Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin with some of his mercenaries in Soledar in eastern Ukraine, January 10, 2023

Saturday’s Coverage: Trapped — Russia’s State Employees Told to Surrender Passports

Map: Institute for the Study of War


Senior Ukrainian officials have argued the value of maintaining the defense of Bakhmut in the east of the country.

Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba explained, “If we withdrew from Bakhmut, what would that change? Russia would take Bakhmut and then continue its offensive against Chasiv Yar [to the west], so every town behind Bakhmut could suffer the same fate.”

The commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, Oleksandr Syrsky, pointed to the advantage in the longer term of resisting the Russian assaults:

The real heroes now are the defenders who are holding the eastern front on their shoulders, and inflicting the heaviest possible losses, sparing neither themselves nor the enemy.

It is necessary to buy time to build reserves and launch a counteroffensive, which is not far off.


Russian incendiary munitions falling on Vuhledar in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine on Saturday night:

In late January, Russian forces suffered a crushing defeat as they tried to invade Vuhledar, losing an estimated 130 armored units with the destruction of entire brigades.

ORIGINAL ENTRY: Journalists with Mediazona and BBC Russian, identifying Russia’s slain troops through public records, have confirmed the deadliest two weeks for Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

The investigators have established the identities of 16,774 service members. Between February 24 and March 10, another 1,638 names have been added to the list, many of them Wagner Group mercenaries.

The latest names confirm the cost of Russia’s “human wave” assaults, led by the Wagner Group, trying to overrun the city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine.

The mercenaries hold the eastern part of Bakhmut. However, Ukrainian forces continue to control the western part and have blown up bridges over the Bakhmuta River, which runs through open ground in the center of the city. That has made the area a “killing zone” if Wagner attempts a further advance.

The US-based Institute for the Study of War assessed Thursday that Wagner has likely paused operations, possibly awaiting reinforcement by Russian conventional forces. There were no confirmed Russian gains on Saturday.

Wagner Group head Yevgeny Prigozhin said on Friday that the mercenaries have opened recruitment centers in 42 Russian cities to replenish their ranks.

The Mediazona-BBC investigation established that 1,849 pardoned convicted, recruited by Prigozhin, have been killed. Another 1,450 are men swept up in Putin’s mass mobilization last September.

Mediazona emphasizes that the actual number of slain is far higher, given that only public sources have been used and fatalities are often not reported.

On Saturday, Ukraine’s military updated the total of “liquidated Russian soldiers” to more than 158,000.

Russia’s Defense Ministry has only reported losses on three occasions — most recently in September when they said 5,937 troops had been killed.

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