Ukraine war passes 400 days as Russia suffers major losses in Bakhmut

The war in Ukraine has engulfed the European country for more than 400 days and tested the strength of Ukrainian resilience, president Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday.

“Four hundred days... Four hundred days of our defence against full-scale aggression. This is a colossal path that we have endured,” the war-time president said in his nightly address.

He added: “All together - everyone who fought and fights for Ukraine. Who took care and takes care about the state and Ukrainians. Who helped and helps our logistics. Who strengthened and strengthens Ukrainian resilience.”

“Ukraine went through the most terrifying days of that February. We survived this winter as well. There is a colossal effort behind these words.

“We passed last spring, which turned the tide of this war in favour of our defence,” he said.

Recounting the biggest battles seen in the 13-month-long invasion, Mr Zelensky said: “Last summer and autumn, we proved that the spring liberation of our northern regions was no accident. The battle for Kyiv, Chernihiv and Sumy regions... The return of the territories of our Kharkiv region, the return of Kherson, the defence of Bakhmut and Donbas in general - this is the heroism of Ukrainians that the world will not forget.”

Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February 2022 overnight as missiles and artillery shells tore through the skies of Kyiv as president Vladimir Putin announced what he called a “special military operation” on the former Soviet Union territory.

Analysts have said that Russia’s onslaught on Bakhmut can turn bleak as Wagner group and conventional Russian forces have likely lost manpower in their ongoing fight in the salt mining city.

“Western officials reported that Wagner Group and conventional Russian forces have likely lost a substantial amount of manpower in the Bakhmut area, which will further constrain Russia’s offensive on Bakhmut,” the US-based Institute for the Study of War said in its latest analysis.

The think-tank monitoring the war referenced a statement by the US chairman of the joint chief of staff general Mark Milley who said that the Wagner Group has around 6,000 professional personnel and 20,000 to 30,000 recruits, mostly convicts, fighting in the Bakhmut area.

This is lower than the number mentioned by the national security council spokesperson John Kirby in December where he said that the Wagner Group had 50,000 personnel in Ukraine including 10,000 contractors and 40,000 convict recruits.

“It is likely that the difference between Kirby’s 50,000 figure in Ukraine and Milley’s 26,000 to 36,000 figure in the Bakhmut area is the result of casualties from Wagner’s attritional offensive on Bakhmut,” the ISW said.

It added: “Kirby reported on 17 February that the Wagner Group had suffered 30,000 casualties, with 9,000 dead, in operations in Ukraine.

“The Wagner Group may lose thousands more convict recruits in the upcoming weeks as convicts finish their six-month military contracts, and the Wagner leadership appears for now to be allowing pre-pardoned convicts to return from the frontlines to Russia at the conclusion of those contracts,” the ISW said.