Russia's Wagner chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said Sunday that 70% of Bakhmut is under the control of his forces, according to TASS. But he also said that Ukraine's armed forces appear to be mobilizing for a major offensive after Russian soldiers maintained the momentum for weeks.
Western media's coverage of the fight for Bakhmut seems to have waned in the past two weeks, compared with the prior intensity of reporting in early March and February. Kremlin forces have the strategic city on the Donetsk region almost completely surrounded, but there have been reports that their forward advance has stalled.
Lately Ukrainian leadership has acknowledged things are very tough, amid high casualties while facing down superior Russian artillery supplies, but has vowed to keep up defense of the city and not abandon it.
The battle for the city has been described as a "meat-grinder", with The Washington Post recently offering this blunt assessment:
The Washington Post noted Kiev is running low on men and weapons. "An influx of inexperienced draftees, brought in to plug the losses, has changed the profile of the Ukrainian force," Isabelle Khurshudyan wrote in the Post. "[The force] is also suffering from basic shortages of ammunition, including artillery shells and mortar bombs, according to military personnel in the field."
As for Wagner's Prigozhin, there are new reports saying he fears Russia could soon lose its advance and momentum broadly in the east if drastic action isn't taken.
Citing his words, Newsweek writes, "Prigozhin's depiction of imminent Ukrainian counteroffensives also implies that he believes that Russian forces will lose the initiative to Ukraine soon and be forced onto the defensive rather than continuing stalled or unsuccessful offensives in the Kreminna, Bakhmut, Avdiivka or Vuhledar areas."
🇷🇺🚀💥🔥🇺🇦"Wagner" artillery working on AFU positions in Bakhmut. pic.twitter.com/XS4OfpycyZ— AZ 🛰🌏🌍🌎 (@AZgeopolitics) March 20, 2023
Kiev has used the fierce fight for Bakhmut to lobby the West for more and bigger weapons. Ukraine is continuing to deploy its US-supplied HIMARS rockets in the meantime.
On Monday the Russian Defense Ministry (MoD) said the military intercepted multiple HIMARS rockets fired on Russian positions. "In the past 24 hours, air defense capabilities intercepted five rockets of the HIMARS multiple launch rocket system, and also a HARM anti-radiation missile," a (MoD) spokesperson said. "In addition, they destroyed seven Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles in areas near the settlements of Kremennaya, Rubezhnoye, Ploshchanka and Karmazinovka in the Lugansk People’s Republic and Kirillovka in the Donetsk People’s Republic."
* * *
How a Washington think tank has assessed battlefield control as of Monday: