Frustrated by the protracted battle for Bakhmut, Kremlin propagandist Vladimir Solovyov has called for Russian forces to carpet bomb the Donetsk city.
The ally of Vladimir Putin said such an approach could “solve the problems” that Moscow’s troops have faced in the fierce fight in which they have suffered high casualties.
“Can’t we just use huge FABs to bring it all to a state when it doesn’t matter how many ‘Ukronazi’ soldiers there were,” he said on his radio show Full Contact, referring to the air-dropped bombs. Last year, Ukraine said that Russian air force Tu-22M bombers dropped unguided bombs on Ukrainian troops in Mariupol on the Sea of Azov coast.
A Ukrainian serviceman attaches a hand grenade to use in an attack on March 15, 2023. Kremlin propagandist Vladimir Solovyov has said that Russia should carpet bomb Bakhmut, which has been fought over for months. Aris Messinis/Getty Images
“Are we being asked to go through another Azovstal,” he said, referring to the steel works that was a bastion of Ukrainian resistance during last year’s siege of Mariupol.
He spoke of the prospect of the “humiliation” of a prisoner exchange, which followed the siege. “Is that what we are trying to achieve?” he added in the clip, which was tweeted by Ukrainian internal affairs adviser Anton Gerashchenko.
Newsweek has emailed the Russian defense ministry for comment.
Solovyov’s comments come amid a decrease in the number of attacks around the city over the last few days, according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).
Financier of the Wagner Group of mercenaries Yevgeny Prighozin has said that his troops fighting for Moscow lack ammunition, forcing them to expand their encirclement of Bakhmut.
However, Wagner’s losses in manpower, artillery and equipment will hamper their efforts to completely encircle the city and their offensive “is increasingly nearing culmination,” said the ISW, which added: “Ukrainian forces likely have an increased opportunity to regain the initiative.”
Despite being surrounded on three sides by Russian troops, Kyiv has committed to its defense of Bakhmut to inflict large-scale attrition on the Wagner Group.
British military adviser Ian Stubbs said during a speech in Vienna on Wednesday that since May between 20,000 and 30,000 Wagner and regular Russian forces have been killed and wounded around Bakhmut alone.
That was over 800 Russian personnel killed or wounded for each kilometer gained, “the vast majority of them Wagner fighters.” He described this as “a huge loss of human life for a total territorial advance of approximately just 25 kilometers.”
Donetsk Oblast Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said that fewer than 3,000 residents remain in the city, including 33 children, amid ongoing evacuation efforts. “There are people who absolutely refuse to leave,” Kyrylenko said.
Michael Kofman, director of the Russia Studies Program at the Center for Naval Analyses in Arlington County, Virginia, who has just visited Bakhmut, said that the fight for the city was a good battle for Ukraine, but that since December it has become a “strategy of diminishing returns.”
“The attritional exchange rate is favorable to Ukraine, but it is not nearly as favorable as it was before,” he told the War on the Rocks podcast. “The casualties on the Ukrainian side are rather significant and require a substantial amount of replacements.”
“Ukraine is not as favored in the battle because it does not play to (their) military strengths,” he added.