Kyiv, Ukraine –
In an assessment of the war’s longest ground battle, a leading think tank said Russia’s advance appears to have stalled in Moscow’s campaign to capture the town of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine.
The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said there had been no confirmed advances by Russian forces in Bakhmut. The institute reported Saturday evening that Russian forces and units of the Kremlin-controlled Wagner paramilitary group continued to launch ground attacks in the city, but there was no evidence that they had managed to make any progress.
The report quoted the spokesman for the Eastern Group of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Serhiy Sherevaty, as saying that fighting in the Bakhmut region has intensified this week more than before. According to Sharifati, 23 clashes took place in the city in the past 24 hours.
The ISW report follows allegations of a Russian advance earlier this week. LONDON (Reuters) – Paramilitary units from the Kremlin-controlled Wagner Group had captured most of eastern Bakhmut, the British Ministry of Defense said on Saturday, and the river running through the town was now on the front line of battle. The assessment indicated that the Russian offensive would be difficult to sustain without greater casualties.
The mining town of Pakhmut is located in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk province, one of four regions in Ukraine that were illegally annexed by Russian President Vladimir Putin last year. The Russian army began its campaign to take Bakhmut in August, with both sides suffering heavy losses. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has vowed not to back down.
The impact of heavy casualties among Russian forces in Ukraine varies widely across the country, the British Ministry of Defense said in its latest report on Sunday. The ministry’s intelligence update says the major cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg remain “relatively intact,” especially among members of Russia’s elite. In contrast, in many parts of eastern Russia, the death rate as a percentage of the population is “30-40 times higher than in Moscow”.
The report notes that ethnic minorities are often the hardest hit. In the southern Astrakhan region, for example, about 75% of the victims belonged to the Kazakh and Tatar minority.
The ISW said the growing losses in Russia were reflected in the government’s loss of control over the country’s information sphere. The think tank said Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova confirmed “infighting within the Kremlin’s inner circle” and that the Kremlin had effectively relinquished control of the country’s information space, with Putin unable to easily regain control.
The ISW finds Zakharova’s comments, which she made at a forum on “Practical and Technological Aspects of Information and Knowledge Warfare in Modern Realities” in Moscow, “remarkable” and consistent with the think tank’s longstanding assessments of “the dynamics of waning Kremlin control” in the information space.
Zakharova said in a separate statement on Sunday that the next round of talks on extending the Black Sea Grain Agreement will be held in Geneva on Monday. The meeting will see a Russian delegation meet with senior UN officials before the final extension of the agreement, which expires on March 18.
A wartime pact that halted grain shipments from Ukraine and helped lower soaring global food prices was extended by four months in November.
The agreement, which Ukraine and Russia signed in separate agreements with the United Nations and Turkey on July 22, established safe passage for shipping in the Black Sea and inspection procedures to address concerns that cargo ships could carry weapons or launch attacks.
Ukraine and Russia are the world’s largest suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil and other foodstuffs to countries in Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia where millions of poor people lack food. Russia was also the world’s largest exporter of fertilizer before the war.
The loss of these supplies in the aftermath of Russia’s massive invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 sent global food prices skyrocketing and heightened fears of a hunger crisis in poor countries.
Elsewhere in Ukraine, Russian attacks the previous day left at least five dead and seven injured in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Kherson regions, local Ukrainian authorities reported Sunday morning.
Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kirilenko said two people were killed in the area, one in the town of Kostyantinivka and the other in the village of Tuninki. Four other civilians were wounded.
Also in Donetsk province, Sloviansk Mayor Vadim Liakh said the power grid and railway lines were damaged by Russian bombing on Sunday, but he did not report any casualties.
And local officials in the southern Kherson region confirmed that Russian forces fired 29 times, on Saturday, at lands under the control of Ukraine in the region, while residential areas in the regional capital, Kherson, were hit three times. Three people were killed in the province and three others were wounded.
On Sunday, a woman was injured in Russian bombing of the village of Belozerka, in rural Kherson.
In Kharkiv Province in northeastern Ukraine, the Kharkiv, Chuhiv and Kubyansk regions came under fire, but no civilian casualties were reported.
The head of the Mykolaiv region in southern Ukraine, Vitaly Kim, said Sunday morning that the town of Ochakiv, located at the mouth of the Dnipro River, came under artillery fire in the early hours of Sunday morning. Cars were set on fire, while private homes and high-rise buildings were damaged. There were no reports of injuries.