The Ukrainian army pushed Russian invading forces back into Bakhmut, the town in the Donetsk region that has been the epicentre of the fiercest battles for over half a year.
The offensives on May 11-12, which caused Moscow to bring up replacement troops in the Bakhmut area, came as Russia’s Wagner mercenary military group, recognized as terrorist in France, controls a significant part of the town.
The Ukrainian army has advanced two kilometres around the Bakhmut town and kept all the positions in the area in the past week, Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said.
According to Ms Maliar, Russian invading troops “failed to implement their plans and “suffered heavy losses of manpower” on the front lines. “At the same time, the enemy gives false information about the lack of weapons, which probably aims to justify the real situation,” the Deputy Defense Minister added.
Ms Maliar referred to Wagner Group owner Yevgeniy Prigozhin’s recent violent video appeal directly blaming Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and General Staff head Valery Gerasimov for numerous fighters’ deaths, saying that his troops were deprived of the ammunition to continue the assault on the Bakhmut town.
Yevgeniy Prigozhin confirmed that Ukrainian forces “successfully entered some of the flanks in the Bakhmut area.” The Russian military group boss said the Wagner’s offensive operations continue in Bakhmut, and the mercenaries aim to “finish it.”
The Bakhmut advance is not part of the anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive. Even though expectations are high, Ukraine still needs all promised weapons to arrive and more time to prepare, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said this week.
“With [what we have, we can go forward and be successful. But we’d lose a lot of people. I think that’s unacceptable,” Zelensky said.
Ukrainian military officials said that the counterattacks near Bakhmut are part of a “positional struggle” and not necessarily connected to a broader counteroffensive operation.
The advance came after Ukrainian forces were able to prevent Russian invaders from taking Bakhmut by May 9, Russia’s state holiday Victory Day, which is used for Russian war propaganda.
On May 9, Wagner’s Prigozhin said that Russian soldiers had fled their positions during a storming operation in Bakhmut. “Our army is running away. 72nd brigade today fucked up three kilometres, where 500 of my men died”, Wagner’s owner said.
Ukraine’s 3rd Assault Brigade later thanked Prigozhin for “publicizing our success at the front line.”
“During two days of offensive actions on the southwestern outskirts of the town, the tactical group ‘Azov’ eliminated 64 occupiers, Wagnerites among them. Also, as of now, we have five captured Russians,” the brigade said in a statement.
It’s expected that fierce fighting in the Bakhmut area and along the frontlines will intensify in the coming weeks.