Russia's scramble to strengthen its southern lines has likely weakened its defenses around Bakhmut, with Ukrainian forces just 5 miles from the city, UK intel says

Ukraine M142 HIMARS Bakhmut
Ukrainian troops fire M142 HIMARS rockets toward Bakhmut on May 18, 2023.Serhii Mykhalchuk/Getty Images
  • Russia has redeployed troops away from Bakhmut, likely weakening its defenses, the UK MOD said.

  • Ukrainian troops are within 5 miles of the city, the Ministry of Defence added.

  • It's part of Ukraine's attempts to draw troops away from the main axis of the war, one expert said.

Russia's redeployment of troops to strengthen its fighting in southern Ukraine has likely weakened its defenses around Bakhmut, the UK Ministry of Defence said on Wednesday.

In its latest intelligence update, the UK MOD noted that Ukrainian forces have had "tactical success" in retaking two villages — Klishchiivka and Andriivka — bringing them closer to a key supply road into Bakhmut from the south.

Ukrainian forces are now five miles away from the city, it said, but added that Russia still holds a railway line that runs along an embankment between Klishchiivka and the T 05-13 road, "creating a readily defendable obstacle."

The UK MOD update follows a Tuesday report by the Institute for the Study of War, or ISW, which said that Russian troops had suffered "severe" damage following Ukrainian attacks.

Ukraine breached a strategic defensive line and recaptured two villages, with Russian forces "likely battle-weary from the recent efforts to hold Klishchiivka and Andriivka," the ISW said.

It added that Russian forces "will likely struggle to replenish their combat strength and defend against any further Ukrainian offensive activity."

Ukrainian attacks on secondary axes, like Bakhmut, are part of Ukraine's strategy to draw Russian forces away from the main axis of the war, Alex Kokcharov, a risk analyst with S&P Global Market Intelligence, told Insider.

Kokcharov added that Ukrainian advances near Bakhmut are likely a "diversionary tactic" to weaken Russian military presence on the main battlefield south of Orikhiv, in the Zaporizhzhia region.

Ukrainian attacks on secondary axes "likely serve the objective of forcing Russia to redeploy troops to these areas," he said.

The MOD drew a similar conclusion in an intelligence update on Tuesday, saying that Ukrainian troops are fighting Russian troops on small islands in the sprawling Dnipro River to draw Russian units away from the main battle in Zaporizhzhia.

The Ukrainian strategy seems to be gradually paying off, the ISW said, with Ukrainian forces appearing to have made steady but slow gains with breakthroughs in the southern frontline since late August, despite complex Russian defenses.

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