The biggest change in Bakhmut is what’s not happening. The Russian artillery has nothing more to reduce because it is only rubble. The Ukrainian forces have no more valiant positions to hold in the stadium, in the city center or in the citadel. This part of the war is over, at least for now.
The Russian forces may have failed to peak at Bakhmut, in the usual sense of bearing so thin that they were subjected to rapid repression. However, they seem to have done the next best thing. They have lost so many men, so much material, and exhausted their reserves to the point that they can no longer advance. They can only wait for Ukraine to move.
Given enough time, Russia could actually recover, reorganize, and resupply to allow for more westward and northward movement. So far, they’re not going anywhere. Ukraine’s biggest task over the next few weeks may simply be to ensure that Russian forces stay put.
Ukraine also seem reluctant to try to chase the gains they have made on the flanks. Two weeks ago, as Ukraine made its first significant advances, some sites predicted that it was Ukraine that would encircle the ruins of Bakhmut and put the Russian forces remaining there in a position where their lines of communication would be severed. . Nothing like that seems to be happening.
Ukrainian forces continue to move lines in the area south of Berkhivka. Russian reinforcements at Klishchiivka appear to be strong and there is an exchange of fire between this location and Ivaniske.
There are several reports of Russian equipment losses in the Soledar area, which sounds exciting, but I don’t think it’s actually happening near Soledar. It seems to be further north, near Rozdolivka. And it appears to be drone-related losses. There is now no indication of a push into the Russian-occupied area around Soledar. Nothing really indicates a push anywhere.
The Eastern Front is anything but calm, but it’s more low boiling everywhere rather than high heat in a few specific spots. And everyone is waiting for the sequel.
Since Friday, reports have been coming in that Wagner’s forces are being withdrawn from the town of Bakhmut. It is unclear at this time if they are replaced by anyone. These are real on-the-ground observations rather than just Yevgeny Prigozhin making his latest publicity video, so it looks like some movement is afoot this time around.
It was Wagner’s forces that occupied Klishchiivka in January as Russia finally began to find success on Bakhmut’s flanks. It was this move to the south and the capture of Soledar to the north that finally positioned Russia to attack the Ukrainian positions from three sides, allowing them to advance into the city, albeit at great cost. However, there are currently no reports that the forces moved to reinforce the flanks came from Wagner.
Prigozhin was in the area east of Bakhmut on Friday, visiting with Wagner’s decamping forces.
What happens to Wagner at this point is anyone’s guess. Maybe Prigozhin thinks he can get a higher return on investment by placing them in Africa.
Still missing: Ramzan Kadyrov and the Chechen forces he promised to bring to Bakhmut when he traded insults with Prigozhin on May 7. path. After all, are you really in Bakhmut if not on TikTok?
We have been focusing on the area around Svatove for months. The city can be seen almost as a mirror image of Bakhmut – it’s not really that important in itself, but it acts as a gateway to places that have real value, in this case the railway hub of Starobilsk to the east.
There is now a bulge of Russian occupation west of the city compared to previous maps. This is the result of Russia’s winter offensive, which succeeded in moving a small area of the line by about 2 km and recovering small areas west of the highway that they had lost at autumn. Over the past few months, Russia has used this area for many small unit actions, especially towards Stelmakhivka, but it really has nothing to show for it.
The biggest question on the ground in this area is the status of Kuzemivka. Since the Ukrainian forces reached this place in early autumn, this town represents the demarcation line. It both blocked access to the road, allowing a northern approach to Svatove and keeping Russian artillery in position to fire on Ukrainian vehicles traveling on the P07 highway.
The number of times that Russian forces attacked from Kuzemivka towards Novoselivske, literally just across the tracks, or that Ukraine pushed from Novoselivske towards Kuzemivka would be difficult to estimate. There was a time in the winter when it seemed like military bloggers were announcing a change in control every day.
But on May 15, reports said Ukraine had indeed liberated Kuzemivka and retained the town. This would be a significant change, opening up access to a new route to Svatove, and there does not appear to be any corresponding report of Russia taking over the location. However, a number of highly reputable sources continue to claim that Russia controls at least part of Kuzemivka. Their sources on the ground are probably much better than my Google Translate aided Russian Telegram analyses. So I’m not going to draw the blue line around it. Not yet.
Geotagged images in the area show Russian forces being wiped out on the outskirts of the city after apparently trying to bypass Ukrainian forces. Russia is therefore still active in the region, even if it does not seem to have control of it. “In litigation” is probably the best description.
Footage circulating which purports to show damage to the Russian spy ship hit by a drone boat earlier this week is actually footage of the USS Cole following an attack in 2000. While footage shows what can happen to a warship hit by a small boat loaded with high explosives, there does not yet appear to be anything showing the Russian ship real after engagement with drones.
Do you remember that chart of Russian attacks I’ve posted so many times over the past three months? Today the number of Russian attacks on Ukrainian positions was… 22. Yesterday it was 18. As far as I know, these are the lowest numbers since Ukraine started reporting daily situations.
If you can’t follow Ukrainian, like me, you can always extract information by running Google Translate over the text. Like me.
Something very special is happening this weekend. Starting Sunday, you’ll see dispatches from Ukraine produced by the former NPR correspondent Tim Mak. Following NPR’s major cutbacks, Tim is back in Ukraine alone and has launched a post about the upcoming counteroffensive titled… The counter-offensive. Follow the thread below for an introduction to Tim and his project, and join him on Sunday as Daily Kos receives its first reports from Ukraine Since Ukraine.
Be sure to check out Tim’s site and follow him on social media. This way you won’t miss the daily Dog of War.
WarTranslated’s Dimitri did the essential work of translating hours of Russian and Ukrainian video and audio during the invasion of Ukraine. He joins Markos and Kerry from London to talk about how he started this work by sifting through various sources. He is one of the only people to translate information for an English-speaking audience. Dimitri followed the war from the start and observed the evolution of language and dispatches as the war progressed.