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Will the Battle for Bakhmut Decide the Ukraine War?

A U.S. Army M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) launches ordnance during RED FLAG-Alaska 21-1 at Fort Greely, Alaska, Oct. 22, 2020. This exercise focuses on rapid infiltration and exfiltration to minimize the chance of a counterattack. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Beaux Hebert)

Ukraine War Update: Almost ten months into the conflict, the world’s eyes are fixed on the Ukrainian town of Bakhmut

For the past six months, the Ukrainian forces have been keeping the Russians from capturing the town, inflicting thousands of casualties on the invaders. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky even visited the town hours before his trip to the U.S. on Wednesday. 

Wanger Group in Ukraine

The Russian private military company Wagner Group has been taking the lead on the attack against Bakhmut, with the Russian military relegated to a secondary role. 

But the Wagner Group mercenaries are suffering heavy losses.

According to the U.S. Intelligence Community, more than 1,000 former convicts recruited by the Wagner Group have been killed around Bakhmut only in the past few days.

The U.S. assesses that there are between 40,000 and 50,000 Wagner Group mercenaries fighting in Ukraine right now, the majority of whom are former convicts who enlisted to the private military company after the Kremlin introduced a law that allowed inmates to serve in Ukraine in exchange for their freedom. 

The Ukrainians are using all the tricks in the playbook to stop the Russian forces from taking the town. Ukrainian snipers are turning the town into an urban nightmare for the Russian forces. Beyond the obvious physical danger to ground troops, snipers have a big psychological effect on an infantry unit, as it never knows if it is safe or not. 

The Russian forces are also suffering from the elements on the outskirts of Bakhmut. Moscow has sent thousands of mobilized reservists, underequipped and ill-supported, to the frontlines. The result is troves of Russian troops freezing to death

Urban Combat in Bakhmut 

In the last few days, the Russian forces have made some advances on the eastern outskirts of Bakhmut. An intense battle for the town has been taking place since June, but the fighting had mostly taken place in the open country that surrounds the town. However, now combat has been entering urban areas, presenting a whole different problem set for the two sides. 

“Russian infantry likely now has a foothold in the eastern industrial areas of the town, and at times has advanced into the residential district of the city. Street fighting is ongoing. . .The war has seen little protracted, large-scale fighting in built up areas (FIBUA) since the Russian advances into Lysychansk and Siverodonetsk in July 2022,” the British Military Intelligence assessed in its latest estimate of the war.

Urban combat is notoriously difficult and costly for both sides. The defenders have an advantage because they are barricaded, and they own the city. Back before the summer, the Russian forces lost thousands of troops trying to capture Mariupol. They also paid a heavy price for the capture of Severodonetsk in the summer. The situation in Bakhmut doesn’t look like it is heading that way right now, as the Ukrainians have their lines of communication and supply to the town open. 

Moreover, the Russian forces aren’t that capable, though they do have the numbers, and that can be enough sometimes. 

“With FIBUA demanding highly trained infantry with excellent junior level leadership, this type of combat is unlikely to favour poorly trained Wagner fighters and the Russian army’s mobilised reservists,” the British Military Intelligence added. 

Expert Biography: A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business InsiderSandboxx, and SOFREP.

1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.



  1. Friend

    December 23, 2022 at 1:59 pm

    Well no, the war has just started after 5th of December. Germany, among other EU members was waiting for the Russians to finish the job and helping them at it. They were certain they’d make it. The terrorists and their accomplices are now looking for new ways to fight back. Expect action from Iran. China has now decided to unleash a new covid pandemic on the world. Covid was Russia’s biological WMD that the Republican Party decided they were going to help spread. That, in conjunction with the 6th January and the preplanned attack on Ukraine was the takeover plot. So, Germany is still in this deal, so watch out for that.
    We’re just getting warmed up here.

  2. 403Forbidden

    December 23, 2022 at 2:38 pm

    The ongoing ‘conundrum’ in bakhmut needs to be solved using a mini-tactical nuke.

    Or a bunch of mini nukes.

    It is now up to putin to decide if enough’s enuff.

    If putin doesn’t have the cojones to make a firm & down-to-earth decision, he needs to step aside or sombody needs to quickly and speedily drill a few neat holes through him.

    Biden is right now giggling and laughing at the massive casualties suffered by both sides in bakhmut.

    Naturally, since he’s now the antichrist of our time.

  3. Infantry Grunt

    December 23, 2022 at 7:39 pm

    KGB Putin’s leg-lumping trolls give me reason to believe that comedy is not dead!

