Russia Seeks To Overwhelm Ukraine's Anti-Air Defenses, Both Sides Claim Gains In Bakhmut
There's been further contradictory reporting regarding the situation in Bakhmut, with Ukraine currently claiming a significant advance around the strategic city in Donetsk oblast, while Russia's Wagner said its fighters had made gains.
"Today Wagner's units advanced 200 meters and occupied an area of 113,000 m2. Only 1.46 square kilometres remain under enemy control in Bakhmout," Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin said. New drone footage is also circulating which purports to show "the last remaining Ukrainian-held area in Bakhmut"...
🎥Drone footage shows the last remaining Ukrainian-held area in #Bakhmut. pic.twitter.com/2SSWCtqoPl— Military Advisor (@miladvisor) May 17, 2023
"The pincers are closing," Prigozhin also previously said in a video message.
The New York Times this week is offering an account which somewhat contradicts this: "Moscow’s troops still hold most of Bakhmut itself, Ukraine’s recent gains around the city are not large, and there is no guarantee that they will last. But for the first time in months, Ukrainian soldiers are on the offensive and the momentum in the longest and bloodiest battle of the war appears to have shifted their way — at least for now."
The Russian side has long reported that it holds at least 90% to 95% of the strategic city, but it's clearly been a slow grind. Some Ukrainian sources have suggested that Bakhmut is all about Kiev luring Russia into expending as much artillery ammunition and troops as possible as casualties mount.
Kiev is even claiming major new gains there: "In recent days, our troops have liberated about 20 square kilometres north and south" of Bakhmut, according to Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Ganna Maliar on Wednesday. With journalists being far from the front lines, and certainly not embedded in an urban warfare environment, there's little which can be objectively verified of all this.
What is clear is that the city is utterly destroyed and uninhabitable...
New satellite imagery from @Maxar shows the intensity of damage in the western side of Ukraine’s Bakhmut. pic.twitter.com/ONGqMPNh3u— Benjamin Strick (@BenDoBrown) May 17, 2023
In the rest of Ukraine, Russian aerial attacks have continued at a sustained heavy pace. CNN has cited US defense officials to say Russia is trying to "overwhelm" the country's anti-air defenses:
Russia has been expending more munitions than usual in an attempt to overwhelm and confuse Ukrainian air defenses, according to a US official familiar with the matter. Russia has launched the larger aerial attacks from several directions at once, the official said, targeting command and control centers in Kyiv and other high-value locations, as well as the Patriot missile systems that provide Ukraine with a long-range air defense option.
Russia may have begun the expanded attacks in an attempt to force Ukraine to delay its highly-anticipated counter-offensive, the official said. But Ukraine has been able to withstand the attacks, intercepting a high percentage of the incoming missiles and drones with the layered air defenses provided by Western nations.
This comes as there's been some level of confirmation from the US that Russia struck Patriot systems the day prior.
Meanwhile, places as far south as Odessa are getting hammered on Wednesday...
⚡️Unverified video reportedly showing this strike from a different angle https://t.co/E6n3KU4rad pic.twitter.com/tgSbpFDpCp— War Monitor (@WarMonitors) May 17, 2023
There are still questions over whether Ukraine's much-touted spring counteroffensive has actually begun.
National security advisor Jake Sullivan said Wednesday, "Whether a counter-offensive has begun is up to the one who conducts it, and I will not proclaim it. I will let the Ukrainians characterize what they are doing." He merely said that "intense military activity continues" - in a press briefing.