Bakhmut & The Ukraine Trench War – fortifications, attrition, and lessons

As always, please check the pinned comment for any notes or corrections.

For months now, a city with a pre-war population of 70,000 has been the focus of relentless artillery and infantry attacks by the Russian military and the “Wagner PMC.”

For many commentators, the attacks seem nonsensical. At a time when Russia is pivoting to defence just about everywhere else along the line, why keep pouring men and materiel into a city that simply doesn’t have value relative to the effort expended trying to take it.

In this video I zoom in on the battle for Bakhmut, and explore its history, implications, and some of what we have heard about the tactics there.

At the same time, we also look at Russia’s campaign of fortification building across much of the rest of Ukraine (and Russia). As the world focuses on Russia’s Bakhmut attacks, Russia is throwing up belts of defences that…for now at least…seem to have some of the hallmarks of typical Russian defence procurement.

Many thanks to the people who provided input into this episode, with a special thanks to Sgt. Kates – USMC, for giving the kind of input only a combat engineer can (I do not have any idea how to clear a minefield)

As always, this video represents merely person views based on imperfect information gathered during an active war.


While I have attempted to discuss the factors I consider when evaluating casualty claims – the reality is that the error bars around any estimates are still extremely wide. Estimates of 1:10 ratios in some sectors at certain times are paired with claims consistent with very different situations elsewhere.

Even that Ukrainian Govt estimate on Russian losses may be low – simply because of when the estimate was made and the limited territory it may have covered. This is the problem of uncertainty when viewing a war from afar.

While I am confident in the analysis of matters at the overarching strategic level – be aware that the smaller you get in this war, the less certain things often become.

Notes and further reading:

Thanks as always to various OSINT aggregation channels whose work is critical to analysis like this. A non exhaustive list includes:

I do not generally link directly to Russian Telegram channels – but they provide an important source of information on how views of the war are evolving on that side.

“Arty Green” – Ukrainian artillery officer:

Examples of constant media coverage:

00:00:00 — Opening Words
00:01:40 — What Am I Talking About
00:02:43 — Fortification and Entrenchment
00:03:59 — Search for Movement
00:04:47 — Always a Risk of Reversion
00:05:22 — The War in The Donbass
00:06:12 — War of Movement
00:07:07 — Transfer of the Initiative
00:08:16 — Russia Digs In
00:08:38 — Even in Russia…
00:09:52 — There’s Bakhmut
00:10:49 — TIMELINE
00:10:58 — Core Objective
00:11:36 — “Protecting the Donbass”
00:12:42 — The Donbass Offensive
00:14:06 — It Isn’t Just Bakhmut
00:15:16 — Wagner’s Verdun
00:17:05 — A Brutal Back and Forth
00:17:14 — Encirclement Plan & Ukrainian Rotation
00:19:08 — Entrenchment
00:20:03 — Traditional Model
00:21:04 — Wagner Waves
00:21:42 — Wagner Tactics
00:24:47 — War by the Meter
00:25:42 — The Gas Station
00:26:13 — The Garbage Dump
00:26:55 — War Made Small
00:27:46 — Infiltration Assaults
00:28:47 — Myths
00:31:18 — WHY BAKHMUT?
00:31:31 — Road to Sloviansk
00:32:47 — “Smashing Their Foreheads”
00:33:22 — So Why?
00:34:34 — IS IT WORTH IT?
00:34:38 — We’re Talking About It
00:35:19 — A1: Offensive Potential
00:36:05 — A2: Attrition
00:37:10 — A3: Politics
00:37:52 — Opportunity Cost
00:38:39 — Other Options?
00:39:04 — Real Cost of Bakhmut
00:40:46 — What if Bakhmut is Taken?
00:42:23 — Illustrating the Point: Causality Scale
00:44:35 — Medium-high Confidence Inputs
00:45:33 — Consistency and Assumptions
00:46:18 — The Picture
00:50:05 — Wat Defaulting to Attrition
00:51:12 — Drone & Artillery Warfare
00:52:45 — “Mines are the Worst”
00:54:53 — Challenges of Breaching
00:55:53 — Sidenotes on Options…
00:56:33 — “Wagner Line”
00:57:25 — The Ugly
00:58:36 — The Significant
00:59:25 — CONCLUSIONS

Written by Perun

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

GIPHY App Key not set. Please check settings


  1. I get the credit for these, but thanks to the people whose input makes it possible.

    Thanks to those in Ukraine who take the time out of, you know, fighting a war in order to correspond with someone in Australia about their experiences with this kind of fighting.

