the region would afford the soldiers a base upon which to launch attacks on the city of Kramatorsk and Slovyansk further north. 

But the operational costs of the prolonged and brutal fighting, as a result of which the frontline has moved merely a matter of metres, likely will undermine any gains made by Russian forces, according to military analysis. 

The Institute for the Study of War, which uses satellite imagery to document the daily battlefield developments, suggested the area would be of little operational benefit to Putin now. 

They wrote: “The costs associated with six months of brutal, grinding and attrition-based combat around Bakhmut far outweigh any operational advantage that the Russians can obtain from taking [it].”

As the most severe winter conditions have set in, with chances of survival following a gunshot wound significantly reduced in the cold temperatures, Ukraine appears to have overcome the worst of the Wagner Group attacks. 

Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, who runs the Wagner Group, admitted this week that Ukrainian forces have now heavily fortified the residential area around Bakhmut, creating a new line of defence “every 10 metres”.  

Spokesperson for Ukraine’s Eastern Group of Forces Colonel Serhiy Cherevaty also added on Monday that Russia appears to have reduced its rate of shelling in the face of dwindling supplies. 

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Nonetheless, attempts to take Bakhmut are still ongoing, with the city still a priority target for the Russian missile strikes, according to Mr Cherevaty. 

And the Ukrainian General Staff reported on Monday that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian ground attacks in multiple areas around the city. 

Russian forces were fought back in areas north of Bakhmut near Krasna Hora, northeast of Bakhmut near Soledar, Bilohorivka, Rozdolivka, and Bakhmutsky, south of Bakhmut near Ozaryanivka, and southwest of Bakhmut near Klishchiivka.

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