Although the Ukrainian forces are under increasingly heavy pressure and under fire from three sides, they are still holding, and Kyiv remains committed to fighting for the town.
Wagner Group vs. Russian Military
The two parties have been struggling for resources and influence for months now.
The battle for Bakhmut has worsened the situation.
After months of failed attempts by the Russian military to take the Ukrainian town, the mercenary group stepped in. Using mass human wave attacks against the Ukrainian positions, the Wagner Group mercenaries managed to gain territory and now the situation looks precarious for the Ukrainian forces.
The group’s tactical successes in and around Bakhmut have emboldened its leadership, particularly its leader and main backer, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who continues to be vocal and critical of the Russian military.
Indeed, the mercenary group, which has been shouldering most of the weight in the fight for Bakhmut, is suffering devastating losses that are likely to limit its ability to conduct meaningful large-scale operations in the future without an infusion of fresh men.
“Since May last year, between 20 – 30,000 Wagner and regular Russian forces have been killed and wounded in the area around Bakhmut alone – a huge loss of human life for a total territorial advance of approximately just 25km,” Ian Stubbs, the U.K. representative to the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) stated.
Indeed, that rate of casualties translates into approximately 800 Russian troops killed or wounded for about every half a mile.
“Russia’s military leaders have: sacrificed military units, equipment and soldiers; squandered strategic resources for small tactical gains; and doubled-down on flawed strategy and tactics in desperate attempts to save face. Everyone can see the truth. Russia’s military and its defence industry are failing in Ukraine,” Stubbs added.
Historically, that is Russian way of war: throwing men and resources on a target rather than finding more cost-effective ways to fight. A military’s culture will affect the way it fights even if decades pass and more modern weapon systems are introduced. And we can see from Ukraine, the Russian way of war is costly to say the least.
The Russian Casualties
Destroyed equipment includes: 305 fighter, attack, bomber, and transport jets, 289 attack and transport helicopters, 3,504 tanks, 2,539 artillery pieces, 6,810 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, 503 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 18 boats and cutters, 5,394 vehicles and fuel tanks, 265 anti-aircraft batteries, 2,145 tactical unmanned aerial systems, 257 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.
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. He is currently working towards a Master’s Degree in Strategy and Cybersecurity at the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.