Russia’s fight for the city of Bakhmut has become “disproportionately costly” for Moscow who despite throwing “significant” amounts of its military might too capture the city will gain little strategic advantage if successful officials said Saturday.
The U.K. defense ministry warned that Russian forces are attempting to encircle the town and have made “small” advantages on the southern axis.
But the ministry also assessed that despite the immense amount of resources thrown into the fight for the city in Donetsk, Russia stands to gain little strategic advantage if it is successful in capturing Bakhmut.
“Russia has prioritized Bakhmut as its main offensive effort since early August 2022,” the ministry said in an intelligence update. “The capture of the town would have limited operational value.”
Defense officials assess that taking the city may enable Russia to better “threaten” other large urban areas like Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, both of which are located north of the city, but questioned at what cost for Moscow.
“The campaign has been disproportionately costly relative to these possible gains,” the intel update said. “There is a realistic possibility that Bakhmut’s capture has become primarily a symbolic, political objective for Russia.”
Following Ukriane’s success in mid-September when it ousted Russian forces from the neighboring Kharkiv region to the west, Ukrainian forces have repelled Moscow’s troops even further east across northern Donetsk.
This has pushed the fight further away areas like Kramatorsk and Sloviansk though fighting has grown even more intense around Bakhmut.
Unverified videos circling social media show scorched earth reminiscent of images from WWII, blackened from months of constant artillery fire where the notorious Wagner Group are allegedly leading Russia’s war effort.
One source described the fight as a “meat grinder” for The Moscow Times this week and Ukraine’s defense ministry said Bakhmut is seeing some of the toughest fighting in Ukraine right now.
Donetsk, one of the regions Russia illegally annexed earlier this year, has seen constant fighting since the war began nine months ago.
Western officials are concerned that the winter months could draw out the war even more and give Russian President Vladimir Putin the time he needs to regroup his troops, despite the heavy losses Moscow is believed to have endured.
Putin’s refusal to withdraw from Ukraine has prompted the U.S. and its European allies to try and starve Moscow’s war chest through any means it can, including by hitting oil exports, supplying Ukraine with constant military arms and funding initiatives to keep Ukraine’s power and water on through the winter.