Russian commanders are likely to have to make tough choices between advancing into eastern Ukraine and maintaining a “credible defence” of its front line, according to a new intelligence assessment.
The Russian forces on the battlefield “temporarily” drained their “combat power”. This means they cannot launch widespread offensives, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said on Friday.
Write on Twitterthe government department said Russian leaders will push to replace personnel and ammunition stocks so they can restart offensives on the front line.
Reports of high casualty rates and “shell hunger”, a lack of ammunition, have been widely documented by Western and Ukrainian sources in recent months.
In February, the leader of the Russian mercenary group Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said “shell hunger” was costing the lives of Russian fighters in disputed areas of eastern Ukraine. He also accused Russian officials, such as Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, of “treason” for supplying ammunition to frontline fighters, which the Kremlin has denied.
The lack of “combat power” resulting from such problems is likely linked to the fact that Russia has carried out some of the fewest offensives since the start of the year, the British Ministry of Defense said.
Despite this, the ministry added, Russian and mercenary forces have gained a foothold in the heavily contested western town of Bakhmut. Ukrainian forces hold the western part of the Donetsk settlement, the ministry said.
Bakhmut was the site of some of the fiercest fighting of the war. The ruined city has seen months of shelling and clashes between Russian and Ukrainian forces. However, in recent weeks, Western analysts have signaled progress for Russia in and around Bakhmut.
US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley said on Thursday that Russia “continues to pay a heavy price in terms of military lives and equipment for the continuation of its war of choice.”
In Bakhmut, Moscow forces are “making small tactical advances” at “great cost”, Milley added during a press conference with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
“Elsewhere, the front line remains relatively static, with heavy artillery exchanges but no significant maneuver gains on either side,” Milley continued.
THURSDAY, The British Ministry of Defense has called Bakhmut “Russia’s only notable recent tactical success.” In its daily update Thursday, the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War think tank said Russian forces continued to advance in and around Bakhmut, particularly to the northwest and southwest of the city.
On Friday morning, the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said Russian efforts to “storm” the city were continuing, but they had failed to capture the settlement.
On Thursday, the Russian Defense Ministry said 275 Ukrainian fighters had been killed in Donetsk in the past 24 hours, without specifying reported casualties in Bakhmut. On Friday morning, Ukrainian officials said 760 Russian soldiers had been killed in the war over the past day, without providing a regional breakdown. No figures could be independently verified by Newsweek.
Newsweek emailed the Russian Defense Ministry for comment.