the Russians insist on taking Bekhmut, despite poor progress

Ukrainian soldiers outside Bakhmut BÜLENT KILIC / AFP

Since May 17, very deadly fighting has been going on in the city. Wagner’s group manages operations there, without success.

Fierce fighting between Russians and Ukrainians continues in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, with several kilometers of deadly attacks. At the end of last week, Ukrainian authorities published photos of trenches where soldiers were buried in mud, showing the severity of the fighting. The Russian army, and especially Wagner’s group of mercenaries, has been trying to capture the city since May 17. “Wagner has been there for a long time because they were involved in the Popasna breakout that caused the Kramatorsk crust to collapse on May 7.“, military historian Cedric Mas recalls.

Then there were RussiansSieverodonetsk and Lyman made a great effort to get the important railway junction“says Thibault Fouillet, a researcher at the Foundation for Strategic Studies (FRS). But the Ukrainian counteroffensive at the end of August and the release of two important communication hubs, Izium and Lyma, reconfigured the front. “Bakhmout, behind the font, then takes on a new significanceadds the researcher. However, this city, which had more than 70,000 inhabitants before the occupation, does not show any special strategic interest. “For the Kremlin, which wants to win, this is a marketing exercise. Possession of Bakhmut, ravaged by months of fire, will not bring anything decisive, as the Russians will oppose the heights in the direction of Kramatorsk and new lines of Ukrainian defense.“says Cedric Mas.

Furthermore, progress is proving elusive. It is said that an equal number of fighters from both sides, despite the arrival of reinforcements from Kherson since the day of its abandonment, as well as effective enenchments. “The lines in Donbass have been strengthened since 2015, which explains the rather slow progress in this area.», notes Thibault Fouillet. The Russians also face a tactical deadlock:it is a logic in which fire is superior to action“, he is abundant. “Defense is far superior to offense and stopping fire is very effective“, Cedric Mas continues. The attacker tried to advance after the bombardment, but his artillery met the enemy, who stopped his advance. “Each advance is expensive and difficult to register in the long run because it consumes funds and soldiers. This explains why the front freezes and then heats up. During the First World War, this period was surpassed thanks to the aircraft/tank pair. But here, drones and artillery make an armored attack difficult“, deciphers Thibault Fouillet.

Ukrainian soldiers in the trenches near Bakhmut. LEAH MILLIS/REUTERS

Finally, the difference in quality between the two pawns is important. Ukrainians are enthusiastic, biting and do not wait for orders to act. On the contrary, the motivation of soldiers is weak, which explains the use of mercenaries“The military historian says. Such a jobhighlights the difficulties of the Russian weapon. Where it is necessary to inform families in case of death, it is easier to use mercenaries than mobilized ones.», identifies Thibault Fouillet. However, in contrast to the increased communication with the Chechens in Mariupol, the Kremlin seems less inclined to emphasize their importance in these battles. Russian communications note modest progress in Bakhmout, recalling one of the announced goals: “release» of the annexed Donbass provinces.

These costly battles in human life enable both camps.”to look» enemy troops at a certain point. Thus, the Russian reinforcements from Kherson cannot be used for another offensive, but the Ukrainians cannot transfer or rest their soldiers to another front. For several weeks, several pro-Russian accounts have been openly concerned about Ukraine’s advance around Zaporozhye towards Melitopol. And Crimea.

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