Saks: Bakhmut gives Moscow propaganda boost but staying will be difficult
Russia will gain a small propaganda boost by taking control of Bakhmut. However, it also realizes that it will be very difficult for Russian troops to stay in the city, said security expert Rainer Saks on ETV show "Ukraina stuudio."
In eastern Ukraine, there have been conflicting messages about what is happening in Bakhmut. Russia claims to have taken control of the city, while Ukraine says its troops are still in control of a small part.
According to security expert Rainer Saks, battles are still going on in the region, though it seems that 99 percent of Bakhmut's residential areas are now in Russian hands. "Battles are continuing there and the fact that Russia has managed to take over the residential areas does not change the military picture much," Saks said.
The overall picture in the Bakhmut region, according to Saks, shows that the Russian army has not broken through Ukraine's defenses and is not advancing further from the city.
"[Russia] has probably taken possession of the last panel houses or is controlling the last ones with gunfire, however, it doesn't make any difference, it can't get any further. The Ukrainian defenses have retreated a little bit, but are completely intact and still fighting. This means that the Ukrainian forces will continue to block the Russian forces," Saks said.
"And most importantly, the fighting in Bakhmut has been a battle of attrition. Ukraine destroyed a very large part of the Russian army's offensive forces there during Russia's winter-spring standoff and also exhausted the Russian troops. Perhaps not completely, as some offensive capabilities may still have survived, but most of it is gone. And that was that, the sacrifice of one town in order not to have to sacrifice other towns, which Russian forces could have moved in on if they had broken through," he added.
Saks said, that Russia would gain a small propaganda boost from the fall of Bakhmut. However, unlike on previous occasions, there would not be much fuss made about it, as Moscow realizes it could have serious problems holding the city.
Saks believes Russian troops could be caught in a siege by Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut if they become complacent. However, in recent months, they have not fought as carelessly as they did last year.
"The losses are heavy. I am sure that the Russian [military] command would probably not have attacked the city so brazenly. However, there is a political order to occupy the town, which has resulted in huge losses for the Russian side," he said.
"But at this stage, the situation for the Russian troops in Bakhmut could be dangerous and they probably realize that, so that's why there hasn't been any great victory dance."
According to Saks, Russia is not planning to launch an offensive from Bakhmut immediately. However, if it eventually wants to do so, it will need more armored and regular troops.
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Editor: Michael Cole
Source: "Ukraina stuudio," interviewer Anna Pihl