On Wednesday, both Ukrainian and Russian sources are reporting that Ukraine has made significant advances around Bakhmut. That includes in the north, where Ukrainians are building off an earlier push into Berkhivka and are now driving both north and east into Yahidne. It includes in the south, where Ukraine has made progress near both Klishchiivka and Kurdyumivka. And it includes in the middle, in that area around Bakhmut that’s called … Bakhmut.
A representative of the general staff calls Ukraine’s movements over the last 24 hours in the area a “tangible success.” Others are being more expansive, calling it “huge progress.” The daily update from the Ukrainian military lists progress at no fewer than seven settlements in the Bakhmut area. Not only have Ukrainian forces made substantial gains, there are reports that Russian forces near both Klishchiivka and west of Berkhivka are in danger of being surrounded. Right now, available videos show small groups of Russians who have surrendered or been taken captive, but there are reportedly many more.
Meanwhile, 80 kilometers to the south, for the first time since the war began, Ukraine has reportedly liberated territory captured by Russia in 2014.
Right now, things around Bakhmut are in a frustrating position where reports of “good news!” are pouring in, but details on locations are still sketchy. It’s clear that Ukraine has made gains both north and south of the city, and the word “huge” keeps coming up. But I’m unable to collect the geo-confirmed information necessary to accurately map the changes of control.
At Klishchiivka, south of the city, there have been numerous videos over the last week showing elements of the Ukrainian military clearing Russian forces from a wooded area near the canal west of the town. On Tuesday it was reported that Ukrainian troops had crossed the canal and were moving toward Klishchiivka. Multiple Russian defensive positions had been reportedly been overrun by Ukrainian troops and the capture of the town was said to be “a matter of time.”
However, it should be noted that claims Klishchiivka has already been surrounded, or that Ukrainian forces have moved past the town on the south, do not appear to be true. What seems to be true is that Russian defensive lines have been broken.
A similar story appears to be happening 5 km to the south at Kurdyumivka. Ukrainian forces have been moving toward this position gradually over the last month, and had been advancing in an area between a small river and the southern extension of the same canal seen at Klishchiivka. Now they have pushed forward, likely through an area where the canal runs underground on the western edge of Kurdyumivka, and have entered the town.
Both of these southern forces are reportedly aimed at reaching the T0513 highway as part of a plan that would reverse the Russian scheme of capturing Bakhmut by gradually encircling the city. With that in mind, it’s possible part of Klishchiivka will be bypassed for now with the attack moving east, then north, leaving Klishchiivka in the rear. Right now, Ukrainian forces are known to hold positions on the eastern side of the canal, and that’s about all that can be said for sure.
In the north, Ukrainian forces are reportedly pushing into Yahidne as well as continuing to pick up more control around Berkhivka. This, along with increased pressure from the west, appears to put the Russian forces remaining at Dubovo-Vasylivka in peril of being cut off (and that does seem to be the source of some of the Russian captive videos today). Ukrainian forces are also reportedly taking back blocks within Bakhmut itself, moving east in the area north of the Khromove road. Ukraine reportedly holds heights in the area just west of the city that provide a tactical advantage.
Videos of damaged Russian equipment and of Russians taken prisoner are still coming in. Hopefully there will soon be better confirmation of actual Ukrainian gains.
Breaking the 2014 lines
The little area of Ukrainian progress east of the town of Krasnohorivka looks very small on a large map of the front lines, and at around 6 square kilometers, it’s far from the largest gain Ukraine has made in the last three weeks.
But this area has a special significance: British intelligence reports that a portion of this area, a couple of square kilometers, is across the line that has divided Ukraine from the “Donetsk People’s Republic” (i.e., Russian controlled territory) since the 2014 invasion.
That angled road cuts through the middle of the blue area marking the old boundary. There were also Russian defensive structures and trenches here that appear to have been overrun. This is just one of several small gains around the city of Donetsk that Ukraine has made since the first of the month, but it’s the first that has crossed the old line to reclaim long-occupied territory.
Kramatosk missile attack
On Tuesday, a Russian missile struck a pizzeria in Kramatorsk. This was a well-known and popular location both for local residents and visitors to the city. It’s a place where foreign journalists have often met, and most importantly, a place where families often bring their children for a moment of respite in the midst of the constant fear and horror over the last year and a half.
That ended with an explosion that has now killed at least 11, including three young girls. Another 40 are wounded.
The attack on this restaurant was so clearly not a legitimate military target that tankies have been forced to respond … by concocting an elaborate conspiracy in which this was actually a U.K. Storm Shadow, or some unnamed U.S. missile that “turned around” to hit the pizzeria accidentally. Or that U.S. agents did this intentionally to maintain support for the war.
These claims are as ludicrous as they are hideous. Meanwhile, actual Russians aren’t exactly torn up about having once again blasted children.
Who needs a conspiracy theory when cruelty will do?
Chaos continues in wake of Wagner’s aborted coup
It remains anyone’s guess what’s going on in Russia and Belarus now that (former?) Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin is supposedly settled in Minsk, other Wagner troops are reportedly coming to join him, and Putin can’t seem to decide between stringing them all up or giving them medals.
There are now reports that the man who Prigozhin had embraced as the only Russian officer he would report to, and who also was the only one who stepped up to try and talk Prigozhin down when his men were two hours from the Kremlin, has been jailed..
And there are reports that some kind of purge is underway. This comes as there are repeated rumors about the Russian military command passing into new hands, with Putin’s approval. There are also reports of an internal purge underway within the Russian military with anti-Wagner forces coming for anyone who ever evinced anything less than disdain for the Wagner mercenaries. Since a number of units stationed in both Ukraine and Russia declared their allegiance to Prigozhin at some point before he called off Wagner’s drive on Moscow, seeking out all those soldiers could be quite a challenge.
Just removing Wagner took a reported 25,000 men and associated gear out of Russia’s efforts in Ukraine. The effects on morale and unit cohesion could be even greater if Russia tries to punish those who remained insufficiently loyal to Putin in a crisis.
How much of this is true is difficult to tell, but there is certainly a lot of finger-pointing, and a lot of fear. Maybe a historical reference can predict what happens next most accurately.