Ukrainian troops liberated the town of Klishchiivka, 10 miles south of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region. Now the Ukrainians are in a good position to cut the southern supply lines into Bakhmut.
The Russians captured the ruins of Bakhmut in May after a nearly yearlong fight that dearly cost both sides, but especially the Russian side.
Thousands of Wagner fighters, regular Russian troops, and pro-Russian separatists died in and around Bakhmut as the city’s Ukrainian garrison slowly traded space for time—and used that time to kill as many Russians as it could.
For Moscow, Bakhmut was a symbol. Proof that the Kremlin still could win its war of aggression in Ukraine. For Kyiv, Bakhmut was an opportunity to bleed the Russian army, draining its combat power in advance of the Ukrainian armed forces’ long-planned counteroffensive, which kicked off on June 4.
The Ukrainians’ main efforts are in southern Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk Oblasts. But the counteroffensive has an eastern axis, too. Ukrainian units including the 3rd and 5th Assault Brigades and the 22nd and 28th Mechanized Brigades counterattacked across the fields and treelines just south of Bakhmut.
In late June, the 3rd Assault Brigade pushed the Russian 57th Motor Rifle Brigade east across the Donets-Donbas Canal,a key defensive position. From this lodgement, the 5th and 22nd Brigades fought their way to the ridge overlooking Klishchiivka from the west.
“The enemy managed to occupy separate adjacent heights, from which he organized fire from anti-tank systems and sniper groups to support their advancing infantry and equipment,” one Russian blogger reported “Heavy battles have been going on for several days, and enemy reconnaissance and strike drones have an important influence on the development of the situation.”
The 3rd and 28th Brigades meanwhile pushed toward Andriivka, a few miles to the south. On Tuesday, Ukrainian military spokesperson Andrii Kovalov said the Russians were retreating from Andriivka.
Bakhmut has seen the worst shelling from Russians
While all of this has been happening, the Ukrainian 57th Motorized Brigade has been advancing on the opposite side of Bakhmut, aiming for the main road into the city from the north.
The result is a tightening semi-encirclement of Russian forces in Bakhmut. Ukrainian forces have severed one of the roads into Bakhmut from the south. Another bigger road lies a couple of miles to the east.
As the Ukrainians learned the hard way in their stubborn defense of Bakhmut earlier this year, roads are life. When an attacker cuts all the viable supply lines into a city, the fight for that city effectively is over.
The battle for Bakhmut has raged for more than a year now. And it will continue to rage as Ukrainian forces, having just quit the city, now attempt to retake it.