Is Russia Closing the Cauldron Around Bakhmut?
Here are a couple of big picture maps showing the current position of Russian and Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut and the surrounding area. As you can see the Russians (i.e., the Wagner Group) are making rapid advances after months of slow progress and appear to be on the verge of a tactical encirclement of the Ukrainian units.
It is important to understand the terrain of the Bakhmut area. The photos below show a landscape that reminds me of the state I grew up in — Missouri. Rolling hills, farmland and light forest that surround small cities. The first photo is looking north and shows the positions of the Russian and Ukrainian forces in the area. This area is not easily traversed by tanks. This is why artillery is the preferred weapon for dislodging units dug in on ridges and along the roads.
What makes the situation so desperate for Ukrainian forces at the moment is that they have been forced from their fortified entrenchments and are seeking shelter in temporary fox holes and tree lines.
Here is an update from today describing the developing situation:
There are reports of Wagner approaching Bogdanovka (west of Bakhmut) which increases the threat of encirclement.
The 2nd map shows approximate number of Ukrainian units in the same area.
The ones in yellow circle would be able to withdraw (unless they decide otherwise)
The ones in the red circle will be in a difficult position.
It’s said that General Slursky arrived in Bakhmut to oversee the withdrawal of the more combat ready units, leaving territorial defence units to hold the rear
After months of predictions of Ukraine retreating from Bakhmut it appears the moment is nigh. One of the key unanswered questions is how many Ukrainian soldiers will be captured and how many will escape. Regardless, this will mark another phase for Russia in its Ukrainian campaign to demilitarize and denazify. Ukraine’s next line of defense to the west (Kramatorsk and Seversk) is problematic because it sits in low ground and will be more vulnerable to Russian artillery.
In normal times the setback in Bakhmut would cause the U.S. and NATO to reassess the wisdom of its continued support for Ukraine and look for an escape route. But these are not normal times. It is more likely that the NATO crew will become more hysterical and double down on their support for Ukraine, including trying to accelerate the delivery of long range missiles which will further antagonize Russia. In short, the war will continue.
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