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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 379: Russian forces continued offensive operations around Bakhmut

Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 379: Russian forces continued offensive operations around Bakhmut
Article by: Zarina Zabrisky

Russian forces continued offensive operations around Bakhmut. Sweden will provide $11,5 mn to Ukraine to support women and girls amid Russia’s war. Canada to provide USD 3 mn for Ukraine demining.

Daily overview — Summary report, March 9

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 18.00 pm, March 9, 2023 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. March 8, 2023. Source: ISW.

 
Day 379 of the full-scale russian military aggression has begun.
The enemy continues to focus its efforts on offensive operations on Kup’yans’k, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Shakhtars’k axes.
During the last day, Ukrainian military repelled more than 110x russian attacks.
The enemy continues to violate rules and principles of International Humanitarian Law. Russian occupiers keep targeting civilian objects, residential districts and critical infrastructure across Ukraine.
Information about the night missile attack will be released later during the day. During the previous day, the enemy carried out 25x air strikes, 2x missile strikes, and conducted 32x MLRS attacks.
Kharkiv Battle Map. March 8, 2023. Source: ISW.
Volyn’, Polissya, Sivershchyna and Slobozhanshchyna axes: no significant changes, no signs of the formation of offensive groupings identified. However, the enemy shelled the vicinities of Senkivka (Chernihiv oblast); Kharkivka and Atyns’ke (Sumy oblast); Strilecha, Ternova, Vilcha, Kam’yanka, Dvorichna, and Holubivka (Kharkiv oblast).
Kup’yans’k and Lyman axes: the enemy attempted unsuccessful offensives in the vicinities of Hryanikyvka, Spirne, and Bilohorivka. Russian artillery bombarded vicinities of more than 15x settlements, including Vilshana, Kup’yans’k, Kislivka, Pershotravneve, Pishchane, and Cherneshchyna (Kharkiv oblast); Stelmakhivka, Nevs’ke, and Chervopopivka (Luhansk oblast); as well as Novoselivka, Kolodyazi, Dibrova, Berestov, Yampil’, Sivers’k, Rozdolivka, and Yahidne (Donetsk oblast).
Donetsk Battle Map. March 8, 2023. Source: ISW.
Bakhmut axis: the occupiers continue attempts to seize the city of Bakhmut. Our defenders repelled attacks in the vicinities of Orikhovo-Vasylivka, Dubovo-Vasylivka, Bakhmut, Ivanivs’ke, and Oleksandro-Shultyne settlements. More than 10x settlements, including Zaliznyans’ke, Hryhorivka, Bohdanivka, Bakhmut, Kostyantynivka, Kurdyumivka, Ozaryanivka, Diliivka, Druzhba, New York, and Pivnichne (Donetsk oblast) suffered enemy shelling.
Avdiivka and Shakhtars’k axes: the enemy carried out unsuccessful offensive actions in the vicinities of Kam’yanka, Severne, Pervomais’ke, Nevels’ke, Novomykhailivka, Mar’yinka, and Vuhledar (Donetsk oblast). The vicinities of 20x settlements were subjects to enemy attacks. Among them are Oleksandropil, Lastochkine, Avdiivka, Vodyane, Pervomais’ke, Karlivka, Heorgiivka, Vuhledar, Zolota Nyva, Velyka Novosilka, Nevels’ke, Krasnohorivka, Pobyeda, Prychistevka, and Neskuchne (Donetsk oblast).
Zaporizhzhia Battle Map. March 8, 2023. Source: ISW.
Zaporizhzhia and Kherson axes: the enemy stays on the defensive. The vicinities of more than 30x settlements came under enemy fire, including, Vremivka, Novosilka and Novopil’ (Donetsk oblast); Hulyaipole, Zaliznychne, Biloghir’ya, Mala Tokmachka, Orihiv, Novoandriivka, Kam’yans’ke, Temyrivka, Olhivske, Chervone, Staroukrainka, Charivne, and Novoandriivka (Zaporizhzhia oblast); as well as Zmiivka, Vesele, Mykolaivka, Ol’hivka, L’vove, Ponyativka, Mykil’s’ke, Antonivka, Zelenivka, Dniprovs’ke, Kachkarivka, Chervoniyi Mayak, Tyaginka, Tokarivka, and Fedorivka (Kherson oblast).
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. March 8, 2023. Source: ISW.
According to preliminary information, the armed forces of the russian federation have almost used up the entire stock of artillery ammunition kept in storages in the central part of russia. Nowadays, we observe movement of ammunition from depots located in other oblasts of russia to the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine.
There is also an unsatisfactory state and quality of new batches of ammunition due to improper storage and violation of service rules and regulations. Almost 50% of them have visible signs of rust damage. In the conditions of intense hostilities and the existing unsatisfactory state of ammunition, one should expect their shortage in the artillery units of the russian army within the next 2-3 months.
During the day, Ukrainian Air Force conducted 11x air strikes on the concentrations of russian troops and military equipment, and struck 1x russian anti-aircraft missile complex.
Our missile and artillery troops attacked 2x concentrations of enemy troops and hit 1x command post of certain russian military formation.

