A “goodwill gesture” is also possible near Tokmak.
The American think tank experts report with a reference to Russian insiders that head of the Russian GS Valery Gerasimov is willing to withdraw forces from Bakhmut and prefers to defend Melitopol to prevent Ukrainian forces from bringing artillery closer to the Crimea.
The Russian military command is presumably ready to sacrifice some positions in the south and east in order to strengthen Melitopol and Berdyansk. As stated in a report by the American Institute for the Study of War (ISW), this is claimed by one of the Russian insider sources.
A Russian insider source claimed on September 4 that Gerasimov wants to conserve Russian forces for the defense of Melitopol and Berdyansk, possibly at the expense of defending Tokmak.
“Social media sources circulated this rumor on September 27 and 28 after which the Russian insider source claimed that Gerasimov is also willing to withdraw forces from Bakhmut and prefers to defend Melitopol to prevent Ukrainian forces from bringing artillery closer to the Crimea,” the ISW analysts write.
Herein, the American experts point out that the “claim that Gerasimov intends to withdraw Russian forces to Melitopol to strengthen Russian defenses there is far outside of Gerasimov’s pattern of observed behavior.”
“ISW has no evidence to confirm the insider source’s claims, however. If these claims are false, it could indicate that there is a concerted effort in the Russian information space to discredit Gerasimov,” ISW writes.
They state that these allegations may be part of an information war between the Russian leadership, since, according to some Russian sources, Gerasimov removed the commander of the Airborne Forces, Colonel General Mikhail Teplinsky, from his post as deputy commander in Ukraine.
Therefore, it is possible that these statements about Gerasimov’s readiness to make concessions at the front are intended to strengthen Teplinsky’s positions, according to ISW.