    Their hyperbolic saber rattling over using nukes betrays their desperation over losing not only their illegal war, but also becoming permanent members of the NoKo, Cuba, Iranian hermit kingdom club…

  4. Steve

    December 23, 2022 at 8:49 pm

    I certainly hope Putin isn’t paying the pro-Russian trolls here that much – they are very bad at the job.

  5. Jacksonian Libertarian

    December 23, 2022 at 10:16 pm

    No, the battle for Bakhmut is irrelevant. It is basically a kill zone for Mobiks. Frontal assaults on prepared defenses are suicidal, and the incompetent officers ordering such insanity deserve to be fragged.

  6. Gary Jacobs

    December 24, 2022 at 9:38 am

    This assessment is days late.

    The Ukrainians rotated troops out that had been on the front line here for months. They brought in troops from Kherson who were better equipped and fresh off another victory.

    The Ukrainians gave up a bit of ground as they rotated…and once the fresh troops came in, they completely pushed the Russians out of the urban areas of town again.

    The Russian are stupidly wasting troops here, but it does require Ukraine to have forces in the area.

    The real deciding location is the route to Melitopol. If Ukraine can head south and take Tokmak, the ZNPP, and Melitopol they have cut the land route to Crimea from Russia and split Russian forces while saving a major power supply for their people. The Kerch Bridge wont be ready for heavy traffic for months and the winter weather makes the ferries inconsistent. The Russian forces in south Kherson and Crimea will be in serious trouble.

    What the Ukrainians need is the Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb with its 150km range for deep strikes in support of this offensive. With vast amounts of that one weapon they have fire support for their troops from launch points safely on the right bank of the Dnipro and can hold at risk every Russian soldier on the left bank of the Dnipro from south Kherson all the way to Melitopol, Berdyansk, and even into the north part of Crimea.

    The other main thing they need is the ground to freeze so they can maneuver their troops off road again.

    That freeze should allow for Ukraine to finally take Svatove and Kreminna. Unfortunately that has been delayed by the rain/mud coming early and the freeze coming late this year. That said, the way things are going in that area, Ukraine may be able to take both towns before the freeze anyway. But the freeze would help speed things up.

    At this point Bakhmut is just a distraction for Ukraine…but it’s a killing field for Russians. Let them run into a meat grinder and deplete their forces while Ukraine gets ready for the next major advance.

    Have a liberating day.

  7. Doyle

    December 24, 2022 at 9:53 am

    Friend, you just cannot buy your level of delusion, take a breath and come back to reality.

  8. Doyle

    December 24, 2022 at 9:57 am

    403 Forbidden, Putin cannot use tactical nukes because his troops would suffer the same fate as the Ukrainians. They cannot keep their troops alive from the elements what do you think will happen when exposed to radioactive elements…. Regardless Bakhmut is not even close to a strategic target it is simply one that Putin pointed to on the map and ordered his troops to take. Sounds like LBJ micro managing the Vietnam conflict.

  9. Johnathan Galt

    December 24, 2022 at 12:34 pm

    @Friend said:

    “Covid was Russia’s biological WMD that the Republican Party decided they were going to help spread.”

    Right idea, wrong parties. Covid was a joint venture between Democrats who funded it and heir CCP allies who created it. It was released by either the Chinese or Democrats to stop President Trump (even if accidentally, which although possible is unlikely due to the political animosity), whose ongoing successes were wrecking the swamp and enriching American voters. J6 was a Democrat setup to punish Republicans for their successes and to convince American voters that “Republicans are enemies of Democracy!” All balderdash.

  10. Jim

    December 24, 2022 at 2:49 pm

    The meat grinder carries on.

  11. Rick

    December 25, 2022 at 3:27 pm

    403, You talk really stupid. If putin used tactical nukes it would unleash a flood of Western long range weapons able to hit deep into russia. Taking the fight to the Kremlin might be the answer to ending this terrorist action once and for all. When precision cruise missiles hit Moscow and St Petersburg the locals won’t be very supportive of dying for no reason. The use of nukes is the quickest way to become an international pariah for generations to come.

    I wonder if Ukraine pilots are currently being trained on F-16s?

  12. Mike, CDR. Ret

    December 25, 2022 at 3:51 pm

    Bakhmut is not strategically important. Russia is beating its head against a wasting asset. Ukraine is simply bleeding them dry. The question is Why? Why is Russia so interested in Bakhmut when they could bypass and reduce the pocket at leisure. OIL. Ukraine is a major oil and gas producer with world class proven reserves.

    Russian economy is all about oil and gas. Russia is reaching peak production in many of its fields as does not seem to understand fracking technology. Regardless nationalistic propaganda, Russia is after the oil. Grain exports are an added attraction.

