Ukrainian Troops Advance as Russian Forces Retreat

The Ukrainian military and Russia’s private army, Wagner, have reported further Russian retreats around the city of Bakhmut. This development comes as Ukrainian troops have launched their largest offensive in six months, shifting the momentum after months of slow Russian gains. Russian forces have been bombarding access roads, hindering the Ukrainian assault and obstructing the delivery of crucial supplies.

Despite facing disadvantages in equipment and personnel, Ukraine’s military has reported significant advancements of over a mile in certain areas. These gains have exposed a division within Russia’s forces, with Wagner taking the lead in the Bakhmut campaign while the regular Russian military withdraws from positions to the north and south of the city. This withdrawal raises concerns about the potential encirclement of Russian troops inside Bakhmut, which has already suffered considerable devastation during the conflict.

The ongoing advances by Ukrainian forces are seen as a prelude to a larger planned counteroffensive aimed at repelling Russia’s 15-month-long invasion. Wagner’s forces claim to be making progress within Bakhmut, with the goal of pushing Ukrainian troops out of their last stronghold in the city’s western outskirts. However, the withdrawal of regular Russian forces and the risk of encirclement have raised concerns among Wagner’s leadership, who are urging the Russian Defense Ministry not to abandon the flanks.

While the Russian defense ministry acknowledges some withdrawals, it denies allegations of crumbling flanks or withholding ammunition from Wagner. Ukrainian officials have reported fierce battles in Bakhmut’s northern and southern suburbs, with Ukrainian forces successfully repelling Russian attacks and making further advances. Kyiv’s strategy is to lure Russian forces into the city, thereby weakening their front line defenses in other areas in preparation for the planned counteroffensive.

As Kyiv prepares for its upcoming counteroffensive, Russia has resumed missile and drone strikes across Ukraine, intensifying the pace of the war. In the diplomatic arena, the leaders of the G7 nations are convening in Japan to discuss implementing stricter measures to prevent Russia from evading financial sanctions. U.S. President Joe Biden and Japan’s Fumio Kishida have also held talks to strengthen cooperation in the face of both Russia’s unpredictability and China’s growing influence.

In terms of military aid, the Pentagon has acknowledged an overvaluation of U.S. equipment sent to Ukraine by approximately $3 billion, potentially paving the way for additional weapons to be provided to Kyiv. Furthermore, Moscow has agreed to a two-month extension of a deal safeguarding Ukrainian grain exports from Black Sea ports, although the resumption of the corridor and further progress are still pending. The conflict has witnessed attacks and explosions in both Ukrainian and Russian-controlled territories, further escalating tensions in the region.