Costly onslaught hasn’t made much of a dent… any gains have come at a cost of 40,000 dead soldiers and loss of more than 600 armored vehicles, 178 T-72 main battle tanks, 46 T-90 Tanks, 300 special vehicles, 38 helicopters and 15 ground attack aircraft, concludes British military intelligence.
Russia’s all out assault on the town of Bakhmut has largely failed despite resorting to costly World War One-style tactics, British military intelligence has said.
The city, and the central Donbas region where it lies, have been the focus of a Russian onslaught since August, leading to some of the bloodiest attritional warfare of the Ukraine conflict.
But British military intelligence on Tuesday said Russia had continued to launch “frequent small-scale assaults” but “little territory has changed hands”. Any gains are thought to have come at a very high cost in manpower.
Defence analysts assess that Bakhmut, which confers little strategic advantage, has become a symbolic target for Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, who is desperate to end the year with a victory.
The area has been the scene of ferocious fighting in recent weeks, with the Wagner paramilitary group thought to be leading Russia’s attack.
The group is led by former businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, 61, known as “Putin’s chef” for his lucrative Kremlin catering contracts, and has been accused of trying to convert battlefield success in Ukraine and across Africa into political power.
The failure to take Bakhmut is seen as a blow for Mr Prigozhin’s political ambitions and an embarrassment for Russia’s leader.
Tensions between the Russian military and the mercenary group appear to be rising over the lack of progress.
In an unprecedented public criticism, two Wagner artillery gunners took aim at the Russian army’s most senior staff for failing to supply gun crews with enough ammunition, saying the mercenary group was “doing all the fighting” in Bakhmut.
One of the soldiers accused Gen Valery Gerasimov, the Russian army’s chief of staff, of deliberately obstructing the delivery of more shells “to let our guys die”.
They added that Russian attacks against Bakhmut were getting nowhere and that assault groups were being cut to pieces.
Ukraine meanwhile claimed to have halted Russia’s attacks.
Anna Malyar, Ukraine’s deputy defence minister, told a televised briefing that Russia had massed “its greatest concentration of force” to support the assault on Bakhmut.
“Our fighters are inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy and he cannot advance further,” she said.
The British defence intelligence update also said elements of Russia’s 1st Guards Tank Army were probably among forces Moscow recently deployed to Belarus.
However, it cautioned: “This formation was likely conducting training before its deployment and is unlikely to have the support units needed to make it combat ready.”
Footage also emerged of a Russian T-90M tank, one of Moscow’s most modern vehicles, being destroyed by an improvised grenade dropped from a Ukrainian drone.
The clip on social media shows an RKG-3 high-explosive grenade being dropped through the open turret of a stationary tank which then erupts, blowing the turret off.
Russian tanks have automatic loaders meaning the explosive charges used to propel the munitions are not held in protective armoured containers, as is the case in most western tanks.
Any fire or blast in the turret is highly likely to set off all the charges held in the tank, resulting in a catastrophic explosion.
Despite continued battlefield setbacks, Russia’s foreign minister on Tuesday warned Ukraine that it must demilitarise, saying “the Russian army will solve the issue” if it does not.
In an apparent response, Mykhailo Podolyak, Ukrainian presidential adviser, tweeted that “Russia needs to face the reality”.
“Neither total mobilization, nor panicky search for ammo, nor secret contracts with Iran, nor Lavrov’s threats will help,” he said. “Ukraine will demilitarise the RF [Russian Federation] to the end, oust the invaders from all occupied territories. Wait for the finale silently.”
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