Pictures are often worth a thousand words or even far more, and what I present here is no exception, proof positive of Russia’s pathetic levels of “success” over the course of four months

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By Brian E. Frydenborg (Twitter @bfry1981LinkedInFacebook) January 14, 2023; updated March 7, 2023, to include new 6-month map of Russia’s Bakhmut-area “progress;” because of YOU, Real Context News surpassed one million content views on January 1, 2023, but I still need your help, please keep sharing my work and consider also donating! Real Context News produces commissioned content for clients upon request.

SILVER SPRING—Dear readers, many of you may have seen my latest article from (very early) yesterday, Russia’s Pyrrhic Advances at Soledar Near Bakhmut Setting Up Ukrainian Counteroffensive, Not Russian Victory, the featured image of which was a map collage of two maps from the superb series put together the by the Institute for the Study of War in partnership with Critical Threats: one from the latest available when I was writing, setting the scene for Ukraine’s Donetsk battle lines and zones of control, along with much of the rest of Ukraine’s east, from the data known and estimated for (update) September 7, and another half-a-year later for March 7 (previously January 12, and another map from exactly four months earlier, by the calendar date, for September 12; older map at end of article).  Here is my collage putting the two maps side-by-side, for clarity over time:

6 months of Russian "progress" in Bakhmut, Sept-March
Updated map: 6 months of Russia’s “progress” in Bakhmut area, September 7, 2022-March 7, 2023; click to zoom; old map at end of article

If you’re trying to find signs of Russian progress, it ain’t easy.  You almost have to squint (and you can zoom in by clicking on the collage).  Near Bakhmut, at best there are single-digit-mile gains west here and there over the course of these (update) six months (previously four months, more than 120 days), but very few; and Ukraine has taken far more territory in the northeast of the map than Russia taken anywhere else on this map combined.

Looking at this map, you only have to keep in mind four things to have a solid understanding of Russia’s Bakhmut campaign:

  • This is Russia’s main effort, its main geographic area of focus
  • Russia has suffered horrendous, staggering levels of casualties trying to take Bakhmut and its environs (like Soledar), with many thousands killed and who knows how many wounded
  • Bakhmut and its suburbs (including Soledar) are strategically insignificant
  • Russia literally has not made any territorial progress anywhere else outside this map, but sure has lost territory to the north and southwest, thousands of square kilometers in each theater

The words of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his minion Yevgeniy Prigozhin (whose private Wagner Group, generally an extension of the Russian military, is leading the Bakhmut/Soledar assault), of the Kremlin and its apparatchiks, are meaningless; they break like “water on rock” against the reality presented by these two maps, much like the Russian troops are breaking like “water on rock” against Ukraine’s defenses day after day, week after week, month after month, dead Russian after dead Russian, dozens of dead Russians after dozens of dead Russians, hundreds of dead Russians after hundreds of dead Russians, thousands of dead Russians after thousands of dead Russians.

Helms Deep break like water
New Line Cinema/The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

The Russians in this Bakhmut campaign have captured virtually nothing of significance and, let’s be clear: Soledar is not significant, a small-town suburb of a small city, which itself is also insignificant other than that Putin has been decided he wants the Russian military to take it at any cost, which these maps make crystal clear it has failed to do.  What is unclear is if Russian troops fully control Soledar or will even be able to hold what they have taken there over time, but, as I argued in my last article that introduced my map collage, it does not really matter much at all, due to its aforementioned strategic insignificance.  Feel free to read that piece in full, which elaborates and sources everything discussed herein.

Also feel free to check out the individual ISW maps that comprise my collage below, clicking on them to zoom if you wish.

Russian “Progress” in Bakhmut the past 4 months; click map collage to zoom
ISW Sept 12
click map to zoom
Jan 12 ISW
click map to zoom

See Brian’s previous map collage article from July 14, THE THREE MAPS SHOWING WHY UKRAINE IS WINNING AND RUSSIA IS LOSING (and why is isn’t even close), and see all Brian’s Ukraine coverage here

Brian’s Ukraine analysis has been praised by: Mykhailo Podolyak, a top advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky; the Ukraine Territorial Defense Forces; Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, U.S. Army (Ret.), former commanding general, U.S. Army Europe; Scott Shane, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist formerly of The New York Times Baltimore Sun (and featured in HBO’s The Wire, playing himself); Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), one of the only Republicans to stand up to Trump and member of the January 6th Committee; and Orwell Prize-winning journalist Jenni Russell, among others.

© 2023 Brian E. Frydenborg all rights reserved, permission required for republication, attributed quotations welcome

Also see Brian’s eBook, A Song of Gas and Politics: How Ukraine Is at the Center of Trump-Russia, or, Ukrainegate: A “New” Phase in the Trump-Russia Saga Made from Recycled Materials, available for Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook (preview here).

eBook cover

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