Russian attack on Bakhmut ‘stalls’ amid tensions between army and Wagner Group, says UK

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Ukrainian servicemen prepare a D-30 howitzer to fire toward Russian positions near Bakhmut (AFP via Getty Images)
Ukrainian servicemen prepare a D-30 howitzer to fire toward Russian positions near Bakhmut (AFP via Getty Images)

The Russian assault on Bakhmut has stalled as its military has suffered a large number of casualties, according to British intelligence chiefs.

In its latest intelligence update, the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) said Russia’s situation has likely been worsened by “tensions between the Russian ministry of defence and Wagner Group, both of whom contribute troops in the sector”.

The MoD said Russia had instead shifted its operational focus towards Avdiivka, south of Bakhmut, and to the Kremina-Svatove sector in the north – “areas where Russia likely only aspires to stabilise its frontline”.

They added: “This suggests an overall return to a more defensive operational design after inconclusive results from its attempts to conduct a general offensive since January 2023.”

It comes after Ukrainian military officials claimed Russia’s Wagner mercenaries are “running out of steam”.

Commander Oleksandr Syrskyi claimed that the group, who have been at the front of Moscow’s assault on eastern and southern Ukraine, are losing “considerable strength” amid the fight for Bakhmut.

The Ukrainian military also claimed 1,020 Russian troops had been killed in the past 24 hours after unsuccessful attacks on Lyman, Avdiivka, Marinka and Shakhtarsk, although this has not been verified by western officials.

Mr Syrskyi added that “very soon, we will take advantage of this opportunity, as we did in the past near Kyiv, Kharkiv, Balakliya and Kupiansk,” listing Ukrainian counteroffensives last year that recaptured swathes of land.

Russian forces have for months been trying to capture Bakhmut as they seek to extend their control over eastern Ukraine.

There was no immediate response from Moscow to suggestions its forces in Bakhmut were losing momentum, but Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin has issued statements in recent days warning of a Ukrainian counterassault.

In a show of defiance and possibly growing confidence, President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office released a video of him handing out medals to troops it said were near the Bakhmut front line this week despite Russia’s offensive.