Day: May 21, 2023
- Russia claimed victory over Bakhmut after a monthlong battle over the eastern Ukrainian city.
- But experts have said even if that’s true, the area provides little to no strategic advantage.
- Now, Russia will have to expend resources in the city while also preparing for Ukraine’s counterattack.
The monthslong battle in Bakhmut may have reached a turning point this weekend as Russia claimed to have captured the eastern Ukrainian city.
But the area was long considered by military experts to be tactically insignificant terrain, and analysts now say that Ukraine might have an advantage if Russia has to expend resources to defend a city now in total ruin while Ukrainian forces prepare a counterattack.
On Sunday, Russia’s defense ministry backed a claim first made by the head of the Wagner paramilitary group, Prigozhin, that Russian forces have seized Bakhmut.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who made a surprise appearance at the G7 summit on Saturday, disputed the claim but conceded that the city was destroyed, saying Bakhmut is now “only in our hearts.” Ukrainian Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskiy also said that the city was largely under Russian control with the exception of small parts of the city, including an area near Druzhba Square, The Washington Post reported.
For 10 months, Russia has led an assault on the city that has now been reduced to rubble and is believed to have claimed thousands of lives from both sides even as military experts argued that the area doesn’t provide a strategic advantage.
“The last few urban blocks of eastern Bakhmut that Prigozhin claimed that Wagner Group forces captured are not tactically or operationally significant,” the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) wrote in a Saturday night report. “Their capture does not grant Russian forces operationally significant terrain to continue conducting offensive operations or any particularly strong position from which to defend against possible Ukrainian counterattacks.”
Russia’s capture of Bakhmut could then largely be nothing more than a symbolic victory, and perhaps a face-saving measure for Prigozhin, who has reportedly recruited about 50,000 personnel to fight the war in Ukraine.
The battle in Bakhmut has also, at times, put the Wagner leader at odds with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Prigozhin has accused the Russian leader of not providing enough supplies for his paramilitary group and once threatened to provide Ukraine location information of Russian troops in exchange for mercy on the frontlines in Bakhmut, leaked documents showed.
Prigozhin later said in a Telegram message that the report was a “hoax.”
Beyond a symbolic triumph, there are other variables that could put Russia in a bind after injecting an untold amount of resources into the Donetsk region which has been named “the meat grinder” to reflect the deadly conditions of the area.
For one, Russia may now want to invest in defending its claimed control of Bakhmut.
According to intelligence for the British Ministry of Defense shared on May 19, Russia has “highly likely redeployed up to several battalions to reinforce the Bakhmut sector” — “a notable commitment by the Russian command.”
This could pose a problem for Russia if it hopes to prepare for a counteroffensive Ukraine has for weeks been preparing for while also holding down Bakhmut, where Ukraine continues to launch counterattacks on the outskirts of the city.
“Russian forces will likely need additional reinforcements to hold Bakhmut City and its flanks at the expense of operations in other directions,” ISW reported.
Ukrainian officials have been tightlipped about where the next counteroffensive may take place, but military experts and analysts predict that the strike may be centered around southeast Ukraine in the Zaporizhzhia region.
Executing a successful counteroffensive will be critical for Ukraine so that the country could make a persuasive case for continued support from Western countries and NATO allies, military strategy experts previously told Insider.
Prigozhin also said he intends to withdraw his troops from Bakhmut by May 25 after he claimed victory on May 20, but a sustained presence from Ukrainian forces around the area may complicate those efforts.
“The Russian military command is unlikely to generate sufficient forces to relieve Wagner in Bakhmut and hold its flanks within the window Prigozhin has announced without redeploying Russian forces from other areas,” according to the ISW report.
The think tank also did not rule out the possibility that Prigozhin made those statements in a “crude attempt” to mislead Ukraine from launching a counterattack in the city. The Wagner leader has been known to go off on tirades and backtrack on statements.
Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File
- Putin praised the Wagner group for what he called the “liberation” of the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.
- His comment was the first time he has directly credited the mercenary army for their military wins.
- Ukraine maintains it is still in control of a small part of Bakhmut, despite Russian claims of victory.
Despite heavily relying on Wagner mercenary troops in the invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has not directly credited the for-hire army for their military efforts – until now.
As Russia claimed it has overtaken the besieged eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, Putin finally praised the Wagner troops controlled by his long-time ally Yevgeny Prigozhin for their role in invading the city.
In a statement issued Sunday, the Russian leader “congratulated the Wagner assault units as well as all service personnel of the Russian Federation Armed Forces who had rendered them the required support and protected the flanks, on the completion of the operation to liberate Artemovsk.”
While Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy denies that Russia has full control over the city at the front lines of the invasion, the Institute for the Study of War argued Prigozhin’s claims of victory over the remaining areas “is purely symbolic even if true,” due to its lack of significance strategically.
The ISW added in a Sunday assessment of the news that Russia had claimed victory over Bakhmut that Putin’s choice to praise the Wagner Group was also strategic, following months of infighting between Prigozhin and Putin over the heavy losses Wagner Troops were facing in the battle for Bakhmut.
“Putin likely took this step because Prigozhin has thoroughly established Wagner’s responsibility for operations in Bakhmut within the Russian information space,” Sunday’s Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment from the ISW read, adding that Putin and the Russian Ministry of Defense “likely sought to mitigate Prigozhin’s ability to claim sole responsibility for the capture of Bakhmut by emphasizing that regular Russian forces aided in the effort.”
Representatives for the Government of the Russian Federation did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Russia launched an overnight air attack on the southeastern Ukrainian city of Dnipro, officials said early on Monday, with media reporting a series of blasts.
It was not immediately known whether the blasts were air defence systems destroying their targets or Russian missiles or drones hitting their targets but the governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region, of which Dnipro is the administrative centre, praised defenders.
