Not of strategic importance, but important: ISW's explanation of why the Ukrainian Armed Forces are fighting for Bakhmut


Not of strategic importance, but important: ISW's explanation of why the UAF is fighting for Bakhmut

For several months now, fierce battles have been going on for Bakhmut. The Russian invaders continue to try to capture the city.

Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War say that the Ukrainian defense of Bakhmut is probably a strategically correct attempt, despite its costs to Ukraine.

Bakhmut Fortress: what would Russia gain if the city was captured

Ukraine would pay a significant price to allow Russian troops to easily take Bakhmut, experts say. Bakhmut itself is of no operational or strategic importance, but if the Russian forces had occupied it relatively quickly, they could have expanded the fighting in a way that forced Ukraine to hastily build defensive positions on less favorable terrain, the ISW explained.

Experts note that a “political” calculation should not be ruled out: Russian troops have occupied more than 100,000 square kilometers of Ukrainian territory, including numerous Ukrainian cities, and are atrocious against Ukrainian civilians in the occupied territories.

It is perfectly reasonable for political and military leaders to weigh these factors when deciding whether to hold or cede certain territories. ISW notes that Americans have not had to make such a choice since 1865 and should not be quick to dismiss considerations that would be very real to them if American cities faced such threats.

How the Russians stormed Lysychansk

Military analysts note that Ukrainian forces have previously used a similar model of gradual attrition to force Russian operations in certain areas to end after months of significant loss of personnel and equipment in pursuit for minor tactical gains.

Russian forces spent months trying to break through effective Ukrainian defenses in Severodonetsk and Lysichansk in early summer 2022 and only captured Lysichansk after a controlled withdrawal of Ukrainian forces from the area. The report also states that the capture of Lisichansk and the administrative border of the Luhansk region quickly turned out to be insignificant from an operational point of view for Russian forces.

The end result of the Ukrainian defense of this area was the forced end of the Russian offensive in the Luhansk region, which led to the general offensive operations of Russia in the Donbas in the summer and autumn of 2022.

Ukrainian defense of Bakhmut is likely to contribute to a similar outcome – Russian troops have been sending manpower and equipment to the area since May 2022 and so far have not made any significant progress in operationally, the report says.

ISW continues to review its assessment that the Russian offensive on Bakhmut could be a climax, but continues to assess thatUkrainian forces are effectively squeezing Russian troops, equipment and overall operational concentration in Bakhmut. This hinders Russia's ability to continue offensives in other regions.

The event helped Ukraine take advantage of deterring Russian forces in Bakhmut by slowly deploying or holding back the weapons systems and supplies needed for large-scale counter-offensive operations, analysts add.

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