The massive losses the Ukrainian army is incurring against Russia in Bakhmut has alarmed Germany’s foreign intelligence service (BND), according to the German newspaper Der Spiegel.
For months, the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut has been the site of fierce conflict. The fighting has intensified recently, but Ukraine claims its forces are holding out against the Russians, who recently said they had taken control of the nearby salt mining town of Soledar.
In a closed-door meeting this week, the BND informed the members of the Bundestag (German federal parliament) that the Ukrainian army is currently losing a “three-digit number of soldiers” daily in combat with the Russian invaders.
“The Ukrainians are currently suffering huge losses near Bakhmut. The BND briefing informs about “three-digit numbers of casualties per day,” the report said.
According to German intelligence assessments, the entire line of Ukrainian defense would be affected if Bakhmut collapsed. The report further claimed that Russia is currently throwing soldiers like cannonballs because it is not concerned about its losses there.
British intelligence has already indicated that one of Ukraine’s two main supply lines to Bakhmut has been exposed to heavy artillery bombardment.
On January 18, the British Ministry of Defense released a satellite image showing that the south and east of Bakhmut have been subjected to significant artillery bombardment since the beginning of January 2023.
Similarly, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces stated that Moscow’s main efforts are now concentrated on “performing an offensive along the Bakhmut axis.”
Meanwhile, US authorities have begun encouraging Ukrainian leaders to divert their focus away from Bakhmut and toward preparations for an offensive in the south.
According to reports, Joe Biden’s administration believes the Russians have a strong chance of eventually pushing Ukrainian forces out of the heavily disputed city, which has experienced some of the war’s most brutal combat.
Battle Of Bakhmut
In recent weeks, Soledar, a small village located a few miles north of Bakhmut, has been the target of Russian forces and mercenaries from the infamous Wagner Group.
The capture of Bakhmut would provide Russian soldiers with a path into the Ukrainian strongholds of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, which Moscow aims to annex fully.
Also, the Russian forces claimed to have captured the Klishchiivka settlement near Bakhmut on January 20.
According to the Russian defense ministry, ground forces could take control of Klishchiivka, with a pre-war population of roughly 400 people, with artillery and aerial support.
The settlement is located about nine kilometers (six miles) south of Bakhmut, a strategically valuable city that Russian forces have struggled to seize from Ukrainian soldiers in some of the fiercest engagements of the war.
Even before the Russian defense ministry’s announcement, both the Wagner Group and separatist forces in Donetsk fighting under the flag of the self-declared breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic asserted to have taken possession of Klishchiivka.
The ministry reported that its troops had also assumed control of the settlement of Lobkove in the Zaporizhia area of southern Ukraine.
Zaporizhia and Donetsk are two of four territories in Ukraine’s east and south that are partially controlled by Russia and were annexed by President Vladimir Putin in September 2022.
The massive losses sustained for these towns are not justified by the tiny advantages they bring, stated retired Maj. Gen. Mick Ryan, a former Australian military personnel and a strategist for the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Furthermore, according to Ryan, Russia is targeting places where Ukraine is strongest. Since 2014, Ukrainian soldiers have fought Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas region, which includes the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces.
Ukraine “has had eight years to prepare multiple, reinforcing defensive lines” there, he said. Previously, the Institute for the Study of War stated that it was unlikely for Russian advancements to have operational-level implications.
Meanwhile, John Kirby, the spokesperson for the White House national security council, said that the US would apply new sanctions against the Wagner Group.
The US Treasury Department intends to classify Wagner as a major transnational criminal organization, which would cause all of the group’s assets to be frozen and forbid US citizens from giving Wagner any funds, commodities, or services.