Russia surrounds Bakhmut- Ukraine Adds Troops- Divided Allies

As the situation changes the tactics have changed

Ukraine faced its toughest week so far this year on the eastern front, where its defenders lost more ground to Russian forces but committed enormous resources to holding Bakhmut, a coal-mining town that has acquired emblematic importance to both sides.

Russian troops have been launching probing attacks on a wide front in Donetsk, half of which they now occupy. But their main effort has been to take Bakhmut, whose eastern outskirts they hold.

But Russian forces have become bogged down in this fight, and in the 51st week of the war, they changed tactics.

On February 9, it became apparent that Russia had begun an attempt to choke off Bakhmut from further resupply.

“Blocking of Ukrainian supplies began in the area of Chasov Yar and Berkhovka,” a Russian military reporter said, referring to two settlements through which Bakhmut’s lines of communication run.

If this happens, Bakhmut will be in a tactical encirclement, and Ukrainian troops will be completely cut off from the supply of ammunition, medicines and fuel.”

The next day Britain’s Ministry of Defence said Wagner forces appeared to have advanced 2-3km (1-2 miles) around the north of Bakhmut in three days – a remarkably rapid push in a battle where front lines have barely moved for months.

It said they were now threatening the E40, Bakhmut’s northbound highway connecting it to Sloviansk.

A Ukrainian military analyst said supplies were still getting through, something confirmed by Russian military reporter “Rybar”, who said Russian possession of the E40 and T0504 did not constitute operational encirclement.

( I can’t verify that “Rybar” said this. Can anyone find this info- It’s not on twitter and the telegram account would require lots of translation since there is no point of reference- help?)

“Thanks to the network of branched ring roads in the fields between the main routes, Ukrainian formations almost unhindered transfer reinforcements to the crucible of the Bakhmut meat grinder,” Rybar wrote.

Rybar also belied the claim that the E40 was taken or even under Russian fire control. He said Ukraine was preparing to tactically withdraw from Paraskoviivka in order to make a firmer stand at neighbouring Berkhovka, a way station on the E40 highway through which it was still able to supply Bakhmut with ammunition.

Russian forces had made incremental advances on the northern end of the front the previous day. Geolocated images showed Russian tanks operating in Ploshchanka, just north of Kreminna, where Ukrainian forces said they expected a new offensive.

Haidai said Russian forces and equipment were amassing there.

Divisions within the alliance

A Washington Post story on February 13 leaked disagreements between senior US officials and Ukraine on prioritising Bakhmut.

“American military analysts and planners have argued that it is unrealistic to simultaneously defend Bakhmut and launch a spring counteroffensive to retake what the United States views as more critical territory,” the Post story said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said the moral blow of losing Bakhmut would be great, and has decided to prioritise its defence.

Unnamed sources in the Post story were also quoted as warning that US military aid might not be sustained at present levels for long.

“We will continue to try to impress upon them that we can’t do anything and everything forever,” a senior administration official reportedly said. “’As long as it takes’ pertains to the amount of conflict,” the official said. “It doesn’t pertain to the amount of assistance.”

The report earned a stern rebuke from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken the next day.

“If we ratify the seizure of land by another country and say ‘that’s okay, you can go in and take it by force and keep it’, that will open a Pandora’s box around the world for would-be aggressors that will say, ‘Well, we’ll do the same thing and get away with it,’” Blinken told NPR’s Morning Edition.

Leaking any signs of weakness in the alliance supporting Ukraine was also folly, said a leading strategy professor.

“You DON’T telegraph to the world – and above all to the Russians – that you are getting ready to undercut your dependent ally,” tweeted Eliot A Cohen, professor of foreign and defence policy at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. “An attempt to impose on Ukraine a deal with Russia that reinforces their losses would not merely be immoral: it would be an act of strategic imbecility.”

4 replies on “Russia surrounds Bakhmut- Ukraine Adds Troops- Divided Allies”

thanks Brian
Dmitry Orlov is an interesting fellow- going on recollection and kunstler often does decent interviews as well
So, I will give a listen and check the blog too!

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