Vladimir Putin’s relentless desire to capture the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut has devastated Russia’s military forces, but just how bad have the losses been?
During a live telethon in early March, Ukraine’s Secretary of National Security and Defense Council Oleksiy Danilov said Bakhmut was littered with Russian corpses.
“As reported by Colonel-General Syrskyi, all the alleys and the territory around the city are littered with corpses of Russians, Wagnerians,” Dannilov said.
Danilov added that those Russian and Wagner soldiers lay on Ukrainian land as if they had been sown. “No one takes them away, because no one needs them.”
While Danilov’s words might seem like fanciful Ukrainian propaganda, there may be some truth behind the claims that Bakhmut is littered with the bodies of Russia’s dead.
“Russian forces have lost at least five soldiers for every Ukrainian soldier killed while defending Bakhmut,” wrote Business Insider’s Jishua Zitzer, who was quoting an anonymous NATO official that had spoken with CNN journalists on March 7th.
“The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity,” Zitler added, “said the five-to-one ratio was an informed estimate based on Western intelligence.”
On March 13th, The Guardian reported that Western intelligence agencies estimated that Russia had suffered at least 40,000-45,000 casualties in their pursuit of Bakhmut.
The casualty count quoted by The Guardian included Russia’s dead but figuring out just how many Russians have died fighting to conquer Bakhmut is difficult to know since neither side has revealed their offical counts.
“No independent count of the dead and wounded has been possible, and each side is seen as inflating the other’s losses while concealing its own,” wrote New York Times journalist Andre Kramer.
What we do know is that Russia has lost a significant number of men during their Bakhmut offensive and they might not all have been Yegeny Priozhin’s ill-trained and ill-equipped Wager prisoner recruits.
The Head of Ukraine’s Office of the President Mykhailo Podolyak recently sat down with Italy’s La Stampa newspaper and revealed that Russia has changed tactics in Bakhmut.
“Russia has changed tactics,” Podolyak said, referencing the move away from the Wagner Group’s human wave tactics that had been so successful until now.
“It has converged on Bakhmut with a large part of its trained military personnel, the remnants of its professional army, as well as the private companies.”
“We, therefore, have two objectives: to reduce their capable personnel as much as possible, and to fix them in a few key wearisome battles, to disrupt their offensive and concentrate our resources elsewhere, for the spring counter-offensive.”
If Podolyak’s statement proves true, Ukrainian forces may have been provided with an invaluable opportunity to destroy some of Russia’s best soldiers and equipment, something Putin can ill afford as the conflict’s initiative turns back towards Ukraine.
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