Ukraine says it routs Russian brigade, Kremlin acknowledges 'very difficult' campaign
A Ukrainian unit said on Wednesday it had routed a Russian brigade near the stronghold of Bakhmut in an incident underlining the task facing the Kremlin as it carries out what it calls a "very difficult" military operation.
The unit's claim appeared to buttress comments by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner private army, who on Tuesday said the Russian brigade had abandoned its positions in Bakhmut, Moscow's primary target in its winter offensive and scene of the bloodiest ground combat in Europe since World War Two.
Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, who heads Ukraine's ground forces, said Russian units in some parts of Bakhmut had retreated by up to two km (1.2 miles) as the result of counter attacks. He gave no details.
Reuters was unable to independently confirm the situation on the ground. Wagner units have led a months-long Russian assault on the eastern city, suffering heavy losses, but Ukrainian forces say the offensive is stalling.
"The special military operation continues. This is a very difficult operation, and, of course, certain goals have been achieved in a year," Tass new agency quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as telling a Bosnian Serb television channel.
"We managed to beat up the Ukrainian military machine quite a bit," said Peskov, citing Russian missile strikes in Ukraine. "This work will continue".
Peskov said he had no doubt that Bakhmut "will be captured and will be kept under control". He also said the Russian campaign in eastern Ukraine was proceeding slowly because Russia "is not waging war".
"Waging war is a completely different matter - it means complete destruction of infrastucture, it means complete destruction of cities," he said. "We are not doing this. We are trying to preserve infrastructure and preserve human lives."
Peskov's comments did not address claims that Russia's 72nd Separate Motor-rifle Brigade had abandoned positions on the southwestern outskirts of Bakhmut.
In a statement, Ukraine's Third Separate Assault Brigade said: "It's official. Prigozhin's report about the flight of Russia's 72nd Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade from near Bakhmut and the '500 corpses' of Russians left behind is true."
A Russian brigade is typically formed of several thousand troops.
"Our army is fleeing. The 72nd Brigade pissed away three square km this morning, where I had lost around 500 men," Prigozhin said on Tuesday, complaining his troops were receiving only 10% of the shells they needed.
In a statement later on social media, Prigozhin said Wagner forces had advanced 170 metres (530 feet). Ukrainian troops were confined to an area of 2.25 sq. km. (just under a square mile) and were coming under pressure in western districts dotted with high-rise apartments.
MERCENARY CHIEF TAKES ON THE MILITARY
Prigozhin has clashed with Russia's defence ministry and expressed concerns about a promised Ukrainian counter-offensive to recapture territory Russia occupied after the invasion was launched on Feb. 24, 2022.
Ukrainian military analyst Roman Svitan said the successes
near Bakhmut amounted to the beginning of the counter-offensive.
"We are the ones who launched the moves to advance," Svitan told Ukrainian NV Radio. "We can say that the offensive that we have been expecting for at least the past six months got underway about a week ago."
Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar wrote on Telegram that pro-Kyiv units had not lost a single position in Bakhmut on Wednesday.
Russian troops invaded Ukraine in what Moscow calls a special military operation and initially captured large amounts of territory, but Kyiv's forces pushed back. Western officials estimate more than 200,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded.
In his evening video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy named the Third Brigade and noted its report "about the flight of Russia's 72nd Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade from near Bakhmut".
In Brussels, NATO's top military official said the war would increasingly be a battle between large numbers of poorly trained Russian troops with outdated equipment and a smaller Ukrainian force with better Western weapons and training.
Admiral Rob Bauer, a Dutch officer who is chair of NATO's military committee, noted Russia was deploying T-54 tanks - an old model designed in the years after World War Two.
In Washington, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said he had authorized the first transfer of forfeited Russian assets for use in Ukraine.
Drone hits government building in Russia – governor
A Ukrainian drone has struck a government building in Russia’s Bryansk Region, which shares a border with Ukraine, Governor Aleksandr Bogomaz said in the early hours of Thursday. The statement came shortly after a drone attack was reported in Russia’s Belgorod Region, which also borders Ukraine.
Bogomaz said the raid took place in Starodub, a town of 17,000 people, and that that no one was hurt. Telegram channel Baza reported that the targeted building was a military enlistment office.
Belgorod Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov wrote on his Telegram channel on Wednesday evening that two drones “exploded over a residential area,” damaging two houses and a car. An hour later, he said that a third UAV was shot down by air defenses. According to the governor, there were no casualties.
Russia’s border regions have been repeatedly shelled and targeted by drones after Moscow launched its military operation in Ukraine more than a year ago. On Wednesday, the shelling of the city of Shebekino in the Belgorod Region claimed the life of one person.
Spokesman for Transneft oil company said on Wednesday that there was an attempt to carry out a “terrorist attack” on the section of the Druzhba pipeline in the Bryansk Region that transports oil to EU countries.
** Putin signs annual decree on military training of Russian reservists
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on military training of Russian citizens in reserve in 2023. The document was published on the official legal information website Wednesday.
"Call up Russian citizens in reserve for military training in the Russian Armed Forces, Russian National Guard forces, state security agencies and Federal Security Service (FSB) bodies in 2023," the document reads.
The Russian government and executive power bodies were tasked with implementation of events connected to the call-up and the training itself. The decree enters into effect since the day of publication.
Military training of reservists is a planned event on improvement of reservists’ military proficiency and takes place annually. The call-up decree is being signed by the President of the Russian Federation. Based on the presidential decree, the Defense Ministry’s mobilization department prepares a corresponding directive for regional conscription stations. Only once this process is complete, reservists will begin to receive call-up notifications.
** Russian assault teams push ahead in Artyomovsk offensive, top brass reports
Russian assault teams continued offensive operations in the northwestern and western outskirts of Artyomovsk over the past day during the special military operation in Ukraine, Defense Ministry Spokesman Lieutenant-General Igor Konashenkov reported on Wednesday.
‘In the Donetsk direction, the assault teams continued their offensive operations to capture urban areas in the northwestern and western outskirts of the city of Artyomovsk. Airborne Force units immobilized the enemy on the flanks," the spokesman said.
Russian operational/tactical and army aviation and artillery struck units of the Ukrainian army’s 67th mechanized, 80th air assault and 5th assault brigades near the settlements of Krasnoye and Stupochki in the Donetsk People’s Republic and the western outskirts of Artyomovsk, the general specified.
"Aircraft flew ten and helicopters two sorties in that area over the past 24 hours. Artillery of the southern battlegroup accomplished 98 firing objectives," Konashenkov reported.