On 2 March, the Volga bridge in Rzhev was blown, marking the start of the German withdrawal from the Rzhev salient. The Russian 31st Army was first out to pursuit, but made only modest gains in the face of heavy artillery fire, with its commanders hesitating about the German intentions. Operation Mars, the extremely costly Russian failure to eliminate the salient in late 1942, was still fresh in memory. Four days into the pursuit, one of the 31st Army's mobile groups approached Sychyovka. Outside the town lay two German infantry regiments.