By Nick Mordowanec


Dec 27, 2022

Thousands of Russian troops have already died in the continued battle of Bakhmut , according to a Ukrainian close to the action.

Serhiy Haidai, governor of the Russian-occupied Luhansk region, said Monday on his Telegram page that the city under the Ukrainian flag has become a new military home for Russian paratroopers who were transferred from Kherson and are now fighting in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.

Mobilized troops who trained for two months in the Russian Federation “can only slightly halt the offensive of the [Ukraine] Armed Forces,” he added, saying “they will not change the general picture.”

“It is no longer even a strategic military plan, although there is such a thing, but a rather symbolic matter—which the Kremlin regime loves very much,” Haidai said.

He also alleged that Chechen forces, led by Ramzan Kadyrov, and the mercenary Wagner Group helmed by Yevgeny Prigozhin, want to prove themselves to Putin—whom Haidai referred to as “the bunker grandpa.”

Kadyrov has called for Ukraine’s cities to be “erased from the earth” while also being critical of strategies put forward by Putin and other Russian generals.

A video posted Monday on Twitter by journalist Christo Grozev reportedly shows Wagner mercenaries calling Russia’s Ministry of Defense Chief of Staff a “piece of s***” due to a lack of ammunition available among Russian forces in Bakhmut.

The video was later reposted by Anton Gerashchenko, advisor to the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Markku Kivinen, specialist of Russian and Eastern European studies and director of the Aleksanteri Institute of the University of Helsinki, Finland, told Newsweek that Russia’s key intention involves entirely conquering the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.

“Bakhmut is a limited breakthrough but having lost several fights, Russia has to show strength somewhere,” Kivinen said.

William Reno, professor and chair of the political science department at Northwestern University, told Newsweek that minor advances in Bakhmut may provide Russia with tactical gains.

However, he said the effort and resources drawn for such intended gains are one facet of the country’s effort to build defensive positions “across the rest of the line of contact.”

“It is more likely that Russian offensive efforts in Bakhmut reflect Putin’s style of political management in Moscow in which the main political advisors consist of Putin’s former bodyguard, a caterer, and a Chechen strongman,” Reno said.

He said that Prigozhin’s role, for example, has more to do about his own political influence in Moscow than it does about a strategic military approach.

“Corrupt and divided political systems rarely manage to sustain effective armed forces,” he added.