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An elite Russian brigade was wiped out trying to achieve a breakthrough.
Despite the defeat, the Russian leadership is contemplating another offensive.
According to reports, Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu had ordered his forces to capture Vuhledar at all costs in an attempt to stop the criticism the Russian military has been facing after the humiliating defeats in the area.
A small coal mining town, Vuhledar lies in the south of the Donbas and has significant strategic value.
From there, the Ukrainian military can use long-range fires, such as the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) and M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS), to strike the Russian supply lines from the occupied Crimean Peninsula to the south and Donbas.
For the Russian military, capturing Vuhledar would open the way to support other offensive operations in the Donbas. However, to do that effectively, the Russian military would have to advance more than 12 miles from its current position, something that hasn’t done since the first weeks of the invasion more than 13 months ago.
Indeed, to be successful, a Russian offensive would first have to overcome systemic issues.
“Russian forces may be preparing to resume offensive operations around Vuhledar, although persistent personnel and ammunition issues will likely continue to constrain Russian forces from advancing,” the Institute for the Study of War assessed in a recent update on the war.
However, any offensive operations might be influenced by the wrong reasons.
“Internal dynamics within the Russian military may be driving the potential resumption of costly offensives near Vuhledar that promise little operational benefit,” the Institute for the Study of War assessed.
Any upcoming Russian offensive against the Ukrainian positions around Vuhledar will need a concentration of artillery and reinforcements if it’s to fair better.
But with the Kremlin’s main focus being to the north in Bakhmut, it is unlikely that the Russian military can spare the ammunition and men to mount an effective assault.
Death and Defeat in Vuhledar
A few weeks ago, the Russian military suffered a catastrophic defeat in Vuhledar, losing an entire elite formation in the process.
The Ukrainian military released drone footage of the repeated Russian assaults against the Ukrainian positions. The footage is indeed humiliating for the Russian military.
Time and again, Russian tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, and armored personnel carriers try to cross a chokepoint in the fields outside Vuhledar. The Ukrainians have mined the area and also have fixed the coordinates for shift artillery strikes. The result is a mountain of destroyed Russian weapon systems.
According to the estimates of the British Military Intelligence, the Russian military lost more than 30 heavy weapon systems and over 1,000 men from the elite 155th Naval Infantry Brigade, which was deemed combat ineffective after the catastrophic losses it suffered.
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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.