Lately, the mercenaries of the Wagner Group have made headlines with their tactical successes in and around Bakhmut in Donbas.
Despite the slow and costly pace of progress, what the Wagner Group has achieved in Bakhmut is the greatest Russian success in many months.
The Russian Ministry of Defense is watching and not happy with the performance of the notorious private military company.. The two entities have been embroiled in an internal dispute for months.
Recently, the Russian Defense Minister, Sergey Shoiguvisited the front.
“On March 4, 2023, the Russian Ministry of Defense released a video of a rare visit to Ukraine by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. There is a realistic possibility that this was partly a reaction to recent footage of Wagner Group owner Yevgeny Prigozhin visiting his fighters on the front lines. Wagner has a high-level dispute with the Russian defense ministry and Shoigu is likely to be sensitive to being compared to Prigozhin, British military intelligence ruled in a recent war estimate.
In fact, their rivalry becomes so intense that it begins to influence strategic decisions.
Prestige and survival by Vuhledar
In the last days, the Russian army launched another wave of small-scale attacks against the Ukrainian positions at Vuhledar. However, the intensity of the offensive has diminished. Since November, the Russian army has repeatedly failed to take the small mining town.
What might explain the Russian military’s insistence on attacking in and around Vuhledar is the internal rivalry plaguing the Russian campaign in Ukraine.
“There is a realistic possibility that the Russian defense ministry has pushed its drive to achieve success at Vuhledar, in part because it wants its own success to compete with Wagner’s achievements,” British military intelligence said in another estimate. from the war.
Tough decisions ahead
The Russian army will have to make some decisions in Ukraine in the near future.
It is highly likely that the Russian military will see an operational breakthrough at Vuhledar as a way to counter the Wagner Group’s tactical successes at Bakhmut.. But with limited resources, Russian commanders must choose between a new offensive in Vuhledar – where they have repeatedly failed with heavy casualties – or reinforcing the offensive effort in and around Bakhmut. However, choosing the latter would help the Wagner Group.
There is no doubt that Russian President Vladimir Putin has something to say about what is happening in Ukraine. And for the Russian leader, the war is about more than capturing cities and conquering miles of territory. Indeed, for Putin, war is also a ruthless struggle for control within Russia.
The Russian army could also reinforce the offensive in the northeast, around Kreminna and Svatove, which was stalled for almost five months. But bolstering that effort would not directly support the Kremlin’s strategic goals of capturing Donbas and creating a land bridge with Crimea.
The Russian campaign in Ukraine is not going well. And the fact that his main warring organizations are fighting each other does not help Putin’s plans.