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Russian Troops Attempt Encirclement of Bakhmut Train Station Recaptured by Ukraine

Wagner PMC makes gains in northwest; Ukrainians hold in south-central pocket.
Leo Timm
Leo Timm covers China-related news, culture, and history. Follow him on Twitter at @kunlunpeaks
Published: April 14, 2023
Ukrainian Army replacement troops go through combat training on February 24, 2023 in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine. According to the group's commander, the unit was badly depleted in recent weeks of vicious fighting against Russian Wagner mercenary forces, losing more than half its combat strength due to wounded and killed in action. (Image: John Moore/Getty Images)

Mercenaries of the Wagner private military company (PMC) crossed the north-south rail line splitting Bakhmut as they move to flank the Ukrainian troops who the previous day retook the city’s main train station in the midst of heavy house-to-house fighting.

An insider embedded with the Wagner forces claimed “there has been progress” in this effort and that the Ukrainians would have to soon withdraw from the landmark lest they be surrounded, as reported in a daily update by YouTuber Weeb Union (WU).

The Wagner assault units, troops-for-hire who take the more dangerous missions, have made a thrust from a flank about seven blocks to the northwest of the train station on the western side of the railway. Ukraine still holds most of this area, which comprises the remaining third of the city not under Russian control.

According to the insider, going by the online handle “Remylind23,” the Wagner troops also bypassed the train station building itself in a more localized attempt to encircle it, though this claim was not verified by WU or other reports.

(L) The northwestern front in Bakhmut city as of April 14, 2023; the rail line is at the right edge of the picture. (R) The front showing the north-south rail line with Bakhmut’s main train station circled in red. Ukrainian troops struggle to hold onto the landmark as of April 14. (Image: Screenshot/Weeb Union/YouTube)

Ukrainian troops still hold a pocket east of the railway directly south of the main station; according to WU, Russian army special forces are trying to drive them out.

Bakhmut has been operationally encircled (surrounded on three sides) by Russian forces since around February. It is considered a strategic city in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, which the Kremlin unilaterally claims as sovereign Russian territory.

The armed forces of Ukraine are planning an offensive that was slated to begin in spring but has likely been pushed to summer, according to Kiev officials. It’s expected this counterattack will incorporate scores of Western heavy tanks, including the German Leopard 2, as well as freshly trained and reinforced Ukrainian assault brigades.

Russia generally enjoys a firepower advantage over the Ukrainians in their year-old invasion of the country, while the defenders have more easily available manpower and access to Western supplies and intelligence. Fear of casualties and drones increasing the accuracy and deadliness of artillery has made advances difficult for both sides.