Mar 2, 2023
There are just two roads out of Bakhmut for Ukrainian troops. Russian forces are within rocket range of both of them. And that means that, after nine months of brutal fighting, the battle for Bakhmut is entering what could be its decisive phase.
In the coming hours or days, it’s possible one of two things will happen. The Russians advance so close to the two roads that the Ukrainians retreat in order to avoid encirclement. Or the Ukrainians counterattack and push back the Russians.
The former would resolve the long, awful fight over Bakhmut. The latter would prolong it. In any event, the ultimate outcome should be the same. Whether or not they capture the virtually lifeless ruins of Bakhmut, the Russians have expended a lot of their combat power.
Which appears to be exactly what the Ukrainians wanted. They apparently have used Bakhmut—and the Kremlin’s weird obsession with the town—to bleed Russian forces and, in so doing, set the conditions for a long-planned spring offensive.
When the Ukrainians finally attack with their new American and Swedish fighting vehicles and British, Polish, German and Canadian tanks, they could face exhausted Russian brigades, some of which will have lost thousands of men in the long fight for Bahkmut.
The Russians didn’t have to target Bakhmut, a town with a pre-war population of 70,000 that lies southwest of Russian-occupied Severodonetsk, one of the bigger cities in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.
The town itself isn’t worth much. There are no strategic industries in Bakhmut. No irreplaceable logistical facilities. Almost all of its residents have fled or died.
But it’s in Bakhmut that The Wagner Group, Russia’s shadowy mercenary company, chose to prove its battlefield mettle way back in May. For months, Wagner’s leaders sent wave after wave of poorly-trained ex-convicts in suicidal direct assaults on Ukrainian fortifications.
At least 4,000 Wagner fighters died around Bakhmut in 2022, according to The Guardian. Gradually, over a period of several weeks early this year, regular Russian troops replaced many of the mercenaries fighting around Bakhmut.
The gradual swap “retained the initiative for Russian operations around the city,” the Institute for the Study of War in Washington, D.C. explained.
On Jan. 12, the Russians captured Soledar, a small settlement that sits atop labyrinthine salt mines just north of Bakhmut. In the weeks that followed, Wagner fighters and regular Russian troops slowly closed a pincer around Bakhmut from the north and south.
By yesterday, Russian troops were on the edge of Khromove, a settlement just a few hundred feet from Bakhmut’s northwestern boundary. The 0506 road, threading through Khromove, is the Ukrainians’ northern supply route into Bakhmut.
At the same time, the Russians closed in on the gas station on the 0504 road threading west from southern Bakhmut. That’s the Ukrainians’ southern supply route.
In fully controlling both roads, the Russians effectively would cut off the Ukrainian garrison in Bakhmut. To save itself from a bloody siege, such as occurred in Mariupol last spring, the garrison should retreat before the roads close.
But the Ukrainian general staff isn’t quite ready to give up Bakhmut. “Our defenders fought back attacks in the areas of the settlements of Bakhmut [and] Khromove,” the general staff reported Thursday. And the army is sending reinforcements into the area, Ukrainian deputy defense minister Hanna Maliar said Wednesday.
The reinforcements likely do not include the battalions and brigades that are training to use the hundreds of new armored vehicles that Kyiv’s allies have pledged to the war effort. American M-2 and Swedish CV-90 fighting vehicles. Challenger 2 tanks from the United Kingdom. Leopard 1 and Leopard 2 tanks from Germany, Poland, Canada and other countries.
Those troops and their new vehicles are in reserve for Ukraine’s planned spring offensive. An offensive that could begin as the battle for Bakhmut ends. Bakhmut might be a prelude to the war’s next phase, when it’s the Ukrainians’ turn to attack.
In a boxing match, a fighter might retreat to the ropes in the hope of luring their opponent into throwing ineffective punches and wearing themself out. It’s called “rope-a-dope”—and it’s exactly what the Ukrainians seem to have been doing in Bakhmut.
They’ve done it before. Last summer, Ukrainian troops conducted a fighting retreat in the twin cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, 25 miles northeast of Bakhmut.
The battle for Severodonetsk and Lysychansk so badly depleted Russian formations in eastern Ukraine that, when Ukrainian brigades launched a powerful counteroffensive at the end of August, the Russians were too weak to hold. They retreated from northeastern Ukraine around the free city of Kharkiv, surrendering thousands of square miles of territorial gains.
A Ukrainian retreat from Bakhmut likewise could lead to a wider Russian retreat once the Ukrainians counterattack.
It’s not inevitable, of course. Even after losing thousands of troops in Bakhmut—and Kreminna and Vuhledar—the Russian army in Ukraine still is a powerful force. With good leadership, it could defeat a Ukrainian offensive.
But good leadership is the one thing the Russians seem totally to lack. Good leaders wouldn’t have wasted thousands of men capturing one low-value town in a battle that’s a fairly obvious Ukrainian trap.
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“But good leadership is the one thing the Russians seem totally to lack. Good leaders wouldn’t have wasted thousands of men capturing one low-value town in a battle that’s a fairly obvious Ukrainian trap.”
No, mafia land never had any good leaders. But, they assured one thing; decimating their own troops in senseless attacks on a worthless target. Instead of realizing their mistakes – after months and months of fighting – they stubbornly kept sending their trash into their certain deaths.
Soon, it’ll be Ukraine’s turn to attack. I’m confident in the AFU’s leadership.
The putinazis probably don’t see Bakhmut the way that Mr Axe does.
The orcs are fulfilling the role of ants: their job is to bleed the Ukrainian army; 7:1 losses will not deter them because orcs are expendable. Ukrainian soldiers, being warm blooded humans, are not.
Any battleground where the putinazis can kill Ukrainian soldiers regardless of their own losses, is a result for them. That strategy works hand in hand with their diabolical premeditated genocide of civilians plan.
Ukrainians can get out of this horror within days, if only the Budapest signatories and Poland would act decisively.
But the allies have chosen for Ukraine to expel a ginormous horde of filth all alone, which is beyond shameful.
How many armies in the world can withstand an invasion force of 360,000 all alone? Very, very few, yet Ukraine are expected to do just that.
The very least the allies can now do is provide Ukraine with EVERYTHING it needs right fucking NOW.