The Russian forces have made significant advances and are inside the town.
But their progress has been costly and with its own issues.
High Casualties and Internal Rifts
In a short video titled “Wagner and Bakhmut,” the British Ministry of Defense assessed that the Russian military and Wagner Group mercenary forces have lost between 20,000 and 30,000 troops killed or wounded in what has become the deadliest battle of the conflict so far.
The vast majority of Russian casualties are Wagner Group mercenaries—most of which are former convicts who have signed six-month contracts with the promise of freedom if they survive.
For the number of manpower and weapon systems casualties the Russian forces have suffered, their progress is paltry. Indeed, in nine months, the Russian forces have advanced a mere 16 miles in the area around Bakhmut.
The high casualties and lack of success have brought internal rifts between the Russian Ministry of Defense and the Wagner Group to the surface. Led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close Putin ally, Wagner Group has been increasingly vocal, demanding a bigger role in the fight and even suggesting treachery on the part of the regular Russian military for its lack of support, especially when it comes to the allocation of munitions.
The Russian Casualties
For yet another day, the Russian forces have suffered extremely heavy casualties. Indeed, with almost 1,100 dead and wounded, the last 24 hours were some of the deadliest for Russian soldiers and Wagner Group mercenaries.
Overall, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Sunday, Ukrainian forces have killed approximately 159,090 Russian troops (and wounded approximately twice to thrice that number), destroyed 304 fighter, attack, bomber, and transport jets, 289 attack and transport helicopters, 3,466 tanks, 2,487 artillery pieces, 6,769 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, 493 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 18 boats and cutters, 5,348 vehicles and fuel tanks, 259 anti-aircraft batteries, 2,108 tactical unmanned aerial systems, 242 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems, and 907 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses.
Tanks for Ukraine
Meanwhile, Ukraine continues to receive weapon systems from the West.
According to Polish officials, Poland has sent all of the 14 Leopard 2 main battle tanks it committed to its neighbors, and other countries continue to send the tanks they committed. The Ukrainian military would ideally want to have all of the Western tanks (Challenger 2 and Leopard 2) for the upcoming counteroffensive—the 31 M1 Abrams the U.S. are meant as a long-term security assistance package and most likely won’t be taking in the upcoming push.
Ukraine has also been training troops abroad—mainly in the United Kingdom—thus creating a well-prepared reserve to deploy when necessary. Ukrainian commanders have been rotating units in and out of the frontlines at reasonable blocks. That means that fresh Ukrainian units often go up against exhausted Russian formations that, in some cases, have been on the frontlines for months on end.
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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 Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.