Ukrainian forces are likely conducting a limited tactical withdrawal in Bakhmut, although it is still too early to assess Ukrainian intentions concerning a complete withdrawal from the city , Institute for the Study of War assesses. “The Ukrainian defense of Bakhmut remains strategically sound as it continues to consume Russian manpower and equipment as long as Ukrainian forces do not suffer excessive casualties,” the report adds.
Russian forces likely lack the capability to further reinforce the Bakhmut area significantly without pulling forces from another area of the front line due to the lack of untapped reserves, with the possible exception of the 2nd Guards Motorized Rifle Division that was last reported in Luhansk but uncommitted to the fighting. The culmination of all these efforts further supports ISW’s assessment that Russian forces likely lack the combat power to sustain more than one simultaneous offensive. Ukrainian forces will likely have a window of opportunity to seize the battlefield initiative and launch a counteroffensive when the Russian effort around Bakhmut culminates either before or after taking the city.
Endemic personnel and equipment constraints will likely prevent Russian forces from launching another prolonged offensive operation like the Battle for Bakhmut in the coming months, ISW assesses. Russian forces would have the choice of two diverging lines of advance after capturing Bakhmut but would likely struggle to sustain offensive operations and make any significant gains.
The likely imminent culmination of the Russian offensive around Bakhmut, the already culminated Russian offensive around Vuhledar, and the stalling Russian offensive in Luhansk Oblast are likely setting robust conditions for Ukrainian counteroffensive operations.
ISW added that the Russian military’s attritional campaign to capture Bakhmut has likely prompted Russian milbloggers to adopt more realistic expectations for further Russian operations in Ukraine. The Russian Armed Forces will continue to rely on irregular formations in further offensive operations in the coming months.
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