The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

What’s Up in Ukraine Lately?

Posted on | February 14, 2023 | 1 Comment

Ukrainian troops barricade streets in Bakhmut

It’s been more than four months since I devoted any attention to the war in Ukraine, mainly because it settled down into a bloody stalemate, with relatively little movement of the front lines. Once the Russians evacuated Kherson and retreated to the south (or east) bank of the Dnieper River, that front stabilized, as the Ukrainians apparently are unwilling and/or unable to mount an offensive across the river. Meanwhile, to the northeast, the Ukrainian offensive east of Kharkiv ground to a halt in October, after driving the Russians back across the Oskil River toward Svatove and Kreminna. At the time, I had hoped that Ukraine would be able to sustain the momentum of its offensive, but once they’d captured Lyman and Kupiansk, they seemed content to hold what they’d gotten, rather than push for a further advance. And thus the situation seemed to settle down into a winter stalemate, as neither the Russians nor the Ukrainians had the wherewithal to mount any major offensives.

Meanwhile, some 35 miles south of Lyman sits the crossroads town of Bakhmut. Last fall, the Russians were about 30 miles east of Bakhmut in Popasna, but by gradual advances westward, they began closing in on Bakhmut and, last month, captured Soledar, about 10 miles northwest of Bakhmut. Russian forces also advanced south of Bakhmut, capturing Opytne. These Russian advances put the Ukrainian defenders of Bakhmut in a vice, with threats to their supply lines as they fight to prevent being encircled and cut off. It has become a desperate fight:

Ukrainian forces have reportedly blown up a bridge near the eastern city of Bakhmut, in a sign they may be planning to retreat from the area, which would give Russia a significant, symbolic boost ahead of the first anniversary of the war.
Troops blew up the bridge on Monday, according to a local Donetsk region news site. Ukraine denies it intends to leave Bakhmut, despite six months of heavy fighting and reportedly dwindling stockpiles.
It appears the Kremlin is concentrating maximum force on capturing Bakhmut before the one-year anniversary of the invasion on 24 February. Ukraine and its western allies have said over the past week that Russia had already begun a new offensive across the contact line in an attempt to gain ground before new western supplies arrived in the spring.
“It is clear that we are in a race of logistics,” Jens Stoltenberg, head of NATO, told reporters in Brussels on Monday. . . .
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner group whose mercenaries have been fighting for months to take Bakhmut, however said the battle was far from over. “Bakhmut will not be taken tomorrow, because there is heavy resistance and grinding, the meat grinder is working,” he said, according to his press service. “We will not be celebrating in the near future,” he added. . . .
White House spokesperson John Kirby said Russian forces have made incremental progress in the last day or two in their assault on Bahkmut but it is unclear if it will fall.
Russian forces now occupy areas to the north and south of Bakhmut and have been attempting to overwhelm Ukrainian forces by ceaselessly throwing streams of infantry soldiers at the Ukrainian frontlines. . . .
The BBC, which visited the town on Sunday, reported street fighting in some areas and that ammunition stockpiles were dwindling. Capt Mykhailo from the 93rd Mechanised brigade told the BBC they had ammunition shortages of “all kinds, especially artillery rounds”, but were managing to hold their positions. . . .
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said in early February that his country was determined to hold Bakhmut, calling it “Fortress Bakhmut”. But, according to the Washington Post, US officials have tried to persuade him to prioritise preparations for a counteroffensive to take back what the US considers more important territory.

This is the crux of the problem, i.e., the lack of a Ukrainian counteroffensive anywhere else in the region, which would force Russia to divert forces to defend its own positions. Ukraine has had a full year to recruit and train new troops, and one might expect that they would now have reserves that could be committed to an offensive, yet the past five months have seen no indication of such a renewed Ukrainian advance. Meanwhile the Russians, having mobilized all the cannon fodder they can grab off the streets, have been slowly building up this relentless attack on Bakhmut. What can we expect in the near future? Well, the report of the bridge west of Bakhmut being blown up certainly would seem to indicate that a Ukrainian retreat may be imminent, despite Zelenskiy’s declared intent to hold the city. But the big question is where and how soon Ukraine can launch its own counteroffensive. Until that happens, the news will be about Russia’s continued advances.




One Response to “What’s Up in Ukraine Lately?”

  1. FMJRA 2.0: Home At Last : The Other McCain
    February 20th, 2023 @ 10:12 pm

    […] What’s Up in Ukraine Lately? Okrahead EBL 357 Magnum […]