Despite some tactical successes south of the city of Bakhmut, Donetsk Oblast, Russia is still unlikely to actually capture it, the U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in its July 25 report.
ISW assessed that Russian forces, including Russian Wagner Group mercenaries, have advanced into Novoluhanske and are taking control of the territory of the Vuhlehirska thermal power plant to the north – likely as a result of a controlled Ukrainian withdrawal from the area.
Furthermore, Moscow’s troops continue to suffer from “the same fundamental limitations that previously prevented them from rapidly gaining substantial ground during offensive operations in Luhansk Oblast.”
Russian Telegram channels began reporting on Russian attempts to advance on Novoluhanske as early as May 25, which means that Russian troops have been unsuccessfully attacking this single location for two months. Novoluhanske is neither a large settlement nor is it characterized by particularly challenging terrain, yet Russian forces have been unable to advance past it for weeks.
ISW analysts say that operations around Novoluhanske indicate that Russian forces are suffering the same limitations in terms of their ability to effectively use battlefield features such as salients to their advantage, which is exacerbated by the extreme difficulty Russian forces regularly have capturing small and relatively insignificant bits of terrain over weeks or months of fighting.
These limitations will grow as Russian units continually degrade themselves during assaults on small villages.
The Institute also believes that Russian forces will be unable to effectively leverage the eventual capture of Novoluhanske to take Bakhmut, and the continual tactical and operational limitations they are facing on the battlefield will likely contribute to the culmination of the offensive in Donbas before capturing Bakhmut, Slovyansk, or any other major city in Donetsk Oblast.
Other key takeaways of the report:
- Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks north of Kharkiv City, east of Siversk, and east of Bakhmut;
- Russian forces are continuing to fortify and strengthen positions in Zaporizhzhia and Kherson Oblasts in anticipation of the Ukrainian counteroffensive;
- Ukrainian forces are continuing to strike Russian strongholds in southern Ukraine;
- Russian forces continued to withdraw military equipment from storage in Russia’s Omsk and face challenges with repairing damaged combat vehicles;
- Russian occupation officials are continuing to set conditions for the annexation of occupied territories.