Military Updates

Amid the battle of Bakhmut, the Commander of Ukraine’s Army meets with top NATO generals. On 7 March 2023, the Commander-in-Chief of Ukraine’s Armed Forces, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi met with Supreme Allied Commander Europe, US Army General Cristopher Cavoli. Apart from General Cavoli, Ukraine’s Commander-in-Chief met with the head of the British Armed Forces and Chief of the Defence Staff of the UK Admiral Sir Antony Radakin, Chief of the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces General Rajmund Andrzejczak, and US Army Lieutenant General and Commander of Security Assistance Group–Ukraine Antonio Aguto.

According to British Defence Intelligence, (last 48 hours): 

https://twitter.com/DefenceHQ/status/1633771421385015298

  • On 07 March 2023, Belarusian President Alexandr Lukashenko confirmed that one of Russia’s small fleet of A-50U MAINSTAY D airborne early warning and control aircraft deployed in Belarus had been damaged. The aircraft was almost certainly attacked by a small uncrewed air system.
  • The MAINSTAY has likely now been moved to a repair facility at Taganrog in Russia. The transit flight reportedly took place at a lower than usual altitude, likely because of damage to the pressurised cabin.
  • The MAINSTAY was likely providing situational awareness for MiG-31K FOXHOUND D fighter aircraft modified to launch the AS-24 KILLJOY air launched ballistic missile which Russia sees as a key strategic capability. The modification saw the jets’ internal radar removed to balance the airframe, making pilots reliant on external sources of situational awareness, such as MAINSTAY.

Losses of the Russian army 

Losses of the Russian Army. Euromaidan Press.

Humanitarian 

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1633649303162847233

Environmental

Zelenskyy, Guterres call for extension of Black Sea grain export deal. On 8 March, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres arrived in Ukraine to discuss the continuation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, the restoration of peace, and international security. The Black Sea Grain Initiative was signed in July 2022 by the UN, Ukraine, and Türkiye to unblock grain supplies stuck in Black Sea ports occupied by Russian troops. During the meeting, Guterres and Zelenskyy called for the extension of the grain deal, which expires on March 18 unless the continuation is agreed.

In villages around Bakhmut, civilians refuse to leave homes: photo report

 

Support

EU edges towards joint arms procurement for Ukraine but hurdles remain – Euroactiv. The EU could move closer to a landmark decision on joint procurement of ammunition to aid Ukraine and replenish domestic stockpiles as EU defense ministers are set to meet in Stockholm on 8 March to look at joint ammunition-buying plans, Euroactive reports.

Seoul approved Poland’s export of howitzers to Ukraine last year, official told Reuters. South Korea’s government approved export licenses for Poland last year to provide Ukraine with AHS Krab howitzers, which are built with South Korean components, a defense acquisition official in Seoul told Reuters on 8 March. Seoul officials have previously declined to comment on the Krabs. Poland announced the transfer of its Krab self-propelled howitzers in May 2022.

German defense minister says 18 Leopard 2 tanks to be sent to Ukraine later this month. At the informal meeting of EU defense ministers in Sweden to discuss further military support for Ukraine, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said that 18 Leopard 2 tanks would be delivered to Ukraine this month.

EU defense ministers back fast-tracking Ukraine ammunition – Bloomberg. On 8 March, at an informal meeting in Sweden, European Union defense ministers supported a plan to speed up the production and delivery of ammunition to Ukraine, pledging to jointly procure shells and mobilize the bloc’s budget, Bloomberg reports. It was an informal gathering, and a decision will be up to EU leaders meeting in Brussels on March 23-24.

