For months, Russia has been accepting high losses in order to conquer the eastern Ukrainian city. According to the ISW, this should primarily weaken the Wagner troops. According to US officials, even taking Bakhmut would not turn the tide on the battlefield.

Despite the difficult situation in Bakhmut, the Institute for War Studies (ISW) believes that Kiev’s strategy of continuing to defend the eastern Ukrainian city that has been fought over for months is correct. “Ukrainian defense of Bakhmut has forced the Kremlin to exhaust much of the Wagner group as a force,” argues the US think tank in its latest report. In addition, Russia must deploy high-quality air forces in order to make progress. The resulting weakening of the Russian side favored the conditions for a Ukrainian counter-offensive, according to the ISW.

A defense of Bachmut and the preparation of a counter-offensive are therefore not mutually exclusive. Western observers had previously questioned Kiev’s decision to continue with Bakhmut. According to estimates from US government circles, it might make more sense to focus on a counter-offensive in the spring. The Washington Post quoted a high-ranking government official as saying that a Russian conquest of Bakhmut would “not bring about any significant strategic change on the battlefield”. “Russia will try to portray it as such, but it is a spot on the map for which they have shed an extraordinary amount of blood and resources.”

US Chief of Staff Mark Milley had described the long-lasting battle for the Bakhmut region in Brussels as a war of attrition. There is a lot of violence and fighting, but the front line is pretty stable. “I would describe it as a very big battle of attrition with very high casualties, especially on the Russian side.”

The Ukrainian side has recently reported exceptionally high losses on the Russian side. Around 1,000 Russian soldiers are said to have died in the combat zones several times a day, and the armed forces said they eliminated military material such as tanks and artillery by the dozen. However, this information cannot be verified independently. In an interview with the BBC, British Defense Minister Ben Wallace stressed that the Russian army was generally under great pressure as a result of the war in Ukraine: “We currently estimate that 97 percent of the Russian army, the entire Russian army, is in Ukraine. “

According to the authorities, almost 5,000 civilians were in Bachmut. For several months, Russian troops have been trying to capture the city, which was home to 70,000 people before the war. Soldiers from the Russian Private Army Wagner advanced mainly to the north and south of the city. Bachmut is threatened with confinement. All supply routes are also under Russian fire.