The Russians are trying to surround Bakhmut, but canʼt. Ukraine is strengthening its defenses, the offensive of the occupiers has slowed down. Analysis of the situation on the 380th day of a full-scale invasion — with maps

Oleksiy Yarmolenko
Tetyana Lohvynenko
The Russians are trying to surround Bakhmut, but canʼt. Ukraine is strengthening its defenses, the offensive of the occupiers has slowed down. Analysis of the situation on the 380th day of a full-scale invasion — with maps

Ukrainian soldiers fire 105-mm howitzers at Russian positions near Bakhmut, March 8, 2023.

Getty Images / «Babel'»

The Russian army is still trying to encircle Bakhmut, but in the last 10 days it has made almost no progress. The Ukrainian leadership declares that it continues the defense, the generals donʼt support the withdrawal of troops, reinforcements are sent to the city. The commander of the Ground Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Oleksandr Syrskyi says that the defenders of Bakhmut will gain time to prepare a counteroffensive and destroy the most combat-capable unit of the Russian army — the mercenaries of the "Wagnerʼs PMC". In other directions, the occupiers have no success, although they are trying to attack more in the Avdiivka area of the Donetsk region.

On March 9, the Russian army again massively bombarded Ukraine. 21 days have passed since the previous strike — this pause is a record one. The strike was a "mix" of different missiles. The Russians fired 81 missiles, the Ukrainian air defense forces shot down 34. All of the latter ones are high-precision cruise missiles. In total, the Russians produced 48 of these. The others — ballistic S-300, supersonic Kh-22 and hypersonic Kinzhal — Ukraine cannot shoot down yet. The General Staff of the Ukrainian army reported that eight Kh-31P and Kh-59 guided air missiles "didnʼt reach their targets." Russia also launched eight Shahed kamikaze drones, four of which were shot down by air defense forces.

The Russians are looking for a new missile attack tactic. Their almost six-month campaign to destroy the Ukrainian energy infrastructure has failed. In Ukraine, there is no shortage of electricity for almost a month, the daylight hours are getting longer, the air temperature is rising, the heating season is coming to an end, and therefore, electricity consumption will decrease. The shelling on March 9 indirectly confirmed that Russia has a shortage of high-precision missiles. There were less than half of them in the mix, and the Russians had to launch very expensive hypersonic Daggers.

On March 4, Defense Express reported the Russians had begun using UPAB-1500B gliding aerial bombs against Ukraine. Sources say that for the first time these bombs were used a few weeks ago against one of the facilities in the Chernihiv region. This is a new bomb — Russia presented it in 2019. The weapon is designed to hit highly protected objects at a distance of up to 40 km. To launch such bombs, planes must be at a considerable height, and this is very dangerous. Ukrainian and Russian aviation try to fly at extremely low altitudes so that the planes are out of reach of air defense forces. However, on March 3, the Ukrainian army shot down a Russian Su-34 bomber over the city of Yenakieve, the Donetsk region. It happened 25 km from the front line. If the plane was shot down so deep, it means that it was at a high altitude and got on the radars of the Ukrainian air defense system. Most likely, it was armed with new aerial bombs. And the fact that the plane was shot down shows how difficult it is for the Russians to launch this weapon.

On March 1, Belarus showed a video of an allegedly functional and undamaged A-50 long-range radar detection and control aircraft. The Belarusian authorities wanted to deny the information that on February 27 there were explosions at the airfield in Machulyshchi, during which an A-50 reconnaissance warplane was damaged. But after that, BYPOL activists published two videos of their drones flying over the airfield. One of them was conducting reconnaissance and even got on the plane itself, and the other crashed into it. Thatʼs probably when the explosion happened. The A-50 eventually left Belarus, and journalists found out that it had arrived in the Russian city of Taganrog for repairs. The self-proclaimed president of Belarus, Aleksandr Lukashenko, called the explosions at the airfield a terrorist attack by the SBU.

There is an ongoing conflict between the owner of Wagnerʼs PMC Yevgeniy Prigozhin and the Russian military command. At the end of February, the leader of the Wagnerites complained about the lack of ammunition, but this problem was supposedly solved. For a few days, Prigozhin was silent, but then he again began to say that shells were not being given. He also declares that his representatives have been canceled access to the buildings of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, and he himself is no longer accepted in the ministries and was cut off from the special communication phone lines. Therefore, Prigozhin publicly says that the Ukrainian army can counterattack in the area of Bakhmut, and Russia can lose Crimea.

In the Kharkiv region, the front line doesnʼt change. The Russians still control a very small area in the northeast, near the Russian-Ukrainian border. They are trying to advance in the direction of Kupyansk and want to push back the Ukrainian army beyond the Oskil River. The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reports almost every day that the Russians are attacking in the area of the village of Hryanykivka, but without success.

In the Luhansk region, the Russians advance every day, but they have no success. Over the past 10 days, they have advanced several hundred meters only in certain directions. The occupiers are trying to attack the villages of Nevske and Makiivka. Fighting continues in the area of the village of Dibrova, as well as in the forests south of the city of Kreminna. The Russians in Luhansk region switched from defense to offensive more than a month ago, but during this time they pushed the Ukrainian army back from Kreminna by only a couple of kilometers.


