Russia is likely diverting troops from Donetsk to divert personnel and materials to Bakhmut, increasing pressure on the Ukrainian military as Kremlin forces are slowly pushing into the lynchpin town, the UK Defense Ministry assessed in a Tuesday morning intelligence update.
The Defense Ministry said it was a "realistic possibility" that the diversion of resources to Bakhmut had led to reduced troop numbers and decreased offensive actions around Donetsk city.
Russian military and Wagner mercenary forces have been making "creeping advances" into the strategic town, which has become the focus of fighting between the countries.
Russia-Ukraine War: The Battle of Bakhmut
"The front line in the town center largely follows the main railway line," said the UK Defense Ministry. "Ukraine is generally holding Russia’s envelopment from the south along the line of Korsunskovo Street, the old main road west out of town."
"Ukraine is generally holding Russia’s envelopment from the south along the line of Korsunskovo Street, the old main road west out of town."UK Defense Ministry
The Russian Defense Ministry claimed on Monday that it had captured two-quarters of the northwest and central parts of the town.
The UK Defense Ministry assessed that both Russia and Ukraine have been challenged by the resource demands of the battle, and both have considered reducing troops.
"For both sides, the exact sequencing of any major drawdown of their units around Bakhmut has become a critical question, with Ukraine wanting to free up an offensive force while Russia likely aspires to regenerate an operational reserve," said the ministry.
The resource demands of the battle have been highlighted in requests by Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin for more artillery shells. On Monday, Prigozhin had claimed that at least 6,000 artillery shells were needed to support an advance of 100-200 meters per day. The Russian oligarch said that there would be fewer Wagner casualties if provided with more ammunition by the Russian Defense Ministry.
Prigozhin said on Monday that 80,000 Ukrainian troops had been deployed around Bakhmut. He said that 30,000 were stationed in trenches, which needed to be destroyed using artillery.
On Monday, the Russian Defense Ministry claimed that over in the battle the previous day 270 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed, and one tank, an infantry fighting vehicle and seven armored personnel carriers had been destroyed.