Russia’s New Ukraine Offensive Likely Has Failed: Western Intel

A Ukrainian doctor walks through a partially dug trench on the front line outside Bakhmut on March 5, 2023.
John Moore/Getty Images

  • British intelligence suggests the new Russian offensive is on its last legs, just a month after its launch.
  • Russian forces have exhausted their “combat power”, according to the assessment.
  • “Even local offensive actions are currently not sustainable,” he added.

Russia’s new offensive in Ukraine, which began last month, appears to have failed, according to a new assessment by British intelligence.

In recent days, Russian troops and Wagner Group forces have “gained a foothold west of the Bakhmutka River, in the center of the disputed Donbass town of Bakhmut”, the UK Ministry of Defense said. But the intelligence assessment added that “more broadly on the frontline, Russia is running some of the lowest rates of local offensive actions seen since at least January 2023.”

The UK Ministry of Defense said this is likely because Russian forces have exhausted their “combat power” to such a degree that “even local offensive actions are not currently sustainable”.

Russia has paid a heavy price in liberated soldiers, mercenaries and convicts in the Battle of Bakhmut, which has been raging for months despite the city’s dubious strategic importance.

“At the moment there is intense fighting in and around Bakhmut and the Russians are making small tactical advances but at great expense. Elsewhere the front line remains relatively static, with heavy artillery exchanges but no gains significant maneuver on either side,” Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said Wednesday during a press conference with Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin.

Milley said Russia was paying “heavily in terms of military lives and equipment”.

The Institute for the Study of War, which has closely followed the fighting in Ukraine, said in its latest assessment that the somewhat slower pace of Russian attacks in and near Bakhmut suggests that the Wagner Group offensive in the region is “probably nearing completion”. “

Russia pressured the Ukrainian defenders with so-called human wave attacks designed to overrun their trenches, and although they and the artillery barrages exacted a heavy toll, it was not enough to force a complete withdrawal. Moreover, Russia failed to use superior air forces to strike the defensive network in trenches, fearing that close operations would cost them even more aircraft.

There has been an evolving debate between Kyiv and its Western partners over Ukraine’s insistence on continuing to defend Bakhmut, who analysts say could fall to Russian forces in the coming days. Ukraine has argued that strengthening its position in Bakhmut will force Russia to deplete valuable men and ammunition in what has become the bloodiest battle in a brutal war of attrition for both sides.

Michael Kofman, director of the Russian Studies program at the Naval Analysis Center, recently traveled to Bakhmut to observe the combat in person. “What’s happening in the fight now is that the attrition exchange rate is favorable to Ukraine, but it’s not as favorable as it was before. The losses on the Ukrainian side are rather large and regularly require a substantial number of replacements,” Kofman said. said during an appearance on the War on the Rocks podcast this week.

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