    Also, since I know absolutely nothing about the practicalities of clearing a minefield under fire and how you could do it without vehicular support – special thanks to a USMC combat engineer (cheers Sgt Kates) for sharing some combat engineering 101 with me and discussing the implications that overhead threats have for entrenchments and ammo storage (plus introducing me to the APOBS).

    Note: on one slide I say that EU sources estimate approx 100,000 Ukrainian killed + wounded over the course of the war. that means 100,000 casualties including killed and wounded (large majority wounded). it doesn't mean 100,000 killed plus some extra number of wounded /endnote

  2. I wonder if the attack at Bakmut is kinda out of laziness for a better word. The infrastructure for an offensive might be the best at that place. So instead of building up infrastructure in another place for an offensive the high commanders simply use what's in place so they can attack now. Of course that ties in to the other reasons like the political reasons. Poeting wants an offensive so the attack is ordered at the place were troops are already in place for an offensive.

  3. Children of Ukraine: hear and learn: this is the only way you will accomplish victory. As Judas the Maccabeus,(Bolodimir Zelenski?) rose and confront the battle against Apollonius(Bloddy Putin), it has come to pass that the heavens are on your leader, blessing him and honoring his courage. Therefore, attend to the history of days past, then you may find the same blessings and help from Above. Today is the last day of Channukah, and many of you are the bloodline of Israel, the Nacion of GOD Almighty. Lit a candle with hope, faith, and strength as to what to wait on the coming days to be short. I commend this reading so you and those who are of gentile descent, expect to become ONE People under Elohim's eyes. Remember this: <So the Angel said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.> Believe and you Shall be Saved from utter destruction! PD: Will follow up with the Ch 3 of the Book of Maccabees. Share the Glory of The Lord on this day!

  4. So he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.
    1 Macabees Chapter 3
    1 Then his son Judas, called Maccabeus, rose up in his stead. 2 And all his brethren helped him, and so did all they that held with his father, and they fought with cheerfulness the battle of Israel. 3 So he gats his people great honor, and put on a breastplate as a giant, and girt his warlike harness about him, and he made battles, protecting the host with his sword.

    4 In his acts he was like a lion, and like a lion's whelp roaring for his prey. 5 For He pursued the wicked, and sought them out, and burnt up those that vexed his people.

    6 Wherefore the wicked shrunk for fear of him, and all the workers of iniquity were troubled because salvation prospered in his hand. 7 He grieved also many kings and made Jacob glad about his acts, and his memorial is blessed forever. 8 Moreover he went through the cities of Juda, destroying the ungodly out of them, and turning away wrath from Israel:

    9 So that he was renowned unto the utmost part of the earth, and he received unto him such as were ready to perish. 10 Then Apollonius gathered the Gentiles together, and a great host out of Samaria, to fight against Israel. 11 Which thing when Judas perceived, he went forth to meet him, and so he smote him, and slew him: many also fell down slain, but the rest fled.
    12 Wherefore Judas took their spoils, and Apollonius' sword also, and therewith he fought all his life long. 13 Now when Seron, a prince of the army of Syria, heard say that Judas had gathered unto him a multitude and company of the faithful to go out with him to war; 14 He said, I will get me a name and honor in the kingdom; for I will go fight with Judas and them that are with him, who despise the king's commandment. 15 So he made him ready to go up, and there went with him a mighty host of the ungodly to help him and to be avenged of the children of Israel.

    16 And when he came near to the going up of Bethhoron, Judas went forth to meet him with a small company: 17 Who, when they saw the host coming to meet them, said unto Judas, How shall we be able, being so few, to fight against so great a multitude and so strong, seeing we are ready to faint with fasting all this day? 18 Unto whom Judas answered, It is no hard matter for many to be shut up in the hands of a few; and with the God of heaven it is all one, to deliver with a great multitude or a small company:

    19 For the victory of battle standeth not in the multitude of a host, but strength cometh from heaven. 20 They come against us in much pride and iniquity to destroy us, and our wives and children, and to spoil us:

