A Blog by Jonathan Low

 

Dec 22, 2022

Ukrainians In Bakhmut Repel Fresh Waves Of Russian "Zombies"

Much, if not all of the ongoing Russian assault against Bakhmut appears to be driven by a competition between Russian General Surovikin and Wagner Group leader Prigozhin to demonstrate to Putin who is the better war leader. JL 

James Marson reports in the Wall Street Journal:

The Ukrainian military said it had repelled a fresh wave of Russian assaults around the eastern city of Bakhmut following a visit there on Tuesday by President Volodymyr Zelensky. For Russia, the battle for Bakhmut is a chance for two key military leaders to prove their value. Gen. Sergei Surovikin, the new Russian military commander in Ukraine, and Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner paramilitary group, are pushing troops to the city in an effort to seal some kind of victory after months of retreats.

The Ukrainian military said it had repelled a fresh wave of Russian assaults around the eastern city of Bakhmut following a visit there on Tuesday by President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is visiting the U.S. on Wednesday.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in its regular morning report that Russian troops had assaulted Bakhmut and other towns and villages in the eastern Donetsk province, including with artillery and tanks, but without success. The Russian Defense Ministry said its military had seized some territory in Donetsk, without giving details, Russian state-run news agency TASS reported.

 

The city of Bakhmut, best known in Ukraine for its sparkling wines, has become a key target for Russia, which is trying to seize all of Donetsk province. In a video address on Tuesday night, Mr. Zelensky highlighted the importance of the battle for the city for Ukraine, calling it “Fortress Bakhmut.”

Mr. Zelensky visited soldiers in Bakhmut on Tuesday, handing out awards and receiving a Ukrainian flag that he said he would take on his trip to Washington.

The Ukrainian president met with President Biden at the White House Wednesday afternoon and later addressed a joint meeting of Congress on his first trip abroad since the start of the Russian invasion on Feb. 24.

At a joint press conference with Mr. Biden, Mr. Zelensky underscored the toll the war has taken on the Ukrainian people and made clear that he would not accept an outcome that led to a loss of Ukrainian territory. “As a father, I would like to emphasize how many parents lost their sons and daughters on the front lines. So what is just peace for them?” he asked.

The visit comes as Ukraine seeks to buttress Western support after it recaptured around half the territory that Russia’s invasion force had seized since February. In his video address, Mr. Zelensky reiterated that Ukraine wants to take back all its lands, including the Crimean Peninsula and eastern areas that Russia seized in a covert invasion in 2014.

Ukraine will need greater military support from the U.S. and European allies to do that, he said in Bakhmut on Tuesday.

“The enemy is increasing the size of its army, but our guys are braver. We need more powerful weapons,” Mr. Zelensky said.

“We are grateful for their support,” he said of the U.S., “but it’s not enough.”

Russian forces have been making incremental advances toward Bakhmut in recent weeks, but at huge cost. The pace of advance hasn’t accelerated, according to the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank that is tracking the war. Russia has taken only 75 square miles of territory in the area around Bakhmut since the start of October, the ISW said.

The city of Bakhmut has little strategic value, Ukrainian military commanders and military analysts have said, but it has taken on a symbolic meaning for both sides.

For Russia, the battle for Bakhmut is a chance for two key military leaders to prove their value. Gen. Sergei Surovikin, the new Russian military commander in Ukraine, and Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner paramilitary group, are pushing troops to the city in an effort to seal some kind of victory after months of retreats.

Ukraine wants to hold the city to prevent any appearance that it is losing momentum after making steady advances in recent months.

Russia has increased attacks on civilian infrastructure far from the front lines in an effort to sap Ukrainians’ will to fight, exhaust their country’s economy and force a fresh wave of refugees to European Union countries.

Ukraine’s electrical grid and other infrastructure have been struck repeatedly by Russian missiles and drones in recent weeks, causing cuts to power, water and heating. But there hasn’t been any sign of public pressure for Kyiv to submit to Russia. Nor has a fresh wave of mass emigration materialized such as when Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February.

Mr. Biden is expected to announce the provision by the U.S. of a Patriot missile-defense system to Ukraine.

Ukrainian national grid operator Ukrenergo said Wednesday that there were significant power deficits across the country due to the Russian strikes, and that consumption restrictions were in place.

Ukrainian engineers are striving to repair power networks, and the situation is especially bad in the capital, Kyiv, the company said..



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