‘Wagner will not take Bakhmut,’ says former Israeli special forces commander

18 November 2022, 06:22 PM
Ukrainian military in Donetsk Oblast (Photo:Iryna Rybakova/Press Service of the 93rd Independent Kholodnyi Yar Mechanized Brigade/Handout via REUTERS)

Ukrainian military in Donetsk Oblast (Photo:Iryna Rybakova/Press Service of the 93rd Independent Kholodnyi Yar Mechanized Brigade/Handout via REUTERS)

Ukraine will not surrender Bakhmut, and the Ukrainian armed forces will only move forward and continue to squeeze the enemy, says Denys Desyatnik, former Israeli special forces commander and founder of the Together for Ukraine aid organization.

In an interview with Radio NV, he spoke about how the hostilities in Donetsk Oblast will develop, whether the war will stop in the winter, and how Israel will help Ukraine.

— Let's try to understand the situation regarding Bakhmut. I understand that you are not there, but your comrades, maybe even your students, since you are an instructor for special forces, are obviously there. You have an understanding of the situation there, right?

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— I returned from Bakhmut the day before yesterday after staying there for about five days, performing some combat tasks, and also undertaking a humanitarian mission. And the unit and I all left the day before yesterday and are returning to Soledar on Sunday.

— What is the current picture of the fighting near Bakhmut? Everyone is waiting to see where the Russians’ main blow will be directed. There are reasons to believe that it will be Bakhmut.

— The situation there is really very difficult. The city is under constant artillery fire. And in principle, the Russian occupiers are right near Bakhmut. But our troops are not allowing them a step forward, and are holding Bakhmut.

At present, it is possible that (the Russians) will also transfer the troops that were stationed in Kherson on the right bank. Part of the occupiers’ forces could be transferred to the Donetsk front in the direction of Bakhmut and Soledar.

But our guys are very motivated and not ready to let the enemy take a single step. And that is why I think that we will not give up Bakhmut. Yes, there will be tough battles, but no one intends to move a single step back, only forward, only to victory.

— Has the movement of Russian troops from the right bank of Kherson Oblast to nearby Bakhmut already been confirmed? Can you not talk about it yet?

— They have redirected a part, and they still intend to redirect a part. They are now also redirecting part of it to the Zaporizhzhya front, where they are also trying to launch some kind of counteroffensive. And on the Zaporizhzhya front, where I also have my brothers, no one intends to retreat. And I think we will only move forward and further push the enemy back.

— What strategic tasks could the Russians be facing, understanding that they really are assaulting Bakhmut. The Institute for the Study of War claims that Bakhmut could be taken if the presence of Russian troops there is significantly increased. What does that mean? What's next? Sloviansk and Kramatorsk? It seems that there is no threat to those two cities, because there is no grouping of Russian troops in the north in either Lyman or in Izyum. What can the Russians achieve in that direction?

– First of all, they just want to seize our territories. It is not that they have any strategic task. They just move, and they just want to capture as much territory as possible.

It is in Donetsk Oblast that their troops are located, and they are trying to push our troops as far away as possible. There is constant shelling, and the city itself has been really razed to the ground, wiped off the face of the Earth. And people are barely surviving there. They have no provisions, no food, no shops, no electricity, either. And there is constant bombing. Therefore, they just need to advance, they want to advance, to seize as much of our land as possible.

— There is a lot of evidence that “Wagnerites” are fighting in the Bakhmut-Soledar direction. What do you know about this formation? How serious is this danger?

— Both the "Wagnerites" and regular troops of the Russian occupiers are indeed fighting there. The Wagnerites in greater numbers. But this does not significantly affect any advance. Yes, the Wagnerites are better prepared than simple mobilized units of the Russian Army. But they will not take Bakhmut anyway. They won't take it, that's for sure, because our boys intend to stand there until the end.

I think that now even some of our units which were on the Kharkiv front will also be partially transferred to Bakhmut.

— Tell us a little more about what these Wagnerites do? What do they looklike? About the prisoners who fight in their ranks.

— Wagner has now been calling up both prisoners and anyone in general who they can call up. But there are also Wagnerites who have passed through Syria and Chechnya, and who are prepared. These ones are simply more trained with more experience and with greater skills in warfare.

But they all end up with their professional soldiers. They choose anyone, like those convicts who do not understand anything about strategy, tactics, or military affairs. And this is just "meat."

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But there are also professional soldiers. You can't forget about this either, you can't underestimate them and somehow assume that we will easily defeat them. No, we still have to fight, we have to be careful, and we have to pay attention. And you have to be on your guard, let's put it that way.

— Are the Russians preparing to spend the winter there? Are there visible signs that would allow us to say that they will spend this winter in the trenches of Donbas?

— Any kind of preparation for winter is impossible. Winter is winter for everyone. This is a difficult time of year for both our military and the Russian occupiers. It is the same for everyone. Therefore, to somehow prepare or be better prepared for winter - no, it will be difficult for everyone and on all fronts.The only thing is that there will be an advantage for Russian equipment — the ground will freeze a little, it will no longer be the rainy season, and their equipment will be able to move. Therefore, the war will not go anywhere, it will not stop. The war will continue in winter.

Therefore, our troops need volunteers to somehow help with thermal clothing and with other clothes, because it will be really difficult and it will be really cold. We can already see that it is quite cold at the moment. In Bakhmut, sitting in the trenches, it is not easy at all.

— I have a question for you, as a former Israeli soldier. Israel has given permission to NATO members, including the UK, to provide Ukraine with weapons that contain components of Israeli-made fire control systems and optical-electronic systems. What kind of weapons could these be? Israel has not given any official comments regarding such assistance to Ukraine.

— First, regarding Israel's aid to Ukraine. (The winner of the elections and likely future prime minister Benjamin) Netanyahu promised in his election campaign that he would consider the issue of helping Ukraine, firstly, with air defense systems and some kind of weapons. I believe Israel is currently considering such options, and yes, negotiations are underway.

And I am sure that Israel will start helping with air defense systems and other various systems. Israel is helping in general. While it didn't help with any weapons, and it didn't help to close the sky, now, I think, the current prime minister will help, and there will be benefit from it.

Israel and Israelis themselves are on the side of Ukraine because they see that the genocide of an entire nation is being carried out. A normal state cannot but help.

— Can you, with your understanding of what weapons are in the Israeli military, and what is produced by Israel, say what the weapons might be?

— First, there are various guidance systems, and various technologies that Israel develops. In terms of various technologies (both electronic and optical), there are enterprises that develop high-precision guidance systems and various other systems.

Israel is very strong in this. Even in combat aircraft equipment systems. Israel buys planes from America, but everything inside is Israeli. Therefore, there are many different technologically developed systems that Israel is able to supply to Ukraine. And I am sure that negotiations are underway with Ukraine, Britain, and the West. Israel is somewhere, perhaps, supplying, and beginning to supply, something that we simply do not yet fully know about.

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