“Thanks to the defence forces, we withstood the attack. Details will come in due time,” the governor Serhiy Lysak, said on his Telegram messaging app, referring to Russian forces as “terrorists”.
RBC-Ukraine news agency reported that some 15 blasts were heard in Dnipro during more than 90 minutes of air raid alerts.
Reuters was not able to independently verify the reports.
With a Ukrainian counteroffensive looming, Russia has resumed missile and drone strikes this month after a near two-month lull. Waves of attacks now come several times a week, the most intense of the war.
China Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong has summoned the Japanese ambassador to register protests over “hype around China-related issues” at the Group of Seven (G7) summit over the weekend, a ministry statement late on Sunday said.
The heads of the world’s leading democracies meeting in the Japanese city of Hiroshima expressed serious concerns about rising tensions in East and South China Seas as well as voicing concerns about the human rights situations in China, including in Tibet and Xinjiang.
Sun said Japan collaborated with the other countries at the G7 summit “in activities and joint declarations … to smear and attack China, grossly interfering in China’s internal affairs, violating the basic principles of international law and the spirit of the four political documents between China and Japan,” referring to the China-Japan Joint Statement of 1972.
He said Japan’s actions were detrimental to China’s sovereignty, security and development interests, and that China is “strongly dissatisfied and firmly opposes” them.
“Japan should correct its understanding of China, grasp strategic autonomy, adhere to the principles of the four political documents between China and Japan, and truly promote the stable development of bilateral relations with a constructive attitude,” Sun said.
Hideo Tarumi, Japanese ambassador to China, rebutted that it is “natural” for the G7 to refer to issues of common concern as it has done in the past and will continue to do so in the future as long as China does not change its behaviour, according to a readout.
“China should first take positive steps to address those issues of concerns if China demands not to refer to them,” Tarumi told Sun, according to the readout.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said during Monday morning briefing that the country’s policy toward China has been consistent that it will insist on matters that is needed and urge responsible behaviour, while take steps to address concerns and cooperate on common issues.
The Chinese embassy in Britain had earlier asked London to stop slandering and smearing China to avoid further damage to China-UK relations.
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) plans to put his full endorsement behind Sen. Tim Scott’s (R-S.C.) bid for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, a source familiar confirmed to The Hill.
In a show of trying to move the party away from former President Trump, Thune will attend the South Carolina senator’s formal campaign launch on Monday. As the No. 2 Senate Republican lawmaker, Thune is set to become the highest ranking congressional GOP leader to back Scott.
Thune’s endorsement was first reported by Politico.
Scott officially declared his candidacy on Friday, filing paperwork with the Federal Election Commission. Thune has been known to be a backer of Scott’s presidential aspirations, encouraging Scott to jump into the 2024 race earlier this year.
“I think he’d be a great candidate. I’m excited about it. I’ve been encouraging him,” Thune told The Hill back in April. “I think he’s getting a lot of encouragement from his colleagues. He’s really well thought of and respected and I think he’d be a really interesting candidate for president.”
“[I] told him to let me know when he wants to come to Northwest Iowa. It’s right next to South Dakota and I tell him I’ll come out for him or against him — whichever helps him the most,” he added.
Fellow South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds (R) said on Wednesday that he would back Scott’s bid for president, becoming the first Republican senator to endorse a candidate other than former President Trump.
Scott is facing an already crowded field for the Republican nomination, including Trump, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has been the only potential candidate so far to make headway on Trump in the polls, is also expected to announce his bid next week.
Scott is so far the only senator vying for a bid for the White House in 2024.
(NewsNation) — Americans are likely to hear much more about Sen. Tim Scott in the coming weeks, as the South Carolina Republican has entered the 2024 presidential race.
The official filing comes ahead of a formal announcement expected Monday during an event at Charleston Southern University, his alma mater.
Here are some things to know about Scott:
The senator has been on Capitol Hill for over a decade and is currently the only black Republican in the Senate.
He launched a presidential exploratory committee in April, emphasizing his evangelical faith, his race and his background growing up in a poor single-parent home with his mom.
“Francis Scott. I think to myself that had it not been for her sacrifice, her perseverance, her resilience, I would not be sitting here today,” he has said about his mother.
Born and raised in Charleston, the 57-year-old joined the Senate in 2013 after two years in the U.S. House of Representatives. He has generally voted with party leadership throughout the last three administrations.
Notably, he sought to repeal former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act and championed a childcare bill to expand family options.
On social issues, he has taken strong conservative positions on abortion and same-sex marriage.
The deeply religious former insurance broker has made his grandfather’s work in the cotton fields of the Deep South a bedrock of his political identity. Yet he rejects the notion that racism remains a powerful force in society, and has cast his candidacy and rise from generational poverty as the realization of a dream only possible in America.
The senator refuses to frame his own life story around the country’s racial inequities. He insists that those who disagree with his views on the issue are trying to “weaponize race to divide us,” and that “the truth of my life disproves their lies.”
During a February visit to Iowa, which holds the first GOP presidential caucuses, Scott spoke of a “new American sunrise” rooted in collaboration.
“I see a future where common sense has rebuilt common ground, where we’ve created real unity, not by compromising away our conservatism, but by winning converts to our conservatism,” he said.
He easily won reelection last year by 26 points in the Palmetto State. It has been reported he has nearly $22 million in his Senate campaign account, which he could use for his presidential bid.
Scott is launching a huge $6 million ad buy in Iowa and New Hampshire, one of the largest single ad buys in the 2024 race, in the most important primary states.
His polling so far is in the single digits as he joins a growing GOP primary field that already includes former president Donald Trump, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and others. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to announce his much-anticipated candidacy next week.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.