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Russia claims control of over 90% of Bakhmut

Posted May. 23, 2023 07:54,   

Updated May. 23, 2023 07:54


Ukraine is still holding out in parts of the embattled eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, despite Russia’s claim of full control. Some analyze that Ukraine may have intentionally provoked Russia into engaging in a war of attrition in Bakhmut as a strategy to launch a counter-offensive.

According to sources such as Reuters and The Associated Press on Sunday, most Ukrainian military commanders acknowledge that Russia holds over 90 percent of Bakhmut. However, they emphasize that the possibility of retaking the city has not been ruled out. On the same day, Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander of the Ukrainian ground forces, stated that certain areas on the outskirts of Bakhmut where Ukrainian forces are stationed are of "insignificant" importance. “If the situation changes, there will be an opportunity to enter the city center,” he said. Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Russian private mercenary company known as the Wagner Group, had previously proclaimed in downtown Bakhmut that “the city was completely occupied.”

The geography and terrain play a significant role in Ukraine's discussions of potentially recapturing Bakhmut. Currently, Ukrainian forces are entrenched in a semi-circular formation surrounding the Russians, with their position focused on higher ground on the outskirts of the city. Although the formation is not very wide, it serves to keep the Russians somewhat confined within the city.

"The main idea is to tire them out and then attack," Col. Yevhen Mezhevikin, who commanded Ukrainian special forces on the outskirts of Bakhmut, said of the formation. The U.S. think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) analyzed Ukraine's resistance on the Bakhmut flank as "forcing the Russians to continue deploying their already scarce forces to Bakhmut, which is exactly what the Ukrainian military command intended. This was the intention of the Ukrainian command.” It was to force the Russians into Bakhmut so that if they launched a counterattack, there would be fewer Russian troops to defend it on other fronts.

Eun-A Cho achim@donga.com