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According to Russian officials, at least 75 percent of the ruined city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region is under the control of Russian forces. The announcement follows months of intense fighting in the strategic area, with the Russian paramilitary group, Wagner, going so far as to raise its flag along with a Russian flag over the rubble of government buildings in Bakhmut’s city center last week. The outcome of the battle for the city is seen as a bellwether for the remainder of the war by many observers.
On Monday, the Russian-installed head of the Donetsk region, Denis Pushilin, released a statement saying, “I can say with absolute certainty, that more than 75 percent of the city is under the control of our units.”
While Russia claims that capturing the city will create the possibility of future offensives across the wartorn country, Ukraine and its Western allies are claiming that the victory would only be of symbolic importance.
However, Oleksandr Syrskyi, leader of the Ukrainian army’s ground forces, has indicated that the reason Russia and the Wagner Group have gained so much ground is that they employed “scorched earth” tactics that were learned in Syria. According to Syrskyi, the tactics include demolishing entire buildings and targeting Ukrainian positions with air strikes.
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Meanwhile, to complicate the situation further, Ukraine may need to update its military plans prior to an anticipated counteroffensive after classified documents regarding the war were leaked from the Pentagon.
According to Ukrainian presidential aide, Mykhailo Podolyak, “There are strategic tasks – they are unchangeable. But operational and tactical scenarios are constantly refined, based on an assessment of the situation on the battlefield, resource provision, intelligence data on the enemy’s resources, etc.”
The Pentagon leaks have reportedly left Ukrainian officials feeling “deeply frustrated” as some of the detailed Pentagon assessments of the battlefield have been shared online. Officials in Kyiv have also questioned the authenticity of the leaked documents and whether or not they have been altered or manipulated by the Kremlin.
With respect to Bakhmut, it is highly anticipated that should Ukrainian forces be forced out of the city altogether, then Kyiv would be more likely to be open to talks of a ceasefire. However, any such negotiations would almost certainly require territorial concessions be made, including conceding Crimea to Moscow, which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said in the past would be a non-starter. Given some of Zelensky’s comments in recent weeks though, it appears he may be warming up to the idea.
- Wagner Group Raises Russian Flag Over Government Buildings In Bakhmut – Fighting Continues
- Zelensky Considers ‘Strategic Pullback’ From Bakhmut After Sending In Large Amount Of Reserve Forces