Russia Continues To Hammer Away At Bakhmut, Despite Defeats Around Kharkiv: Despite their forces around Kharkiv being routed and leaving behind scores of tanks, armored vehicles, and equipment, the Russian military continues trying to attacking in the mineral-rich Donbas.
The fighting continues to rage around the strategic city of Bakhmut in the Donbas as Russian troops carry on with their strategy in the region, concentrating artillery and missile fire while inching along a few yards at a time. Bakhmut had a pre-war population of about 70,000; it has sunflower fields and mining villages surrounding it.
The citizens must endure constant mortar, artillery, and missile strikes every day. There seems to be smoke rising from the city constantly. Electricity to most of the citizens in the center of the city has been cut, and the people are forced to get water from fire hydrants.
Wagner Group Heads Attacks on the City:
The one constant for quite some time is that the Russians attempt to take Bakhmut. The Ukrainian forces’ layered defenses have been able to keep them at bay thus far. However, the Russians are attempting to cut them off by attacking from both the south and east, trying to cut off the defenders from their supply lines.
The attacks are led by a Russian “private military company,” the Wagner Group. The Wagner Group is owned by “Putin’s chef.” Yevgeny Prigozhin. Although the company is reportedly private, they operate as a Russian proxy. They train on Russian military bases, deploy on Russian aircraft, and carry out Moscow’s dirty work while providing them with deniable operations.
Prigozhin was filmed at a prison recruiting Russian convicts for the war in Ukraine, promising freedom if they volunteered for six months of combat time. “Prisoners have been offered commutation of their sentences as well as cash incentives,” the U.K. defense ministry posted on its daily intelligence assessment. “This has been reinvigorated, with recently posted video highly likely showing Wagner owner Yevgeny Prigozhin making a recruitment pitch to prisoners.”
“If you serve six months (in Wagner), you are free,” he said. But he warned potential recruits against desertion and added, “if you arrive in Ukraine and decide it’s not for you, we will execute you.”
He also informed prisoners of Wagner’s rules banning alcohol, drugs, and “sexual contacts with local women, flora, fauna, men – anything.”
The Wagner Group has a well-deserved reputation for human rights abuses everywhere they have been deployed, in Syria, Libya, Mozambique, Central African Republic, Mali, and other places as well.
Ukrainian troops have reported that inmates are already appearing in Wagner units, which would leave one to believe that this recruitment effort began months ago and is not a recent development. As Russian troop strengths continue to dwindle, the convicts give Moscow a temporary respite as they use them as cannon fodder.
Putin Vows Continuation of Attacks in the Donbas:
Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit meeting in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, facing questions and criticism from both India and China, vowed to maintain its attack on the Donbas.
“We aren’t in a rush,” Putin said about the “special military operation” in Ukraine, although that, like many of his other statements, is self-serving. He added that Russia would continue to wage its war in Ukraine “until all the goals that were originally set are achieved.”
He stated, “We will retaliate if they fail to understand that such methods are unacceptable; they don’t differ from terrorism,” he said.
Expert Biography: Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. A proven military analyst, he served as a US Army Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer in the 7th Special Forces Group. In addition to writing for 19fortyfive.com and other military news organizations, he has covered the NFL for PatsFans.com for over 11 years. His work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.