That promise lasted one month. Limited shelf life. Russia’s long grind to take the strategically vital city of Bakhmut is nearing its ends, with the clean-up and capture of abandoned Ukrainian units still inside the city as the priority tasks for the Russian military. Bakhmut is not as economically important as Mariupol, which fell to the Russians last May, but it is geographically significant. That is why Ukraine fought so desperately to hang on to it and expended the lives of tens of thousands of its soldiers in a vain effort.
Wagner’s leader, Prighozhin, announced today that Ukrainian troops:
completely retreated from the eastern shore of Bakhmut, the fighters of the Wagner PMC began operations to clear the area from the soldiers remaining there, who, most likely, would not be able to retreat.
In addition, the Vushniks began to withdraw from the rest of the city along secondary roads, after the “musicians” took fire control of the main supply routes.
Here is a video diary of the last two months documenting Zelensky’s changing message about the importance of Bakhmut.
Pay close attention at the 52-second mark in the video. Zelensky is having the soldiers sign a Ukrainian flag that he will subsequently present to Nancy Pelosi at the conclusion of his speech to the U.S. Congress in January.
I give Matt Van Dyke, an American mercenary supporting Ukraine, credit for his honest assessment. While he still clings to the belief that Ukraine can work a miracle and eventually expel the Russians from Ukraine, he admits that Bakhmut’s defenders were running out of time.
Matt Van Dyke broke the news to Judge Napolitano today (Friday) that Bakhmut has fallen into Russian hands.
Bakhmut marks the second time since the start of the Special Military Operation that Ukraine has been unable to stop a comprehensive Russian attack and unable to mount a counter-offensive to rescue trapped forces. The first was Mariupol. That attack was led by the Chechen units of the Russian Army. Once Mariupol was secured and the Ukrainian troops rounded up, the Chechens were redeployed to the rear to rest and refit.
Just like the Chechens did in Mariupol, the Wagner Group was the spearhead of the Russian attack in Bakhmut. I am not privy to the plans of the Russian General Staff but if past is prologue I expect the Wagner Group to be pulled off the line, as happened with the Chechens, and be sent to a secure area in the rear to rest and recuperate.
The damage inflicted on the Ukrainian military is stupefying. Jeffrey Sachs tweeted the following today:
If these numbers are true, Ukrainian casualties, including missing and captured, exceed 600,000. Even if we assume the numbers are cut in half, the scale of losses are staggering. One year ago, according to Yahoo News:
Ukraine has 250,000 active-duty troops, plus another 290,000 reserve personnel and 50,000 paramilitary units that could be activated in a conflict with Russia.
During the last year Ukraine has enlisted hundreds of thousands of new recruits, but these new soldiers are being sent to the front with only minimal training. Ukraine does not have the number of trained, experienced soldiers required to mount a massive counter offensive. The lack of personnel is compounded by the inability of the West to supply ammunition and vehicles in sufficient numbers to sustain intense operations.
According to Andrei Martyanov, who has good sources in Russia, the 300,000 reservists called up last August have not yet been deployed to the front lines. The meaning is simple — Russia enjoys a massive advantage in terms of manpower, tanks, artillery, ammunition, missiles and combat air.
The fall of Bakhmut is a major blow, not just to Ukraine, but to the United States and NATO. This sets the stage for the West doing something desperate while Russia is content to continue to pulverize what is left of the Ukrainian military.
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