It is premature to assess the Ukrainian army’s intentions of leaving Bakhmut, an almost abandoned city which has been an epicentre of intense fighting in the Donetsk region. Ukrainian forces are likely to be engaged in a “limited tactical withdrawal” from the city’s eastern part, the US Institute for the Study of War concluded in its daily report.
According to the ISW experts, Ukraine continues to suffer high but not excessive losses against the advancing mixed Russian troops. At the same time, Kyiv’s resolute determination to defend Bakhmut remains strategically sound because it depletes Russia’s manpower and military equipment, the ISW noted.
“Ukrainian forces are unlikely to withdraw from Bakhmut all at once and may pursue a gradual fighting withdrawal
to exhaust Russian forces through continued urban warfare,” the report highlights.
The Ukrainian forces can likely be pulling out of their positions on the east bank of the Bakhmutka River which can be surmised after footage emerged showing a railway bridge across the river in the city’s northeast part was blown up. At the same time, a Ukrainian outlet reported citing an unnamed Ukrainian service member that as of 4 March the Russian army was yet to cross the Bakhmutka River to storm the central areas of Bakhmut.
Analysts believe that urban warfare in the key city of Bakhmut “may further degrade already exhausted Russian mixed forces in a fashion similar to that caused by Ukraine’s fighting withdrawal from the Severodonetsk-Lysychansk line, which effectively ended Russian offensive operations” in Luhansk and Donetsk regions in the summer of 2022.
According to the ISW, the Russian offensive is likely to come to a halt irrespective of the future of Bakhmut. The advance will stall due to significant losses near Vuhledar, Donetsk region. Moreover, Russia’s “major offensives in the Kupyansk, Svatove, and Kreminna directions” are “failing to generate any significant successes on the frontlines”.
“The enemy continues attempts to assault Bakhmut and nearby settlements,” the Ukrainian General Staff noted in its morning report.
Earlier, spokesperson for the Ukrainian army’s east group of forces Serhiy Cherevaty told national TV that Ukrainian troops were still in Bakhmut to defend the city.
“We can deliver ammo, food, and medicine there as well as recover injured service members from there. Yes, the Bakhmut-Kostiantynivka highway is not the safest. However, our units ensure that Bakhmut can get everything they need,” he said.