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Putin Could Win a Key Battle in Ukraine (But How Many Soldiers Will Die?)

Russian T-90 Tank
Russian T-90 Tank. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Did Russia Encircle Bakhmut? Russian officials claimed this week that Russian forces were encircling the city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region of Ukraine.

On Wednesday, February 1, an aide of the head of the self-styled “Donetsk People’s Republic” Denis Pushilin claimed that Bakhmut was “operationally surrounded” by Russian troops

Speaking on state television, the aid added that troops were fighting to take control of the Chasiv Yar-Bakhmut highway.

Britain’s Sky News shared verified images on Friday that appear to show Russian forces encircling the city, apparently supporting Russia’s claims. The control maps were first published by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), with red areas showing the areas where the Russians have made verified advances and yellow areas to the south where Russian forces already have full control. 

Ukrainian forces remain present in the western parts of the Bakhmut region. 

Russia has previously made claims like this in towns surrounding Bakhmut, but the release of these verified satellite images suggests that it may just be a matter of time before Russia takes control of the city. 

Speaking to Sky News, security analyst Professor Michael Clarke said that it is nearly the “end game” in the city.“The Russians have got north and south of the city,” the academic said.

Ukraine Tells Of Heavy Losses for Russians

While Ukraine has not denied that Russian forces have made gains in the region, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in an update that Russian forces were suffering heavy losses in the Lyman and Bakhmut regions. 

A statement described how “the invaders are suffering heavy losses” and reported that several Russian attacks had been successfully stopped in Bakhmut. 

Wagner Forces A Game Changer?

In a post shared by the Ukrainian Joint Force Task Force, one soldier described how the situation on the ground in Bakhmut has changed significantly since the early days of the conflict.

Specifically, the soldier said that Ukrainian troops started by fighting regular Russian soldiers, but that the Kremlin later sent in special force units and Wagner mercenaries to the region, which worsened the conflict. 

“Recently, Wagner fighters and GRU have appeared in our sector,” the soldier said. “They are doing a pretty good job and have been fighting for not the first year. It’s quite difficult to fight them.”

The same soldier said that Russian soldiers in Bakhmut now depend on using tanks to destroy virtually everything in sight, including houses and streets.

“Their tactics now are that we gnaw every house, every street. They destroy them, level them to the ground. So that it would not be possible to lead the fire from there,” the soldier said.

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Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive’s Breaking News Editor. He is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.

Written By

Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive's Breaking News Editor. He is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. TheDon

    February 3, 2023 at 9:58 pm

    Not going to be a good year for Ukraine or Russia or the World.
    I’m sure both sides are taking heavy casualties.
    This year, many more Orthodox christians will die without regret of the chinese, iranians, or koreans.
    And depending on the next month, the world may enter the worst war in history. This could result in the end of millions, the end of orthodoxy supporting this and a world at war.
    Russian losses will result long term of the destruction of russia due to lost demographics , trade, loss of intellect as people leave.
    The chinese win.

  2. Quartermaster

    February 4, 2023 at 1:05 pm

    Yes, Putin is being very stupid and short sighted. He’s acting like a 3rd grader and is snot paying attention to the long terms problems he is causing by prosecuting an unwinnable war. The estimated combat deaths, all regular military along with the PMCs, is now north of 180K. Wounded are usually about 3 times deaths. Putin has been shoving cannon fodder in the line hoping that he can choke Ukraine on Russian blood as Stalin did in Karelia and the German front.

    Putin does not have those kind of human resources to pull of such a feat. But that matters not. He has less of a command of military issues than Hitler did, and being much more stupid.

  3. Dave Nelson

    February 4, 2023 at 2:27 pm

    The Chinese have their own problems… terrible agricultural land means they cannot feed their own people, at least not now. They have territorial disputes with every country on their borders so all the neighbors distrust them (at best). Like Russia, they have no real friends.

    Demographics suggest the population of China will fall by 50% by 2100 and the youngest 1/3 then will be aged infant to 49. Think about 2/3rds of 750 million aged 50 and above.

    But 2100 is a long way away; the near term is fraught w/ danger because the person in charge in China has no institutional limitations (same as Putin, same as Hitler, same as many other historical problem men).

  4. Walker

    February 4, 2023 at 7:20 pm

    The war for Bakhmut exemplifies why Russia will lose the war and Ukraine will win. Russia is sending an almost endless amount of men to their death for a piece of useless land. Ukraine should continue to do what it is doing and make it as costly as possible. The point for Ukraine is not to hold the city at any cost. It is to hold the city for as long as they can make it costly for Russia to continue the campaign. It is to drain Russia dry and Russia is playing into that perfectly. It is often said that take 3 attackers for every defender. I have a feeling that in Bakhmut it is probably closer to 10 to 1 based on the tactics Russia is using. Russia has a population advantage over Ukraine, but not by that much. And much of that advantage is lost in the will of the people. Russia will lose the war. It is just a matter of time. And if rumors are right, Ukraine has but to weather one large offensive this month and it will be lights out for Russia.

  5. froike

    February 5, 2023 at 11:04 am

    The USSR and Putin have something in common: They didn’t give a hoot about the health and well being of their Soldiers. All Russian Soldiers are expendable; that’s why the doctrine of Human Waves is still used by The Russians.

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