    21 But we fight for our lives and our laws. 22 Wherefore the Lord himself will overthrow them before our face: and as for you, be ye not afraid of them. 23 Now as soon as he had left off speaking, he leaped suddenly upon them, and so Seron and his host were overthrown before him. 24 And they pursued them from the going down of Bethhoron unto the plain, where were slain about eight hundred men of them; and the residue fled into the land of the Philistines. 25 Then began the fear of Judas and his brethren, and an exceeding great dread, to fall upon the nations round about them:

    26 Insomuch as his fame came unto the king, and all nations talked of the battles of Judas. 27 Now when king Antiochus heard these things, he was full of indignation: wherefore he sent and gathered together all the forces of his realm, even a very strong army. 28 He opened also his treasure and gave his soldiers pay for a year, commanding them to be ready whensoever he should need them. 29 Nevertheless, when he saw that the money of his treasures failed and that the tributes in the country were small, because of the dissension and plague, which he had brought upon the land in taking away the laws which had been of old time; 30 He feared that he should not be able to bear the charges any longer, nor to have such gifts to give so liberally as he did before: for he had abounded above the kings that were before him. 31 Wherefore, being greatly perplexed in his mind, he determined to go into Persia, there to take the tributes of the countries and to gather much money. 32 So he left Lysias, a nobleman, and one of the blood royal, to oversee the affairs of the king from the river Euphrates unto the borders of Egypt:

    33 And to bring up his son Antiochus, until he came again. 34 Moreover he delivered unto him the half of his forces, and the elephants, and gave him charge of all things that he would have done, as also concerning them that dwelt in Juda and Jerusalem:

    35 To wit, that he should send an army against them, to destroy and root out the strength of Israel, and the remnant of Jerusalem, and to take away their memorial from that place;36 And that he should place strangers in all their quarters, and divide their land by lot. 37 So the king took half of the forces that remained, and departed from Antioch, his royal city, the hundred forty and seventh year; and having passed the river Euphrates, he went through the high countries. 38 Then Lysias chose Ptolemee the son of Dorymenes, Nicanor, and Gorgias, mighty men of the king's friends:

    39 And with them he sent forty thousand footmen, and seven thousand horsemen, to go into the land of Juda, and to destroy it, as the king commanded. 40 So they went forth with all their power, and came and pitched by Emmaus in the plain country. 41 And the merchants of the country, hearing the fame of them, took silver and gold very much, with servants, and came into the camp to buy the children of Israel for slaves: a power also of Syria and of the land of the Philistines joined themselves unto them. 42 Now when Judas and his brethren saw that miseries were multiplied and that the forces did encamp themselves in their borders: for they knew how the king had given commandment to destroy the people, and utterly abolish them; 43 They said one to another, Let us restore the decayed fortune of our people, and let us fight for our people and the sanctuary. 44 Then was the congregation gathered together, that they might be ready for battle, and that they might pray, and ask mercy and compassion. 45 Now Jerusalem lay void as a wilderness, there was none of her children that went in or out: the sanctuary also was trodden down, and aliens kept the strong hold; the heathen had their habitation in that place, and joy was taken from Jacob, and the pipe with the harp ceased. 46 Wherefore the Israelites assembled themselves together, and came to Maspha, over against Jerusalem; for in Maspha was the place where they prayed aforetime in Israel. 47 Then they fasted that day, and put on sackcloth, and cast ashes upon their heads, and rent their clothes, 48 And laid open the book of the law, wherein the heathen had sought to paint the likeness of their images. 49 They brought also the priests' garments, and the first fruits, and the tithes: and the Nazarites they stirred up, who had accomplished their days. 50 Then cried they with a loud voice toward heaven, saying, What shall we do with these, and whither shall we carry them away? 51 For thy sanctuary is trodden down and profaned, and thy priests are in heaviness and brought low. 52 And lo, the heathen are assembled together against us to destroy us: what things they imagine against us, thou knowest. 53 How shall we be able to stand against them, except thou, O God, be our help?