Canada to provide USD 3 mn for Ukraine demining. Canada has allocated $3 million for mine clearance of Ukraine as a part of a new aid package announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly on 7 March. Canada also will donate seven electrical transformers to help repair Ukraine’s power grid damaged in Russian missile attacks on civilian infrastructure.

Sweden will provide $11,5 mn to Ukraine to support women and girls amid Russia’s war. The country will receive funds from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and UN Women.“Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and attacks on health and medical care facilities have life-threatening consequences for women and girls.

New Developments

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1633626151104167938

SBU detains a Russian agent who formerly commanded a Ukrainian special operations center. Ukraine’s security service (SBU) has detained a Russian agent who had earlier commanded a special operations center of the Ukrainian Army but. He gathered intelligence to help Russia seize the seaside city of Ochakiv (Mykolaiv Oblast), which lies 30 km from positions Russia occupies on the east bank of the Dnipro river. As the man worked in the Ochakiv city council, he was tasked by the Russian military intelligence to persuade the Ochakiv city authorities to cooperate with the occupiers. For this, the mayor was offered to “choose a position” in the event of the seizure of the region, but he reported the offer to the SBU instead.

Ukrainian government not involved in last year’s sabotage of Nord Stream pipelines – Defense Minister. The Ukrainian government was not involved in the sabotage last year of the Nord Stream gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea, Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told media in Stockholm on 8 March, according to AFP.

Two Russian cargo ships delivered bullets and shells from Iran to Russia – SkyNews. Iran has secretly supplied large quantities of bullets, rockets, and mortar shells to Russia for the war in Ukraine and plans to send more, a security source has told Sky News. According to the source, two Russian-flagged cargo ships, the Musa Jalil and the Begey, departed an Iranian port on around 10 and 12 January bound for Russia via the Caspian Sea, carrying bullets and shells.

Assessment 

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of  March 8, 2022:

Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin announced on March 8 that Russian forces captured all of eastern Bakhmut, a claim consistent with available visual evidence.[1] ISW assessed on March 7 that Ukrainian forces completed a controlled withdrawal from eastern Bakhmut across the Bakhmutka River.[2] A prominent Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces control between 45 to 52 percent of Bakhmut as of March 7.[3] This figure is reasonable; ISW assesses that Russian forces now occupy at least 50 percent of Bakhmut as of March 8. Russian forces will likely intensify attacks in northwestern and southwestern Bakhmut (north from Opytne and south from Yahidne, respectively) to circumnavigate the Bakhmutka River.

Russian forces remain unlikely to rapidly exploit a breakthrough beyond Bakhmut if Russian forces capture the city. Prigozhin implied on March 8 that the Russian Ministry of Defense used the Wagner Group to bear the brunt of high-intensity attritional urban warfare in Bakhmut and may discard the Wagner Group after capturing Bakhmut so conventional Russian units can continue to attack.[4] Prigozhin did not provide an assessment of the likelihood of success of future Russian offensive operations beyond Bakhmut. ISW has not observed any indicators that the Russian military has a well-equipped and prepared reserve force to advance beyond Bakhmut. Most observed Russian units in Donbas are already engaged in offensive operations, including Russian airborne (VDV) elements that joined the Russian offensive in Bakhmut in January 2023.[5] ISW continues to assess that the Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine will shortly culminate if Russian forces capture Bakhmut, as the Russian military does not have the combat power or reinforcements necessary to exploit a breakthrough near Bakhmut.[6] NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated on March 8 that the Russian capture of Bakhmut would not “necessarily reflect any turning point of the war.”[7]

US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines stated on March 8 that Russian President Vladimir Putin likely recognizes the Russian military’s current limited capability to sustain a short-term offensive and may pursue a protracted war.[8] Haines stated on March 8 that Putin is likely only temporarily focused on pursuing short-term military objectives in Ukraine and may believe that prolonging the war will increase the likelihood of achieving his strategic goals. ISW has previously assessed that Putin maintains maximalist war goals in Ukraine despite Russian forces’ currently limited capabilities to achieve these goals.[9] Haines stated that Russia will increasingly struggle to maintain its current tempo of operations in Ukraine without conducting full mobilization and securing adequate ammunition to mitigate Russia’s current shortage. Haines noted that Russian forces are suffering high losses to take Bakhmut, which Haines characterized as “not particularly strategic,” supporting ISW’s prior assessments that a Pyrrhic tactical victory in Bakhmut would not further Russia’s operational or strategic battlefield aims.[10] ISW previously assessed on January 15 that the Kremlin was preparing for a strategically decisive effort in 2023 while simultaneously preparing for a protracted war.[11]

