Russian Troops are Retreating in Bakhmut
Author: Greg Valliere
May 11, 2023
WE HAVE LONG THOUGHT that the key to this war is troop morale, which is terrible among the Russians and still fairly solid among the Ukrainians. Poorly-trained Russian conscripts are increasingly reluctant to fight, after tens of thousands of troops were sacrificed in Bakhmut.
THIS HAS DISGUSTED the outspoken head of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who concedes that his mercenaries have suffered huge casualties — exacerbated, he says, by insufficient arms from Moscow and fleeing Russian troops from elite Russian battalions.
THE FALL OF BAHKMUT may not be imminent, but with Wagner troops now encircled in the suburbs, the Russian humiliation continues; Moscow has not won a single major battle, or reclaimed any territory, in the past several months.
THE MILITANT PRIGOZHIN is so furious to see his flanks surrounded by Ukrainian troops that he is threatening to pull out of Bakhmut altogether. His criticism of the Kremlin seems to grow louder by the day.
THIS COMES AS REPORTS GROW of renewed anger in Moscow over its own military, which had virtually no tanks to show off in the embarrassing Victory Day parade earlier this week, which only heightened speculation about Vladimir Putin’s tenuous hold on power.
IF BAKHMUT ACTUALLY DOES FALL, it would begin the spring offensive with a huge psychological victory for Ukraine. Word of a defeat would spread fast, and Russian soldiers will continue to flee, in a scene reminiscent of the panicky retreat by Russia in 1917-1918 as World War I came to a close.
ENORMOUS AMOUNTS OF WESTERN AID for Kyiv will continue, as sophisticated new tanks and anti-drone missiles make a real difference on the battlefield. Most Iranian-made drones have been shot down.
IT MAY BE PREMATURE TO SPECULATE ABOUT A TRUCE and negotiations, but if the Ukrainian spring offensive gathers momentum, and if Turkey’s President Erdogan wins re-election in a very close race this weekend, he could be the intermediary to watch as speculation grows about negotiations this summer.
A FINAL DEAL STILL LOOKS DIFFICULT because Crimea is such a huge impediment, but if Russian troops and the Wagner Group retreat this summer, Putin could be on exceedingly thin ice, as his angry opponents in Moscow demand a change. Is there a chance that Putin and his cronies could be ousted? Yes, it’s increasingly possible.
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