Ukraine, Bakhmut and Wagner: the Russian strategy behind the battle

The analysis of the American think tank Isw: Moscow aims to damage the reputation of the mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin

The importance of Bakhmut, a Ukrainian city besieged by Russia, goes beyond the strategy on the ground, the battle is seriously deteriorating the forces of the Wagner mercenary group. And damaging his boss Yevgeny Prigozhin’s reputation in Russia will have long-term positive affects towards the goal of restoring “common sense” to Russia. The American think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) wrote it today.

“Bakhmut is not intrinsically significant from an operational or strategic point of view”, notes the ISW, according to which its capture “is necessary but not sufficient” for a further Russian advance in Donetsk. “But the Ukrainian battle for Bakhmut has become strategically significant due to the composition of Russian forces in the area,” the think tank argues.

Assaulting the city are no longer only low-level troops, but also “the elite elements of Wagner and Russian airborne units”: “The battle for Bakhmut could therefore seriously deteriorate Wagner’s best forces, depriving Russia of some of the its more efficient and difficult to replace troops”, notes the ISW. “Seriously damaging the reputation and power in Russia” of the head of Wagner, Prigozhin, “would be an important result from the point of view of the long-term perspective of restoring common sense in Russia. This – underlines the think tank – is a goal in interests of America and Ukraine, and raise the stakes of Bakhmut’s battle.”