    Notice NO ATTACKS on oil fields which are located mostly in the Dnipro Basin. Also notice where battle lines are. Simply overlay Ukrainian oil map over a conflict map. Include pipelines.

    Why is US so involved? Do you really have to ask? Burisma and Hunter.

    Where is Ukrainian oil and gas going?

  13. Walker

    December 25, 2022 at 6:19 pm

    If you think it’s time to use nukes, it is a subconscious realization that you have already lost. So seeing the Russian trolls advocate for it is either concerning or soothing depending on how you look at it. While we see these idiots are disconnected from reality, we also can see that the Russian government and military have at least so far been more realistic. The use of nukes can never work and will just hurt everyone. So it is reassuring that so far there is no real talk of using nukes. But another way to look at it is that these idiots could be the tip of a changing landscape. Perhaps as the situation worsens and Russia becomes more panicked over the failures they start to go down that rabbit hole. But I think it is too early to be concerned about that. Just keep your eyes and ears open. I’m sure we will have some warning before Russia becomes that desperate.

  14. Serhio

    December 25, 2022 at 10:52 pm

    For some reason, some media present Bakhmut as an insignificant settlement. However, without capturing Bakhmut, it is impossible to reach Kramatorsk and Slavyansk. And without capturing these two cities, it is impossible to restore the supply of drinking water to the capital of the DR, the city of Donetsk. Which was interrupted by the Ukrainian Nazis as part of the genocide against the population of the DPR. Both sides are aware of this and that is why there are such fierce battles.

  15. dave

    December 26, 2022 at 2:45 am

    Ukraine down to 200,000, I was shocked to hear. Having another draft 6th, or 7th. Russians minimum 540,000. Good luck.

  16. Виталий Александрович

    December 26, 2022 at 6:02 am

    Are Russians freezing in Ukraine? Is this a new joke from the author of the article? Thanks, I laughed.

  17. mawendt

    December 27, 2022 at 1:13 pm

    So far, Gary Jacobs has had the best and most accurate take on the current situation 24 December.

    First, any comments about the Russian military conducting any tactical wide scale success is wishful thinking. Some Russian commanders and their troops have the talent and skill to accomplish a very localized mission, but they have no left, right and rear support to capitalize on any success. So the Russians may take a city block and still lose the city.

    Second, Russians are pretty much beat down psychologically and logistically. The motivation is in the toilet, and a lot of the military don’t have the *belief* that they can win, or should be in Ukraine. That is the overwhelming feeling in Russian ground forces. Some small numbers of units still function professionally and with talent, but that’s a sliver of Russian ground forces.

    Third, Russia’s incompetence of providing support – even basics of food, clean water, and medical – beats down the soldiers in the field quickly. Add lack of cold weather gear and lousy weather, and Russian morale goes deeper into the toilet.

    Fourth, Russian equipment (except artillery/rocket/missiles) have shown themselves to be inadequate. Best army in the war with lousy equipment might win – but the Russians seems to have the lousiest army in the war with the lousiest equipment. So…

    Last, the Ukrainians are the opposite of the Russians – high morale, better equipment, well supplied, great tactical and strategic leadership, high-tech secure communications, support from all the Western intelligence services and satellites as well as having home field advantage.

    We really going to continue discussing who is going to ‘win’ here?

  18. Serhio

    December 27, 2022 at 9:17 pm


    “Last, the Ukrainians are the opposite of the Russians – high morale, better equipment, well supplied, great tactical and strategic leadership, high-tech secure communications, support from all the Western intelligence services and satellites as well as having home field advantage.”

    It is surprising that the Russians, having such poor-quality weapons, logistics and morale, occupied 20-25% of Ukraine, and not vice versa. Does no one see the contradiction?

  19. Serhio

    December 27, 2022 at 10:16 pm

    If the fighting spirit of the Ukrainian military is so high, as Western propagandists tell here, then why on December 8, 2022, a bill No. 8271 on amendments to the Criminal Code and other legislative acts of Ukraine concerning special conditions of military service under martial law or in combat conditions was submitted to the Ukrainian parliament. The bill introduces stricter liability for abandoning combat positions, non-compliance with orders, desertion or evasion from service, violation of discipline, as well as loss of equipment and weapons.
    If there is no problem, then there is no need for a special law that would solve it. But the facts show that there is a problem. The number of Ukrainian military who surrendered to the Russians, according to various estimates, is estimated at numbers from 5,000 to 12,000. Here is such a “high fighting spirit”. Especially many Russian-speaking Ukrainians from Odessa, Kharkov, Nikolaev, Kherson and other “Russian cities” of Ukraine are being captured.

  20. dave

    December 28, 2022 at 12:20 am

    Ukrainians high morale??? LOL!

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