UPDATE: Monday, Mar 20, 2023 · 9:14:16 PM +00:00
This topographical map (source) helpfully visualizes the importance of high ground in Ukraine’s continued defense of Bakhmut:
South of Chasiv Yar, Russia has advanced on high terrain, but Ukraine still holds the high ground west of Bakhmut.
Also note how the approaches to Kramatorsk and Sloviansk are in valleys surrounded by high ground perfect for Ukraine’s layered defenses.
After spending two weeks arguing that Ukraine should abandon Bakhmut, unless Ukraine was able to counterattack and relieve pressure on its supply lines into the city, the defenders seem to have done just that in the last week.
After reports that Ukraine had retaken territory around the T0504 road southwest of Bakhmut, new video confirms the advances. (The video in the second tweet is explicit, exercise proper discretion.)
That confirmed counterattack is here:
The T0504 road is Ukraine’s lifeline to Bakhmut. Without it, Ukraine has no choice but to retreat. Ukraine’s Bakhmut salient remains tenuous, as Russian forces hold positions all around Bakhmut:
But as you can see in the map below, by a pro-Russian source, this latest push southwest of Ivanivske gives the T0504 some breathing room, allows Ukraine to keep funneling supplies through that route.
With reports that Russian advances north of Bakhmut have ground to a halt, it looks like Bakhmut’s defense is on steadier ground at the moment. I’m no longer predicting culmination, as many analysts suggest. I’ve made that mistake once or twice before, never again. Russia needs its victory, and this is as close to one as they’ll get. I assume they’ll keep feeding their meat into the wood chipper until they don’t, and so far they haven’t.
Here’s more video of a purported Ukrainian counterattack near the T0504:
Meanwhile, shiny new, clean equipment is reportedly headed in the Bakhmut direction. This was reportedly on the T0504 itself:
Another unconfirmed video claiming destination Bakhmut:
That’s all great news for Bakhmut’s defense, but perhaps less so for Ukraine’s future counteroffensive. If those forces are being committed to Bakhmut, where they will inevitably suffer loss and attrition, they can’t be later committed toward Svatove/Starobilsk in the north, or Melitopol in the south.
There is one last possibility—those reinforcements could be creating the conditions for a Bakhmut retreat—protecting that key road and retreating defenders as their backs are turned to the enemy. Russia did the same before their retreat from Kherson, and did so effectively.
Even if Bakhmut holds, the debate will continue to rage. There is, after all, a reason the phrase “pyrrhic victory” exists.
Putin made a midnight trip to Mariupol, where the darkness could mask the destruction around him. But even the most tightly controlled conditions weren’t enough to prevent this from happening:
These numbers! 21 tanks and 23 APCs in a day?
Well, the Oryx crew pretty much confirmed the tanks:
You can see 10 of those tanks burn right here:
This is funny:
That clip is from this much longer video of trench life around Bakhmut. It is translated, and it’s quite informative. I do wish they hadn’t beeped out the guy’s response to the draft commissariat. It seemed joyfully, hilariously profane.
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