Russia used massive firepower to pressure Ukrainian forces in the city of Bakhmut in the battle for the Eastern front.
Russian forces have stepped up their attacks on Bakhmut since mid-January after taking control of the nearby salt mining town of Soledar, which is about 15km northeast of Bakhmut.
Ukrainian soldiers fighting in and around Bakhmut admitted to the Kyiv Independent that Russia’s tactics were very effective. Russian forces identified the positions of the Ukrainian army, used massive fire to destroy the enemy, and then attacked with ground forces. This tactic resulted in heavy losses.
Vladyslav, a Ukrainian infantryman, said Russian forces usually appear in groups of about five at night, but they appear to be concerned about close combat. Instead, Russia used massive fire to destroy the houses where Ukrainian soldiers were hiding to spy on Russian forces. The Russian offensive will last until Ukrainian forces have to leave their positions to find other, better-protected shelters.
“They (Russia) are also fighting intelligently,” Vladyslav said.
Some Ukrainian soldiers deployed in Bakhmut said that Russian forces were divided into small groups of about 10 people and launched fierce attacks. Ukrainian soldiers say that Wagner mercenaries may be part of the Russian strike groups, but it is difficult to tell them apart because they all wear the same clothes.
According to Maksym, 33, an infantryman from Ukraine’s 5th Assault Brigade, Russia also deployed tactics in the southern region of Bakhmut. Based on the drones, Russia will determine Ukraine’s position in the area. Russia will then fire multiple rounds of mortars and artillery, followed by infantry attacks, to encircle the Ukrainian troops.
Maksym said that if the drones cannot detect Ukrainian positions, Russia will send a few soldiers to open fire until they hear gunfire in return.
The Russian tactics proved effective and repelled Maksym’s unit by a total of 1.5km during February. Maksym said his unit sometimes had to move to another location 100-300m away, especially when nearby units begin to retreat and defenses begin to collapse.
According to Maksym, Russian weapons such as mortars and Soviet-designed grenade launchers may not be as accurate but are “very effective infantry weapons” when used in mass.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Russian private military group Wagner, announced on March 8 that their units had control of the entire east of Bakhmut. This statement is in line with the assessment by the US-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) that Ukrainian forces have completed their withdrawal from the area. ISW estimates that the Russian military and Wagner forces now control at least 50% of the city of Bakhmut.
The city of Bakhmut, with a population of about 70,000 before the conflict, is experiencing the heaviest fighting. Russian officials said that control of this industrial city will give Moscow the opportunity to attack other cities in Ukraine.
The ISW predicts that if Bakhmut falls, Russia will likely advance west along the highway to the nearby town of Kostyantynivka (about 20km from Bakhmut) and further northwest to Kramatorsk and Sloviansk – two central regions. in Eastern Ukraine.
The village of Ivanivske, located on the highway to Kostyantynivka and just 8km from Bakhmut, is one of the settlements that Ukrainian forces are fortifying. A deputy company captain from the 80th Brigade revealed that trenches were being dug along the highway from Ivanivske to Kostyantynivka to prevent the Russian advance in Ivanivske.
“If Russia captures Bakhmut, they will advance further south, to Ivanivske, then to Chasiv Yar and further west,” the Ukrainian commander said.