Russia has deployed new airborne forces to surround the Ukrainian city of Pashmut. Regular elite forces rotated among units of the Wagner mercenary organization.
Various sources refer to the new Russian striking force at Bashmut. According to local pro-Russian sources, the city is now surrounded by three-quarters of the Russian forces. The important western route to Khasiv Yar would remain in Ukrainian hands. The American Institute for the Study of War (ISW), based on multiple sources, confirms that Russia has once again increased pressure on the city, while a broader offensive in Donbass is being prepared.
Ukrainian intelligence reported that Russian President Putin ordered the new leader of Ukraine, Supreme Commander Valery Gerasimov, to invade the entire Donetsk region before 1 March. At this point, the Russians will occupy more than half.
Former army chief Mart de Cruyff estimates that the Ukrainian military will continue to defend Pashmut for as long as reasonably possible, but not at any cost. “The symbolic meaning of that city is much greater than the military one. This is not yet a major offensive. This is no more an endgame than a game of chess, on the contrary. This has more to do with internal Russian symbolism. As a Ukrainian, I will not fight to the death in Bashmut.”
The main awards behind Bachmoet
Bachmoet gives access to some minor roads to the north of Dombas. But the real “trophies” are the cities of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, which lie behind it. It is important for the Russians – after a series of setbacks on the battlefield – to celebrate another success. The mercenary organization Wagner promised victory at Bashmuyt despite heavy losses among the recruits. Those who survived should now “recover”.
So the forces of Chief Wagner Prigozhin were relieved by the Russian Airborne Forces. This move has a lot to do with the rivalry between mercenaries and the traditional branch of the Russian military, according to de Cruyff. Russia’s Supreme Commander Valery Gerasimov was recently put in charge of the all-out war in Ukraine. And now he coordinates everything that happens there, including in Bashmuyt, where well-trained traditional Russian units are now deployed.
De Kruif: …then you end up with airborne units. They are deployed not with a parachute but with a backpack. They have replaced Wagner on the ground.” The latter may also relate to the fact that the Russian army will go ahead and not Wagner but Gerasimov must be considered the only victor at Bashmuyet.
There was fierce fighting for the city. Chief Wagner Prigozhin gained an average of 100 meters a day with his troops. It took eight months to bridge 25 kilometers from the ruined city of Popasna in the Luhansk region to Pashmut in the Donetsk region.
Mobilization of 200,000 soldiers
Meanwhile, on the Russian side, many observers note that something bigger is being mobilized. According to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Putin could mobilize an additional 200,000 troops to achieve his war goals. Yesterday, the spokesman for the Ukrainian Army’s Eastern Front confirmed heavy fighting around Pashmut, but also said the city was not surrounded.
Crucial logistical supply routes would remain open, leading the ISW to say the city would not fall anytime soon. It is expected that the Ukrainian high command will choose to withdraw from the city at some point in order to prevent very high losses. This can happen if a complete encirclement is unavoidable.
Meanwhile, both armies continue to strengthen themselves. De Kruff: I think the Russians are one step ahead of Ukraine in terms of reconstruction. Ukraine will not engage in decisive combat anywhere in the coming weeks and months. So that they know where the Russian center of gravity really is and then they will respond.
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