In a significant development, a Ukrainian unit has announced that it successfully routed a Russian brigade near the stronghold of Bakhmut, shedding light on the challenges faced by the Kremlin in its military operation. Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner private army, further confirmed that the Russian brigade had abandoned its positions in Bakhmut, which has been the primary target of Moscow’s winter offensive and the site of intense ground combat. Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, who leads Ukraine’s ground forces, confirmed that Russian units in certain parts of Bakhmut had retreated by up to two kilometers as a result of effective counter-attacks, although specific details were not provided.
While Wagner units have spearheaded the Russian assault on the eastern city for an extended period, Ukrainian forces assert that the offensive is losing momentum. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov acknowledged the operational difficulties but highlighted that significant goals had been achieved over the past year, including inflicting damage on the Ukrainian military machine through missile strikes. Peskov expressed confidence in the eventual capture and control of Bakhmut, emphasizing Russia’s campaign’s underlying objective of preserving infrastructure and safeguarding human lives.
Notably, Peskov did not address the claims that Russia’s 72nd Separate Motor-rifle Brigade had indeed abandoned their positions near Bakhmut. The Ukrainian Third Separate Assault Brigade substantiated the flight of the Russian brigade and claimed that approximately 500 Russian soldiers had been left behind. Brigade commander Prigozhin voiced concerns about inadequate ammunition supply and mentioned a modest advancement made by Wagner forces, while Ukrainian troops remained confined to a limited area.
Prigozhin, who commands the private army, has been at odds with Russia’s defense ministry and has expressed apprehension regarding an anticipated Ukrainian counter-offensive to reclaim occupied territories. Ukrainian military analyst Roman Svitan interpreted the recent successes near Bakhmut as the initial phase of the anticipated counter-offensive, suggesting that it commenced approximately a week ago. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar affirmed that pro-Kyiv units had not relinquished any positions in Bakhmut on the mentioned day.
The conflict between Russian troops and Ukrainian forces began when Russia launched its invasion under the pretext of a special military operation, initially gaining significant territory. However, the Ukrainian forces mounted a formidable resistance, pushing back against the Russian incursion. Western officials estimate that the Russian side has incurred substantial casualties.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy acknowledged the flight of Russia’s 72nd Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade in a recent address, while Admiral Rob Bauer, NATO’s top military official, underscored the evolving nature of the conflict. He highlighted the presence of large numbers of poorly trained Russian troops with outdated equipment facing a smaller but better-equipped Ukrainian force supported by Western weaponry and training.
In a separate development, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland made an important announcement, authorizing the initial transfer of forfeited Russian assets for use in Ukraine. This action signifies the United States’ support for Ukraine in its ongoing conflict with Russia, further underscoring the international significance of the situation.