Ukrainian counterattacks near Bakhmut in Donetsk Oblast in recent days have very likely eliminated the possibility of Russian encirclement in the area, even as Russia concentrates its reserves to the fight around the city, the Institute of the Study of War said in its latest update.
The counterattacks "have notably likely eliminated the threat of a Russian encirclement of Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut and forced Russian troops to allocate scarce military resources to defend against a limited and localized offensive effort, as Ukrainian command likely intended," the ISW wrote.
Earlier on May 19, Serhii Cherevatyi, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian military's Eastern Operational Command, confirmed that Ukrainian forces were gaining the battlefield initiative near Bakhmut.
Ukrainian troops advanced up to 500 meters in some areas of the Bakhmut front line on May 18-19, Cherevatyi said. The ISW said that Ukrainian forces had also advanced 1,000 meters in another area.
At the same time, the ISW reported, citing a May 19 statement by Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar, that Russian forces had concentrated most of their reserves around Bakhmut, slowing the rate of Ukraine's advances, although, according to the ISW, "Russian forces on Bakhmut’s flanks likely remain weak."