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Russian advance rate slowed down at Bakhmut yet it’s too early to assess if Russia’s Bakhmut offensive culminated – ISW

Ukrainian civilians evacuation Russia war
A building in Bakhmut damaged by Russian missiles. Photo: Dobra Sprava/Instagram
[editorial]In its December 24 Russian offensive campaign assessment, the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) says that Russia’s “personnel and munitions constraints will likely prevent it from maintaining the current high pace of offensive operations in the Bakhmut area in the near-term.”[/editorial]

Russian forces’ rate of advance in the Bakhmut area has likely slowed in recent days, although it is too early to assess whether the Russian offensive to capture Bakhmut has culminated. Russian milbloggers acknowledged that Ukrainian forces in the Bakhmut area have managed to slightly slow down the pace of the Russian advance around Bakhmut and its surrounding settlements, with one claiming that Ukrainian forces pushed back elements of the Wagner Group to positions they held days ago.

Ukrainian social media sources previously claimed that Ukrainian forces completely pushed Russian forces out of the eastern outskirts of Bakhmut around December 21. ISW has also assessed that Russian forces made slightly fewer overall advances in the Bakhmut area in November and December combined as compared to the month of October.

Russian forces will likely struggle to maintain the pace of their offensive operations in the Bakhmut area and may seek to initiate a tactical or operational pause. The United Kingdom Ministry of Defense (UK MoD) reported on December 24 that Russian forces currently lack the necessary stockpile of artillery munitions to support large-scale offensive operations and that sustaining defensive operations along the lengthy frontline in Ukraine requires the Russian military to expend a significant number of shells and rockets daily.

The Ukrainian Joint Forces Task Force released an interview on December 24 with a Ukrainian servicemember in the Bakhmut area detailing that Russian forces have been conducting an extremely high pace of assaults on Ukrainian positions in the area with little corresponding progress. The Wagner Group’s reported heavy losses in the Bakhmut area in recent weeks have also likely strained Russian forces’ current operational capabilities in the area.

The Russian military’s personnel and munitions constraints will likely prevent it from maintaining the current high pace of offensive operations in the Bakhmut area in the near-term.

Russian forces previously allocated significant resources in a meat-grinder effort to seize Severodonesk and Lysychansk in spring–summer 2022. Russian forces culminated after capturing Lysychansk in early July and failed to capture neighboring Siversk to the east or Sloviansk to the northeast. The Russian military’s fixation with conducting a highly attritional campaign to achieve the tactical objectives of capturing Sievierdonetsk and Lysychansk ultimately undermined the Russian military’s ability to achieve its larger operational objective to envelop Ukrainian forces in a cauldron along the E40 highway and eventually drive to Donetsk Oblast’s western administrative borders. Russia’s relentless and costly push on Bakhmut may also degrade Russia’s ability to pursue long-term objectives in the Donbas theater.

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