Day 386: March 16The freshest reports suggest that the tide is changing once again, and Wagner forces started to increase the number of assaults on Bakhmut. Russians still managed to achieve incremental progress and establish control over the small village of Zaliznianske, but their main focus undoubtedly became the encirclement.As you remember, around a week ago, Ukrainian forces took advantage of the decreased activity around the Khromove road and pushed Wagner troops from an extensive trench network in front of the highway. Recent footage provided by the Ukrainian 92nd brigade shows Wagner forces conducting an intense but unsuccessful assault on the Ukrainian position. The video also features how Wagners kill their own wounded troops to avoid slowing down. A Ukrainian commander of the unit on the ground also said that after that, Wagners asked for a ceasefire to collect the killed soldiers and promised that they would retreat. Ukrainian commander said that they granted them the opportunity to retreat, but Wagners violated the promised ceasefire and threw a grenade.Other sources say that Wagners were more successful at advancing towards Khromove village than Khromove highway. Here, the assaults were reportedly conducted directly on the village, so the area between the trenches and the village is largely in the grey zone. In any case, due to the surge in engagements in this region, the highway has been rendered unsafe once again, which has visibly started affecting the level of supplies to Bakhmut. Certain elements of Ukrainian forces have expressed the lack of necessary ammunition and said that sometimes they could not engage with the enemy due to the necessary heavy rationing of ammunition by their commanders.This caused some confusion because Wagner forces simultaneously released a video showing the devastation on their position and said that Ukrainians had plenty of ammunition, however, they showed destruction from artillery shells, and the artillery is obviously located outside Bakhmut and does suffer from increased fire control over the Khromove highway.Shortages of regular ammunition have already forced Ukrainians to withdraw from the most challenging positions, such as the southern part of the town. Here Ukrainians had been maintaining positions deep inside the salient, causing huge inconveniences to Russians. However, with the difficulties of keeping up the necessary intensity of fights, they have stepped back and shortened the front line. Shortened frontline helps to improve the situation in the short term, especially as Wagners switched focus back to Bakhmut.Military analysts are offering several possible explanations as to why Wagner forces decreased the intensity of fights on the flanks and increased around the city. The optimistic version is that Wagner forces realized that their obsession with securing the flanks came at the cost of their control over the road, which Ukrainians started exploiting very rapidly. The pessimistic version is that Wagner infantry expanded westward faster than weather conditions were becoming suitable for the Ukrainian mechanized assault, so they created the buffer zone that they needed and went back to the encirclement.Overall, it looks like control over the situation once again shifts from Ukrainians to Wagners. The prevention of the encirclement attempts by threatening Wagner’s flanks was a temporary measure, and now the Ukrainian command needs to take the next decision. The most widely discussed options on the table are counteroffensive or withdrawal. However, based on what we have seen so far, the Ukrainian command is coming up with non-obvious tactics that allow for a gradual, not immediate, withdrawal. Right now, we are at the 4th out of 5 stages of ideal gradual withdrawal. It is possible that Ukrainians will come up with another plan to undermine Wagner’s main goal, force them to temporarily change their objectives, and drag the Battle for Bakhmut into April, closer to the dates of promised counteroffensive. It is also possible that not everything will go according to the plan, Ukrainians will not find a way to regain control over the situation and will be forced to withdraw immediately.