Russian advance stalls in Ukraine’s Bakhmut, says think tank


By Karl Ritter | Associated Press

KYIV, Ukraine – Russia’s advance appears to have stalled in Moscow’s campaign to capture the eastern Ukraine city of Bakhmut, a leading think tank said in an assessment of the war’s longest land battle.

The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said there had been no confirmed advances by Russian forces on Bakhmut. Russian forces and units of the Kremlin-controlled paramilitary group Wagner continued to launch ground attacks on the city, but there was no evidence they were able to make any headway, ISW said late on Saturday.

The report quoted Armed Forces of Ukraine East Group spokesman Serhii Cherevaty as saying that fighting in the Bakhmut area had been more intense this week than the previous week. According to Cherevaty, there were 23 clashes in the city in the last 24 hours.

The ISW report follows claims of Russian progress earlier this week. The UK Ministry of Defense said on Saturday that paramilitary units from the Kremlin-controlled Wagner Group had taken over most of eastern Bakhmut, with a river flowing through the town now marking the frontline of fighting. The assessment highlighted that Russia’s attack will be difficult to sustain without major personnel losses.

The mining town of Bakhmut is located in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk province, one of four regions of Ukraine that Russian President Vladimir Putin illegally annexed last year. Russia’s armed forces opened the campaign to take control of Bakhmut in August, and both sides suffered staggering casualties. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has vowed not to back down.

In its latest report, the UK Ministry of Defense said on Sunday that the impact of heavy Russian military casualties in Ukraine varies dramatically across Russia. The British military intelligence update said Moscow and St Petersburg remained “relatively unscathed”, particularly among members of the Russian elite.

In many regions of eastern Russia, however, the death rate as a percentage of the population is “30 to 40 times higher than in Moscow”, the UK ministry said. He added that ethnic minorities tend to be the hardest hit. In the southern region of Astrakhan, for example, around “75% of the victims come from Kazakh and Tatar minority populations”.

Russia’s mounting casualties are reflected in the government’s loss of control over the country’s information sphere, the Institute for the Study of War said. The think tank said Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova confirmed “infighting in the Kremlin’s inner circle” and that the Kremlin had effectively ceded control over the country’s information space, with Putin unable to regain control promptly.

ISW deemed Zakharova’s comments, made at a forum on the “practical and technological aspects of information and cognitive warfare in modern realities” in Moscow, as “remarkable” and in line with the think tank’s long-standing assessments of the ” deterioration of the Kremlin regime”. and control dynamics of the information space”.

In a separate statement, Zakharova said on Sunday that the next round of talks on extending the Black Sea grain deal would take place on Monday in Geneva. A Russian delegation is expected to meet senior UN officials. The deal is currently set to expire on March 18.

The wartime deal that unlocked grain shipments from Ukraine and helped moderate rising global food prices was extended by four months in November.

The deal, which Ukraine and Russia signed into separate agreements with the UN and Turkey on July 22, established a safe maritime corridor in the Black Sea and inspection procedures to address concerns that cargo ships could carry weapons or launch attacks. .

Ukraine and Russia are the main global suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil and other foodstuffs to countries in Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia, where millions of poor people do not have enough to eat. Russia was also the world’s largest exporter of fertilizers before the war.

The loss of these supplies following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 sent global food prices soaring and fueled concerns of a famine in poorer countries.

Zelenskyy said on Sunday he had posthumously bestowed the highest national title, Hero of Ukraine, on a soldier believed to have been killed by Russian speakers. Zelenskyy identified him as Oleksandr Matsiyevsky, although the Ukrainian military previously gave the soldier a different name pending final confirmation.

A brief video that surfaced this month and sparked nationwide protests in Ukraine showed a man standing smoking a cigarette in a wooded area and exclaiming “Glory to Ukraine” before being shot dead. Senior Ukrainian officials claimed, without providing further evidence, that the man was an unarmed POW killed by Russian soldiers.

Ukrainian authorities reported Sunday morning that Russian strikes the day before killed at least five people and wounded seven others in the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Kherson, local Ukrainian authorities said Sunday morning.

Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said two people were killed in the region, one in the town of Kostyantynivka and the other in the village of Tonenke. Four civilians were injured.

Also in Donetsk province, Sloviansk Mayor Vadim Lyakh said the power grid and railway lines were damaged by Russian shelling on Sunday, but did not report any casualties.

Local officials in the southern province of Kherson confirmed that Russian forces fired 29 rounds into Ukrainian-controlled territory in the region on Saturday, with residential areas of the regional capital Kherson coming under fire three times. Three people died in the province and three others were injured.

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