This report analyzes the ongoing Battle for Bakhmut and Russian prospects for further offensive efforts.

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Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, March 5, 2023

Mar 5, 2023 – Press ISW

This report analyzes the ongoing Battle for Bakhmut and Russian prospects for further offensive efforts. Ukrainian forces may be conducting a limited fighting withdrawal in eastern Bakhmut and are continuing to inflict high casualties against the advancing mixed Russian forces. Russian milbloggers have also lowered their expectations of Russian forces’ ability to launch additional offensives, which would likely culminate whether or not Russian forces actually capture Bakhmut. If Russian forces manage to secure Bakhmut they could then attempt renewed pushes towards one or both of Kostyantynivka or Slovyansk but would struggle with endemic personnel and equipment constraints. The likely imminent culmination of the Russian offensive around Bakhmut before or after its fall, the already culminated Russian offensive around Vuhledar, and the stalling Russian offensive in Luhansk Oblast are likely setting robust conditions for a future Ukrainian counteroffensive.

Iran Update, March 5, 2023

Mar 5, 2023 – Press ISW

ISW and CTP are publishing a special edition today in response to the dramatic escalation in poisonings of Iranian schoolgirls on March 4 and 5. We will resume regular updates on March 6. The Iranian regime has permitted the country-wide, coordinated attacks on Iranian schoolgirls to escalate. Between March 4 and March 5 alone, there were at least 300 attacks across 16 provinces, a significant increase from the 46 reported poisoning attacks on March 2 and the other sporadic attacks from November 30, 2022, onward. The nature of these attacks, targeting primarily schoolgirls in urban areas who report similar symptoms, escalating over a period of four months, indicates that this is an organized and deliberate campaign, as CTP has previously assessed.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, March 4, 2023

Mar 4, 2023 – Press ISW

Russian forces appear to have secured a sufficient positional advantage to conduct a turning movement against certain parts of Bakhmut but have not yet forced Ukrainian forces to withdraw and will likely not be able to encircle the city soon. Russian forces made one limited confirmed advance near Bakhmut on March 4. As ISW reported on March 3, Ukrainian forces are likely setting conditions for a controlled fighting withdrawal out of particularly difficult sectors of eastern Bakhmut, although it is not clear that Ukrainian commanders have decided to withdraw at this time. Russian sources claim that Wagner Group elements have made gains in northeastern and eastern Bakhmut over the past few days, creating a tactically challenging turning movement in urban areas in northern Bakhmut. Ukrainian officials have recently reiterated that Ukrainian forces still control the situation in Bakhmut but have noted that circumstances are increasingly complicated and that the Wagner Group has committed its most advanced and prepared elements to assault operations in the area.

Salafi-Jihadi Movement Weekly Update, March 1, 2023

Mar 3, 2023 – Press ISW

Iraq. Iran-backed Shi’a militants likely massacred unarmed Sunni civilians in Diyala on February 20. ISIS has not commented on the attack. Pro-Iran politicians accused ISIS of the attack, likely in an effort to obfuscate responsibility. The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) arrested 18 suspects in the attack, though it is highly unlikely the Iraqi government will hold the perpetrators accountable. ISIS may use this attack to position itself as a protector of the local community. ISIS may do this by targeting local security forces, particularly Shi’a militias, to illustrate its capabilities to locals.

Afghanistan. Iranian security assistance may be supporting recent Taliban counterterrorism successes against Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP). Taliban forces killed ISKP’s chief of military operations and the former leader of Islamic State Hind Province (ISHP) in Kabul on February 26 and February 14, respectively. ISKP operations may be hindered in the short run, but these killings are unlikely to have a decisive impact on ISKP over the long run.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, March 3, 2023

Mar 3, 2023 – Press ISW

Ukrainian forces appear to be setting conditions for a controlled fighting withdrawal from parts of Bakhmut. Russian forces have been fighting to take Bakhmut, a city with a pre-war population of roughly 70,000 people, since roughly May 2022 and have suffered devastating casualties in the process. Geolocated footage posted on March 3 confirms that Ukrainian troops have destroyed two critical bridges in the Bakhmut area—one across the Bakhmutivka River in northeastern Bakhmut and one along the Khromove-Bakhmut route just west of Bakhmut. The preemptive destruction of bridges is likely an indicator that Ukrainian troops may seek to inhibit Russian movement in eastern Bakhmut and limit potential westward Russian egress routes out of Bakhmut. Ukrainian Presidential Advisor Oleksandr Rodnyanskyi previously stated on February 28 that Ukrainian forces could choose to pull back from positions in Bakhmut as needed. Rodnyanskyi also noted that Ukraine has fortified the area west of Bakhmut such that even if Ukrainian troops begin to withdraw, Russian forces would not necessarily be able to rapidly take the entire city.[3] If the Ukrainian military command deems it necessary to withdraw from Bakhmut it will likely conduct a limited and controlled withdrawal from particularly difficult sectors of eastern Bakhmut judging from Ukrainian statements and reported Ukrainian actions. ISW will continue to monitor the situation and offer updated assessments of the implications of possible Russian courses of action if and when Ukrainian forces begin to pull back.

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Ukraine Conflict Updates

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This page collects ISW and CTP’s updates on the conflict in Ukraine. In late February 2022, ISW began publishing daily synthetic products covering key events related to renewed Russian aggression against Ukraine.

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