Ex-Russian commander highlights Bakhmut’s lack of progress

Russian military blogger and former intelligence officer Igor Girkin reiterated his criticism of Moscow’s efforts to try to take the town of Bakhmut.

Girkin, who once led Russian-backed forces in the breakaway region of Donetsk, wrote on his social media channel Telegram that the progress made by units of the Wagner mercenary group was “insignificant”.

He also called the long-awaited Ukrainian counter-offensive near the city “disinformation”, because he believed that if Kiev forces made such a breakthrough, they would have “expressed it to the whole world”.

In any case, he felt such a counter-offensive was unnecessary given the success of Ukraine’s winter campaign in which it imposed “attrition” on troops fighting for the Russia.

Ukrainian servicemen sit on a BMP military vehicle as they drive towards Bakhmut in Ukraine’s Donbass region on March 13, 2023. Russian military blogger and former intelligence officer Igor Girkin reiterated his criticism of Moscow’s efforts to try to take Bakhmut.
Aris Messinis/Getty Images

“They already firmly hold half of Bakhmut,” he wrote, and the surrender of the remaining territory will not change the final situation, because over the winter the Russian armed forces “failed to achieve successes that went beyond purely tactical successes”.

He also said some settlements that Russia had claimed captured near the town of Avdiivka, 60 miles south of Bakhmut, could soon return to Ukrainian control.

Girkin is also called Strelkov and his social media updates on the war frequently criticize Russian forces and their commanders.

His latest comments follow an assessment by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) think tank that the Russian Defense Ministry is seeking to “deliberate” Wagner forces spearheading the Russian campaign to take Bakhmut.

It was part of an attempt to ‘derail’ the political ambitions of Wagner’s financier Yevgeny Prigozhin, who last week sarcastically declared he would run for president of Ukraine, in a dig at the lack of ammunition that his troops received.

“Russia’s military leadership may be trying to spend Wagner’s strength – and Prigozhin’s influence – on Bakhmut,” the think tank said on Sunday.

The Russian public interpreted Prigozhin’s statement as an announcement that he will run in Russia’s presidential elections, scheduled for 2024, the ISW noted, citing political analyst Aleksey Mukhin, who is part of the Valdai-aligned discussion club. the Kremlin.

Mukhin criticized the way Prigozhin presented himself as the “commander” of Wagner’s forces, which “directly” affected the way the assault squads’ combat operations were planned and managed.

The think tank said Mukhin’s accusations showed that the Kremlin and the Russian Defense Ministry might try to blame Prigozhin “for the slowing of the advance at Bakhmut and for the many casualties among the Wagnerian mercenaries”.

Sean McFate, a US Army veteran and assistant professor at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, said there was a ‘huge schism’ within the old guard of professional soldiers Wagner and his new recruits, the latter often coming from prisons.

The Kremlin was also distancing itself from the financier Wagner, with whom Girkin had a public spat.

“I think there’s this gap between the siloviki and Prigozhin and I think it’s very toxic,” McFate said. Newsweek, referring to members of the Russian security services close to Putin. “It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the siloviki do their best to sabotage Wagner’s efforts.”

Newsweek contacted the Russian Defense Ministry for comment.


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