On the southern bank of the Siverskyi Donets River — the administrative border of Luhansk region and Donetsk region — the Russians continue to press on the village of Bilohorivka and the villages of Verkhnyokamyanske and Spirne. They are important for the Ukrainian defense, because they cover the flank of the military, who hold back the Russians behind Soledar, and prevent the invaders from reaching Siversk quickly and simultaneously from several sides. The Russians have been storming this milestone since the summer of 2022, but have had no success.

The situation in Bakhmut remains critical. The defense of the city is discussed in social networks and the media so widely that even President Volodymyr Zelensky had to publicly announce military decisions. He assured that the question of Bakhmut is always the main concern at the Commander-in-Chief Headquarters. The commander of the Ground Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Oleksandr Syrskyi and the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valeriy Zaluzhny advocated the continuation of the defense.

For this, additional forces are transferred to Bakhmut. Their goal is to hold the corridor out of the city and prevent the Russians from closing a ring around it. At the moment, the task is being carried out: over the past 10 days, Russian units havenʼt been able to advance closer to each other, and in some directions the invaders have even been pushed back a little further. Both roads controlled by Ukraine from Bakhmut to Kostyantynivka and Chasiv Yar are fired by the Russians. The cityʼs garrison is supplied by a network of dirt roads. But in the rain, they turn into mud, and it is very difficult to move with them. Videos from such roads have already appeared on social networks: many different vehicles and machinery got stuck there and were hit by the enemy.

After unsuccessful attempts to complete the encirclement of Bakhmut, the Russians decided to make more efforts in another direction. To the north of the city, they attack in the direction of the villages of Bohdanivka and Dubovo-Vasylivka, and in the south — in the direction of the village of Stupochky and the town of Chasiv Yar. This way the occupiers want to get the opportunity to shell the last roads to Bakhmut in multiple areas.

In Bakhmut itself, the Ukrainian army withdrew from the eastern part of the city, across the Bakhmutka River. There were factories and plants, as well as a private residential quarter. The center and high-rise blocks are located in the western part of the city. But the Russians, it seems, donʼt want to engage in urban battles. Therefore, they hope that they will be able to surround Bakhmut, and Ukraine will withdraw its troops from the city.


The Russian army is stepping up its offensive in the Avdiivka area. The main efforts of the occupiers are made to the north of the city and to the south, near the Donetsk airport. In the north, they advanced towards the village of Krasnohorivka and captured the small village of Vesele, which is located nearby. In the area of Donetsk airport, from the villages of Vodyane and Opytne, they are trying to move towards the Severne village, but so far without noticeable results.

The occupiers are heavily shelling Avdiivka, in particular, dropping heavy aerial bombs on the city, and are trying to surround it. It is almost impossible to storm the city itself: in eight years, Avdiivka has turned into a fortified area with a large number of firing positions and shelters. The main road to the city is located in the northwest, and the Russians didnʼt reach it.

Battles continue for the cities of Maryinka and Vuhledar. There are almost no changes around the latter. The Ukrainian army continues to successfully take advantage of the fact that the city is located on high ground, while the Russians have to advance on an open field, where they become a relatively easy target for artillery. In Mariynka, the occupiers are trying to cross the central street and gain a foothold in the nearest buildings, although only the ruins of the city remain. To the south of Maryinka, the Russians reached the village of Pobyeda, but they couldnʼt capture it yet.


In the Zaporizhzhia region, the front line remains unchanged. The Russians havenʼt been trying to seriously advance in this direction for several months. Only occasionally do point attacks to seize several positions or control the "gray zone".


In the Kherson region, the front does not change either — it has stabilized along the Dnipro River. Ukraine and Russia continue sabotage raids on the opposite coast and islands.


On March 3, the USA announced another $400 million military aid package. America is now concentrating on supplying ammunition to Ukraine. The package included additional ammunition for the HIMARS, 155 mm and 105 mm artillery shells, and 25 mm shells for the Bradley infantry fighting vehicle. From the new items — the USA will transfer M60 AVLB tank bridge-layers to Ukraine. Such mechanisms are needed to guide pontoon crossings through various obstacles, in particular, through rivers. Pontoons are primarily needed for the offensive: the defending side will try to blow up bridges and crossings to slow down attacks.

Germany also transferred another package of weapons to Ukraine. It included two anti-aircraft self-propelled Gepard installations, two cars for border guards and six mobile antennas. Now Ukraine will have 34 Gepard installations. In addition, Germany promised to transfer another 13 Biber tank bridge-layers.

Poland sent 10 more Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine this week. Earlier, the Poles handed over four tanks. So, all 14 Leopards promised to Ukraine have already been sent.

The publication Politico reported that the US is studying the question of whether it is possible to attach Western missiles to old Soviet fighters, in particular to Ukrainian MiGs. Currently, the AIM-120 air-to-air missile is being considered for shooting down air targets. Thanks to such missiles, Ukrainian planes will more effectively shoot down both Russian planes and helicopters, as well as cruise missiles. But there are difficulties: the missile must work in cohesion with the aircraftʼs radar, and the Western systems are very different from the Soviet ones, and so far it is not possible to "befriend" them. One of the main reasons why the Ukrainian army requests Western aircraft is to be able to shoot down Russian missiles more effectively. Probably, this is how the USA wants to delay the delivery of fighter jets to Ukraine.

Ukrainian military training near Zaporizhzhia, March 4, 2023.

Getty Images / «Babel'»

Translated from Ukrainian by Anton Semyzhenko.

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