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UK Defense Ministry: Pace of Russian offensives across front line 'lowest since January'
Russia's regular army and Wagner Group forces have recently "obtained footholds" west of the Bakhmutka river in the center of Bakhmut, where the Ukrainian military continues its defense, the U.K. Defense Ministry reported on March 17.
"However, more broadly across the front line, Russia is conducting some of the lowest rates of local offensive action seen since at least January 2023," the ministry wrote in its latest intelligence update.
Russia's low pace of offensives is "most likely" linked to the Russian military temporarily exhausting the combat effectiveness of the deployed formations to an extent, which makes even local offensive actions unsustainable, reads the update.
The ministry added that Russian leadership would try to restore its forces' offensive potential after replenishing the personnel and ammunition reserves.
"In the meantime, commanders will likely be forced to choose between carrying out offensive operations and conducting a credible defense of the full line."
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in its assessment on March 16 that the Russian state-backed mercenary company Wagner Group's offensive on Bakhmut "appears to be nearing culmination."
Wagner's founder Yevgeny Prigozhin recently claimed his forces captured Zaliznianske, a small village about nine kilometers north of the embattled city of Bakhmut in Donetsk Oblast. Kyiv hasn't confirmed the village's capture.
According to the ISW, "the capture of Zaliznianske and other similarly small towns north of Bakhmut is unlikely to enhance Wagner's ability to capture Bakhmut itself or make other operationally significant gains."
A U.K. official said during his speech in Vienna on March 15 that "since May last year, between 20 – 30,000 Wagner and regular Russian forces have been killed and wounded in the area around Bakhmut alone."