    54 Then sounded they with trumpets and cried with a loud voice. 55 And after this Judas ordained captains over the people, even captains over thousands, and over hundreds, and over fifties, and over tens. 56 But as for such as were building houses, or had betrothed wives, or were planting vineyards, or were fearful, those he commanded that they should return, every man to his own house, according to the law. 57 So the camp was removed and pitched upon the south side of Emmaus. 58 And Judas said, arm yourselves, and be valiant men, and see that ye be in readiness against the morning, that ye may fight with these nations, that are assembled together against us to destroy us and our sanctuary: 59 For it is better for us to die in battle than to behold the calamities of our people and our sanctuary. 60 Nevertheless, as the will of God is in heaven, so let him do.

  5. Versicle 16 and up are the clue about what is happening in Ukraine: For people had faith in GOD and then after being so under-armed against the supposedly mighty Russian Army, Ukrainians, as David have inflicted a mortal wound on such supposedly giant. I invite you to elucidate from this event of the past taking place again today, a proof that what the Angel said to Zechariah the prophet of GOD, is the key to the victory against evil on this planet.

  6. Part 1: Putin's change of age limits to include men as young as 18 to 30 (Ha!) will remove more working age males from the workforce may affect the defense industry even more. What would the removal of another million working age men do to the economy. Is Putin "shooting himself in the foot"?

  7. When ursula was saying more than 100k kia form Ukrainian side, more is what the most interesting part. I know quite few ukrainians that are mia some even since March. Ukraine says 55k mia, and no one can find them, not even as pow. It seems like those 55k can be added to those those people I know just dissapeared. All of them went as a contart soldiers.

  8. I feel like the refusal by the Russians to stop trying to take Bakhmut is partly the sunk cost fallacy, but also about what it would mean to fail to take Bakhmut in political terms.

    The past few months have seen a number of stunning military defeats by the Russians, losing large swathes of ground that they have paid dearly to capture. The amount of materiel they've expended is extraordinary, as is the number of lives they've thrown into the meat grinder of the war machine. And the combination of mobilization plus the ongoing effects of economic sanctions have started to bite even in Moscow, where Russia has taken great pains to limit the impact of the war.

    With growing dissatisfaction among the people, Putin needs a win. Something he can show to the Russian people that he's still in it to win it, that he's got the situation under control and victory is still on the table. And the longer he goes without a major military victory, the more people may start to ask if Putin should continue to be the leader after all- or if one of his various subordinates or erstwhile allies might do a better job.

  9. Ukraine provide arms industry with big and profitable market,plus free advertising in mainstream media.

    From major supplier in UK,America,EU,Russia,Australia to newcomers like Korea and Iran can generate high Roi from this war.

    Everyone, not just government can exploit this conflict for their own interest,DJI drone manufacture for example,they're doing business with ukraine & russia..or PMC like wagner or Mozart,they see opportunity,they smell money.

    Dont take too emotional when talk about war..ukraine,iraq,afghan,syria, no different..war is very profitable investment.,ukraine should remember, no such thing as a free lunch.

  10. Thank you Perun.

    It takes an Aussie to make posts such as yours , haven't yet found anyone with coverage so detailed and intuitive.

    You touched briefly on the Wagner group and it struck me , as previously suggested I wonder if they are having military equipment supply issues.

    We have seen this with Russian logistics , but not Wagner.

    Keep up the excellent work.

  11. Great video, as always. I appreciate your analysis. A possible explanation for the buildup of defenses in Belgorod and to defend against an amphibious assault in Crimera – this would support the Russian propaganda claims that Russia is really fighting NATO (which is capable of amphibious assault). So, this could be posturing for the Russian people in alighnment with Russian propoganda that they are really fighting NATO directly and Russia is in danger of invasion (which we know is not true).

  12. I understand that Ukraine has mobilized every single man between the ages of 18 and 65 (or is it 80?, unsure), that may mean millions of troops, at least in theory, what allows perfectly well for 100K or more casualties. Also initially at least the Ucranian high command did not seem to care much about their soldiers, what led to some mutinies.

    As for emphasizing so much that Wagners are not allowed to retreat without orders, you're assuming that their commanders don't know nor care about their soldiers lives and that would push for attacks even when it makes no sense anymore. I'm certain that's not the case: Wagner is an elite force and they don't want to waste a single life among their "stormtroopers": they just prioritize orderly retreats when command decides so.

Massive Offensives by the Russians to Terminate Ukraine

Massive Offensives by the Russians to Terminate Ukraine

Erdogan wants meeting with Assad US forces in Syria isolated

Erdogan wants meeting with Assad. US forces in Syria isolated