The report from ISW suggests that Russian military command may be willing to sacrifice some positions in the southern and eastern regions of Ukraine to strengthen the defense of Melitopol and Berdyansk
According to analysts from the American Institute for the Study of War (ISW), there are indications that the Chief of Staff of the Russian Army, Valery Gerasimov, may be considering withdrawing troops from Bakhmut in Ukraine. The reason behind this potential move, as suggested by the ISW, is Moscow's preference for defending the city of Melitopol in the Zaporizhia Oblast.
This strategic choice would aim to prevent Ukrainian forces from advancing towards Crimea.
The report from ISW suggests that Russian military command may be willing to sacrifice some positions in the southern and eastern regions of Ukraine to strengthen the defense of Melitopol and Berdyansk. This information is based on a statement from a Russian source.
It's worth noting that earlier reports from Russian informants had already hinted at Gerasimov's intention to allocate forces to protect Melitopol and Berdyansk, possibly at the expense of another city in the Zaporizhia Oblast, Tokmak.
According to ISW, rumors began circulating on social media on September 27 and 28, suggesting that Gerasimov was prepared to withdraw troops from Bakhmut in favor of bolstering the defenses of Melitopol. This move, if true, would be aimed at preventing Ukrainian forces from positioning artillery in a way that could threaten Crimea.
However, American analysts caution that this statement about Gerasimov's intentions deviates from his typical behavior and that ISW lacks concrete evidence to confirm these claims.
ISW experts speculate that if these claims turn out to be false, it could indicate a concerted effort in the Russian information space to discredit Gerasimov. They also suggest that this information might be part of an information war within Russian authorities, possibly related to the removal of Colonel General Mykhailo Teplinsky from his position as deputy commander in Ukraine, according to some Russian sources.
Regarding the military situation in Ukraine, military expert Oleksandr Kovalenko had previously suggested that Ukrainian forces could reach the city of Tokmak in the Zaporizhia Oblast by October. However, Kovalenko believes that any progress depends on the actions of the Russian occupiers, who might choose to withdraw from the city rather than face a frontal attack by Ukrainian troops.
ISW analysts also observe that the pace of the Russian invasion has slowed on the Kupyansk-Svatovo-Kreminna line. They argue that this slowdown indicates that the Ukrainian counteroffensive has diverted Russian forces from this direction and has significantly hampered Russian offensive efforts.