Ukraine threatens Bakhmut encirclement, Wagner forces may end up trapped
Ukrainian military fire a mortar near Bakhmut, May 18, 2023 (Photo:REUTERS/Sofiia Gatilova)
If Ukrainian forces manage to surround Bakhmut from the flanks, the fighters of Russia’s Wagner mercenary company will have nowhere to mount a defense of the now ruined city, Ukrainian special forces soldier Mykola Volokhov told Radio NV on May 18.
"If we succeed in deepening the flanks, if we can take Bakhmut in a so-called (pincer movement), that is, a three-way encirclement, then, of course, the enemy will have significant problems there," said Volokhov, who is the commander of the Terra unit of Ukraine’s 3rd Separate Special Forces Brigade.
Volokhov said that in his opinion, the leader of Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, is afraid of this because "there is virtually no city left, everything has been razed to the ground" and "there is virtually nothing (with which) to hold the line."
"Perhaps Prigozhin is worried about this. Our top military leadership must be discussing this," Volokhov said.
Ukraine's Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said on Ukrainian national television on May 19 that Russian troops are trying to regain lost ground near Bakhmut, but the Ukrainian military is repelling all attacks.
Earlier, Colonel-General Oleksandr Syrskyi, the commander of the Ukrainian Ground Forces, visited the soldiers on the front line and said that Ukraine's defenders were conducting a counter-offensive in some areas near Bakhmut, using the active defense principle.
Syrskyi said the advance of the Ukrainian military on the Bakhmut axis is the first, but partial success of the offensive during the operation to defend Bakhmut.
Later, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar reported that the Ukrainian military had managed to liberate approximately 20 square kilometers in the northern and southern suburbs of Bakhmut.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry announced on May 18 that Ukrainian forces were in control of the southwestern part of Bakhmut, and had advanced up to 1 kilometer in the suburbs.
Ukrainian soldiers from the 3rd Assault Brigade also reported offensive actions on the western outskirts of Bakhmut, which would make it possibleto create a bridgehead for a further counter-offensive.
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