The Kremlin may be attempting to establish a new Russian government-controlled armed formation billed as a volunteer unit through the Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom. A prominent Russian milblogger stated that Gazprom subsidiary Gazprom Neft is forming a volunteer formation analogous to Russian Combat Army Reserve (BARS) units.[12] The milblogger originally claimed that Gazprom Neft is forming a private military company (PMC) and is actively deploying unspecified elements to occupied Donetsk Oblast before later issuing a correction that the Gazprom Neft formation is a volunteer unit, not a PMC. The milblogger claimed Gazprom Neft’s recruitment campaign generated interest in Donetsk City given that the company is offering 400,000 rubles (approximately $5,260) salary per month and additional compensation for performance bonuses.[13] The milblogger added that this offered salary is twice the amount offered by the Wagner Group, noting that a volunteer in the Gazprom Neft formation can—with bonuses—earn up to 600,000 rubles (about $7,890) per month. Gazprom Neft may be attempting to compete with Wagner for recruits from Donetsk Oblast given that Wagner is also conducting its own recruitment campaign in the area.[14]

The Russian government previously authorized Gazprom Neft to create a private security organization (not a PMC) on February 6 to protect Russian energy infrastructure.[15] Ukrainian intelligence previously noted that the creation of the Gazprom Neft private security company aligns with an assessed Kremlin effort to sideline Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin and mitigate the Kremlin’s dependency on Wagner Group forces.[16] A Russian milblogger also rhetorically questioned when the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) will become “jealous” of the new Gazprom Neft formations and cut off their access to ammunition—likely referencing the Russian MoD’s conflict with Prigozhin.

A US official denied on March 8 that US intelligence assessed that a pro-Ukrainian group sabotaged the Nord Stream pipelines in September 2022. US National Security Council (NSC) spokesperson Andrienne Watson stated on March 8 that the NSC is unable to confirm the New York Times March 7 report that US officials reviewed unverified intelligence suggesting a pro-Ukrainian group conducted the attack.[17] Watson stated that the anonymous claims in the report did not come from downgraded intelligence shared by the US government and that sources were not authorized to speak on the US government’s behalf.[18]

German and Polish officials announced that Germany and Poland will deliver 28 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine in March 2023, which will bolster Ukraine’s capabilities to conduct a counteroffensive amidst high Russian tank losses. German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius announced on March 8 that Germany will deliver 18 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine by the end of March, and Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak announced that Poland will deliver 10 more tanks by the end of the week.[19] These tanks, though below the quantities that the Ukrainian military needs, will augment Ukraine’s capabilities to conduct counteroffensive operations, particularly due to the degraded state of Russian armored units. Dutch open-source group Oryx reported that it verified Russian losses of over 1,000 T-72 tank variants in Ukraine as of March 8.[20] Oryx verified 1,079 destroyed Russian tanks and 549 captured Russian tanks as of February 24, and estimated on February 9 that Russian forces had committed roughly 3,000 tanks to the war in Ukraine.[21]

Key Takeaways

  • Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin announced on March 8 that Russian forces captured all of eastern Bakhmut, a claim consistent with available visual evidence
  • Russian forces remain unlikely to exploit a breakthrough beyond Bakhmut if Russian forces capture the city.
  • The Kremlin may be attempting to establish a new Russian government-controlled armed formation billed as a volunteer unit through the Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom.
  • A US official denied that US intelligence assessed that a pro-Ukrainian group sabotaged the Nord Stream pipelines in September 2022.
  • German and Polish officials announced that Germany and Poland will deliver 28 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine in March 2023, which will bolster Ukraine’s capabilities to conduct a counteroffensive amidst high Russian tank losses.
  • Russian forces continued to conduct ground attacks on the Kupiansk-Svatove-Kreminna line.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations around Bakhmut on March 8 but have not succeeded in completing a turning movement around the city.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations along the outskirts of Donetsk City.
  • Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces landed on the Dnipro River Delta islands for the third consecutive day.
  • The Kremlin is doubling down on reviving volunteer recruitment campaigns throughout Russia and occupied Ukraine.
  • Russian hospitals are continuing to form new medical centers in Russia in an effort to maximize the capacity for overfilling hospitals in occupied territories to treat wounded Russian servicemen.
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