- Russia’s efforts to take the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut seem to be losing momentum, the UK MOD said.
- Bakhmut has huge symbolic importance to Russia, and failing to take it would be a big blow.
- The city is one of the few places Russia has made recent progress, as its latest offensive fails to grow.
Russia’s assault on the Ukranian city of Bakhmut — one of the few places it has made progress in recent months — appears to be losing steam, according to UK intelligence.
Failing to capture the city would be a significant blow to Russia’s efforts to seize Ukraine.
“There is a realistic possibility that the Russian assault on the town is losing the limited momentum it had obtained,” the UK Ministry of Defence said in an intelligence update on Wednesday.
The city in eastern Ukraine has become hugely symbolic for both countries, and has become one of the longest-running and bloodiest battles in the year-long war.
Russia has described it as key to its efforts to take more of eastern Ukraine.
Russia’s limited successes in Bakhmut have been the only notable progress it has made in recent months, despite launching its long-awaited new offensive in February.
It has also become a symbolic rallying cry for Russians, and a place where its army desperately needs a win.
But gains in the city have slowed, according to the Washington DC-based think tank the Institute for the Study of War.
And Russians are also warning that Ukraine could soon launch a counteroffensive in the area.
The UK MOD said that momentum may be slipping “partially because some Russian MoD units have been reallocated to other sectors.”
But it warned that Ukraine could still lose the city, saying that its defence “remains at risk from envelopment from the north and south.”
Russia first started shelling the city in May 2022, with fighting ramping up in August. Since then the battle has turned into a brutal deadlock with spiraling death tolls on both sides.
Western officials estimate that between 20,000 and 30,000 Russian troops have been killed or injured in the city, and NATO predicted that it was losing five soldiers for every Ukrainian killed.
Commanders on both sides have called it a “meat grinder.”
The US said 1,200 Russian soldiers were recently killed in just one day there.
Russia is suffering these losses despite the city actually having little strategic importance to Russia.
The UK MOD said in December that capturing Bakhmut would have “limited operational value” for Russia.
And experts told Insider that Ukraine has been building up its defenses behind Bakhmut, which means that even if Russia captures the city, it will not have an easy path to taking more territory.
One expert described it as being as deadly as the deadliest battle in World War II, but without the same level of importance.
Ukrainian officials have said that the city is also not strategically important to Ukraine, but that fighting there allows it to grind down Russian forces. Some Western analysts have questioned this strategy, worried that Ukraine has poured too much of its resources into this one fight.
Russia launched its new offensive in mid-February after months of stalemate, but has barely managed to take any new territory since. Ukraine, meanwhile, is gearing up to launch its big pushback effort.