Battle for Bakhmut: Russia Retreats in ‘Bad Order’ as Ukrainians Gain 1km of Territory, British Intel Claims

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BY: KURT ZINDULKA 13 May 2023

The battle for Bakhmut has apparently taken a turn in favour of the Ukrainians, with Russian forces retreating from their tactically “significant” position in “bad order”, according to British military intelligence.

On Saturday, the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) said that over the past four days, Russia’s 72nd Separate Motor Rifle Brigade (72 SMRB) withdrew from its position and Ukranians regained at least one kilometre of territory surrounding the city.

The MoD said that the area in question “has some tactical significance” given that it served as a “Russian bridgehead on the western side of the Donets-Donbas Canal, which marks the front line through parts of the sector.”

“72 SMRB is an element of Russia’s 3rd Army Corps, a formation created in Autumn 2023 and dogged with allegations of poor morale and limited combat effectiveness. Its deployment to such a demanding and operationally important sector highlights Russia’s severe shortage of credible combat units,” the UK Ministry of Defence said, adding that the troops that withdrew are believed to have been in “bad order”.

Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said that Ukraine had deployed 1,000 troops and 40 tanks in the fighting, which is believed to be the largest mobilisation in the area since November. Konashenkov attempted to downplay the significance of the Ukrainian gains, claiming that Moscow’s forces had repelled 26 attacks but withdrew in one area in order to “regroup” to a stronger position.

However, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the mercenary Wagner group that has led the Russian fighting in Bakhmut, was far more pessimistic.

In comments reported by Reuters, the Wagner boss said: “What Konashenkov described, unfortunately, is called ‘a rout’ and not a regrouping.”

Prigozhin went on to say that the Ukrainian fighters had taken the high ground overlooking the city as well as the main highway into the Bakhmut from the West, adding: “The loss of the Berkhivka reservoir – the loss of this territory they gave up – that’s 5 sq km, just today.”

“The enemy has completely freed up the Chasiv Yar-Bakhmut road which we had blocked. The enemy is now able to use this road, and secondly, they have taken tactical high ground under which Bakhmut is located,” he said.

The apparent tactical victory for Kyiv comes ahead of the long-discussed Spring counter-offensive planned by Ukraine, potentially signalling a broader turning in the conflict.

Meanwhile, pro-Russian separatists in the self-declared Luhansk People’s Republic in the Eastern Donbas region of Ukraine claimed that on Friday a building used by Russia’s armed forces as a supply transit point and repair shop was struck by Shadow Storm cruise missiles supplied by the United Kingdom, in what is believed to have been the first attack using the British long-range missile.

In a statement reported by the Daily Mail, the Kremlin-backed separatist government said: “According to updated information, on May 12, 2023, during a missile attack on the city of Lugansk the Ukrainian armed forces used two Storm Shadow cruise missiles (produced by the UK and France) and one ADM-160B MALD missile (produced by the US).”

So far Kyiv has not confirmed if it used the missiles from Britain. Earlier this week, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace confirmed that the UK would be the first Western nation to supply Ukraine with long-range missiles, despite concerns about them being used in a strike against Russian-controlled Crimea or the mainland itself, which could trigger a broader conflict between Moscow and the West.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka

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