The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has written a damning report which warns that Vladimir Putin could lose some of his most effective and more difficult troops to replace in the battle of Bakhmut.
The Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has committed some of their elite airborne troops to fight in the city of Bakhmut, Donetsk region, as Moscow are “throwing more high-quality troops into the battle.”
The ISW report says, “The Wagner attacks already culminated once, causing the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) to commit some of its elite airborne troops to the fight.
“It may well culminate again before taking the city, once more forcing the Russian military to choose between abandoning the effort or throwing more high-quality troops into the battle.”
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The analysts have also said that the opportunity to damage the Wagner Group’s elite elements, along with other elite units if they are committed, “in a defensive urban warfare setting where the attrition gradient strongly favors Ukraine is an attractive one.”
Wagner Group financier and founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin is fearing that his forces are being expended in exactly this way and that ammunition is not being provided by Moscow.
The ISW said that Bakhmut is not intrinsically significant operationally or even strategically, but Ukraine’s fight for the city is now strategically significant for Kyiv because of the amount of current composition of Russian troops in the area.
The ISW added, “Some Western reports have recently suggested that Ukraine is expending its own elite manpower and scarce equipment on mainly Wagner Group prison recruits who are mere cannon fodder, noting that such an exchange would be to Ukraine’s disadvantage even at high ratios of Russian to Ukrainian losses.
“That observation is valid in general, although the pool of Russian convict recruits suitable for combat is not limitless and the permanent elimination of tens of thousands of them in Bakhmut means that they will not be available for more important fights.”
The Kremlin is also returning to their previously unsuccessful volunteer recruitment and “crypto-mobilisation” campaigns to avoid ordering another major mobilisation call up.
The ISW said, “Such voluntary recruitment drives may also indicate that the Kremlin is running out of combat-ready reserves to continue its offensive operations past the Battle of Bakhmut and its failed offensives around Vuhledar and in Luhansk region.”
They also warn that the Ukrainian army are preparing their troops for a counteroffensive in southern Ukraine, which could start as early as late March or early April.