The Battle for Bakhmut: Wagner Forces Capture More Territory – Flopping Aces

As the caravan rolls on through Bakhmut, several more blocks were captured today with the newly renewed Wagner forces marching on.

PMC “Wagner” fighters continue to advance in the western regions of Artemovsk, bypassing the last fortified area of skyscrapers, “nest” of nationalists of the AFU from the left flank. Also, on the eastern flank, the enemy withdrew from the first skyscrapers.

One brief remark on Bakhmut and why it’s taking so long to capture it compared to other cities. Compared to Mariupol, the contrast is easy to see: Mariupol was locked against the sea, which meant that it was easy to surround on three sides, giving no possibility for reinforcement and supplies. Ironically, the crafty and resourceful AFU still managed to resupply the final Azovstal bastion to an extent, for a while at least, by flying helicopters low over the sea—but the point remains.

As for Severodonetsk and Lisichansk, the other big urban battles: the AFU chose to slip away there and after some bitter fighting, the order from command was simply to preserve their forces and retreat.

Bakhmut was actually supposed to go the same way, showing that the high command’s style did not change. But the order to retreat in this case was simply annulled and reversed by Zelensky himself. We actually have proof of that now as the order itself was apparently leaked recently:

This is the auto-translated copy from, apparently, 2/27/23. You can see here it is signed by supreme commander Zaluzhny and cites the threat of encirclement and destruction of the AFU grouping. He advises to strengthen the defense of Chasov Yar, which is the natural next bulwark for retreating AFU from Bakhmut, and then by March 4 to start immediate withdrawal of troops from Bakhmut itself. Zelensky was said to reject this request.

So, clearly Zaluzhny had planned to conduct operations in the same fashion as Severodonetsk and Lisichansk, preserving the AFU forces. However, Zelensky decided to grind them down in Bakhmut in his absolute fanatical, Hitler-like fervor of saving face and not allowing the army to look weak. Only time will tell who was proven right in the end; maybe Zelensky’s plan will have worked better, we shall see. But according to Prigozhin, upwards of 50k Ukrainian troops died in Bakhmut alone because of this decision.

Zelensky ordered to continue pumping the city full of reinforcements. This is why the battle is taking so long compared to the other two major urban engagements thus far.

But the big question is why did Zelensky do this? As I’ve covered before—apart from wanting to delay Russian forces up until the time of Ukraine’s counter-offensive—the main reason is because, unlike Mariupol and Severodonetsk, Bakhmut is the final frontier before the all-important Kramatorsk-Slavyansk agglomerate which represents, in effect, the AFU’s “last stand” in Donbass. So of course when the defender pours all their resources into holding a city and refuses to retreat, and it’s a city which does not have natural obstructions like water, then it’s going to take much longer. Not to mention that Bakhmut is a very naturally defensible city due to the height advantages for the defender right on its outskirts

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