Russia targets Donetsk to distract Ukrainian troops from Bakhmut—MOD

According to an assessment by the British Ministry of Defense, Russia is likely trying to attack areas in the eastern Donetsk region it does not already control in order to divert Ukrainian troops from the embattled city of Bakhmut.

The latest update from British intelligence on the conflict, which began on February 24, 2022, suggests Russia is shifting tactics in the face of a nearly six-month push to take Bakhmut, which has been one of the hottest spots in the war.

A Ukrainian tank in Siversk
A Ukrainian tank drives down a street in the badly damaged city of Siversk, which is close to the front line with Russia, January 21, 2023 in Siversk, Ukraine. Russia stepped up its offensive in the Donetsk region in the new year, with the region’s Kyiv-appointed governor accusing Russia of using scorched-earth tactics.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Russian troops, led by the Wagner Group paramilitary unit, have failed to make operationally significant gains in their offensives around Bakhmut in recent weeks. They were unable to get beyond minor tactical gains in Soledar and other surrounding small settlements.

Britain’s Defense Ministry said Tuesday that Russian commanders are likely “aiming to develop a new axis of advance into Ukrainian-held Donetsk territory and to divert Ukrainian forces from the heavily contested Bakhmut sector.”

Over the past three days, Russia has likely ramped up its probing raids around the towns of Pavlivka and Vuhledar into a “more concerted attack,” the ministry said.

“The settlements are 50 km southwest of the city of Donetsk, and Russia previously deployed the 155th Marine Brigade in an unsuccessful attack on the same area in November 2022,” the update said.

“Elements of the 155th are again involved as part of at least a brigade-sized force that has probably advanced several hundred yards beyond the small Kashlahach River, which marked the front line for several months.”

According to the Defense Ministry, there is a “realistic possibility” that Russia will continue to make local gains in Bakhmut.

It added: “However, Russia is unlikely to have enough untied troops in the region to make an operationally significant breakthrough.”

As clashes continue in Bakhmut, Russian forces are also keeping an eye on the nearby town of Vuhledar. Denis Pushilin, Russia’s leader in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, told state news agency RIA Novosti on Friday that the city’s capture could radically change the balance of power on the Ukrainian front.

Vuhledar could soon become “a new, very important success for us,” said Pushilin. “Taking control of this settlement will give our troops access to the Krasnoarmiysk (Pokrovsk) and Kurakhovskoye directions.”

On Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appealed to Western leaders to “speed up” the delivery of promised supplies to Ukraine amid Russian pushes around Bakhmut.

news week has asked the Russian Foreign Ministry for comment.

Do you have a tip on a world news story that news week should cover? Do you have a question about the Russia-Ukraine War? Let us know at Russia targets Donetsk to distract Ukrainian troops from Bakhmut—MOD

Rick Schindler

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