Bachmut offensive stagnates: ISW: Exhausted Wagner mercenaries are to be replaced

Bachmut offensive stagnates
ISW: Exhausted Wagner mercenaries should be replaced

Wagner Group fighters capture the town of Soledar near Bakhmut in mid-January. Since then, however, the Russian offensive has stalled, writes a US think tank. There are indications that the mercenaries are to be replaced by conventional Russian soldiers.

Soldiers from the Russian army are apparently supposed to replace exhausted Wagner fighters in Bakhmut. This is reported by the US think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) in its daily war update. The forces of the Wagner group have not made any significant progress since taking Soledar, the experts write. In this way, the stalled offensive in Bachmut should regain momentum after it peaked around January 12.

Conventional Russian units should therefore take part in the fighting in Bakhmut, it is said. Combat footage released on January 20 reportedly indicated that Russian airborne troops were operating in the Bakhmut area. The footage shows a Russian BMD-4M: a tank used exclusively by airborne troops.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, Russian elite WDV units have been operating in the Bakhmut area since the beginning of January. According to the ISW, this is further evidence that conventional Russian forces are intended to supplement, if not replace, the probably weakened Wagner mercenaries in this area.

Major Bachmut offensive not over yet

Wagner Group forces, particularly convicts, have suffered heavy casualties at Bachmut since the fall of 2022. An anonymous US official said on January 5 that Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin’s private army had killed more than 4,100 and wounded 10,000 – including more than 1,000 dead between late November and early December near Bakhmut.

According to the ISW, the Wagner offensive has reached its peak. However, the institute estimates that the Russian army’s major offensive in Bakhmut is not over yet and conventional units will continue the fight. Since the summer, Russian troops have been trying to conquer Bakhmut, which had 70,000 inhabitants before the war. Despite constant attacks, however, they have not been able to take the city so far.

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