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Russia Suffering 'Colossal' Military Losses in Intense Battle: Ukraine

Newsweek 12/1/2022 Zoe Strozewski
A Ukrainian tank rolls on a road near Bakhmut, in the Donetsk region, on November 30, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Russia’s attempts to capture an embattled city in eastern Ukraine have resulted in “colossal” losses for President Vladimir Putin’s army, according to a top Ukrainian defense official. © Anatolii Stepanov/AFP via Getty Images A Ukrainian tank rolls on a road near Bakhmut, in the Donetsk region, on November 30, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Russia’s attempts to capture an embattled city in eastern Ukraine have resulted in “colossal” losses for President Vladimir Putin’s army, according to a top Ukrainian defense official.

Russia's attempts to capture an embattled city in eastern Ukraine have resulted in "colossal" losses for President Vladimir Putin's army, according to a top Ukrainian defense official.

Yuriy Sak, an adviser to Ukraine's minister of defense, told CNBC Wednesday that the city, Bakhmut in the Donetsk region, was "undoubtedly one of the key hotspots at the moment" in the ongoing war.

His assertion that Russia was facing major military losses, as well as other assessments, seems to undercut recent claims from a Russian-installed leader in Donetsk that Bakhmut could soon be within Russia's grasp.

Denis Pushilin said on Russian television Monday that Russian forces were close to encircling Bakhmut, CNN reported. Pushilin did note that the situation in the city "remains difficult" but said Russian units were advancing regardless.

Bakhmut has become a major focus in the current stage of the war in Ukraine, though Russia has been trying to capture the city for months without success.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a U.S. think tank, said in an assessment earlier this week that recent Russian advancements around Bakhmut do not mean that Russia will be able to fully seize it anytime soon.

"Russian troops, in their current degraded state, are likely unable to be able to accomplish this task quickly," the ISW said in a report released Monday.

In the newest ISW assessment for Wednesday, the think tank wrote that Russia's monthslong efforts to advance on Bakhmut, during which it has expended combat strength on small settlements around the city, "have resulted in the continued attrition of Russian manpower and equipment, pinning troops on relatively insignificant settlements for weeks and months at a time."

Even if Russia continues to advance on Bakhmut after making some marginal gains and ultimately forces Ukraine to withdraw, capturing the city offers Putin's forces "little operational benefit," the ISW said.

"The costs associated with six months of brutal, grinding, and attrition-based combat around Bakhmut far outweigh any operational advantage that the Russians can obtain from taking Bakhmut," the ISW wrote.

"Russian offensives around Bakhmut, on the other hand, are consuming a significant proportion of Russia's available combat power, potentially facilitating continued Ukrainian counteroffensives elsewhere," the think tank added.

One expert, former U.S. Army intelligence Colonel Dan Soller, has previously described Bakhmut to Newsweek as a "super important transportation hub." But he cast doubt on whether Russians would actually be able to capture Bakhmut, and even if they did, "strategically everything else is lost" for Russia in the war.

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Newsweek reached out to Russia's Defense Ministry for comment.

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