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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 323: Chief of the General Staff Gerasimov to oversee the military campaign in Ukraine

Heavy fighting has continued around the town of Soledar, Donetsk Oblast, and on the approaches to Kremina, Luhansk Oblast. Russia has not captured the entire Soledar despite several claims. Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov to replace Suroveikin in overseeing the military campaign in Ukraine, with Suroveikin serving as his deputy.

Daily overview — Summary report, January 12, 2023

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 18.00 pm, January 12, 2023 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. January 11, 2023. Source: ISW. ~

Situation in Ukraine. January 11, 2023. Source: ISW.

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Day 323 of the russian military aggression has begun.

Over the past 24 hours, russia launched 4x missile strikes (on civilian objects in the towns of Lyman and Chasiv Yar, Donetsk Oblast); 23x airstrikes and 69x MLRS attacks took place in other locations.

The threat of russian air and missile attacks remains high across Ukraine.

Over the last day, Ukrainian Defense Forces repelled attacks of the occupiers in the vicinities of Stelmakhivka and Kreminna (Luhansk oblast) ; Rozdolivka, Sil’, Krasna Hora, Paraskoviivka, Pidhorodne, Bakhmut, Klishchiivka, Mayorsk, Pervomais’ke, and Krasnohorivka (Donetsk oblast) .

Volyn, Polissya, Sivershchyna and Slobozhanshchyna axes: no enemy offensive forces detected.

Kharkiv Battle Map. January 11, 2023. Source: ISW. ~

Kharkiv Battle Map. January 11, 2023. Source: ISW.

Sivershchyna and Slobozhanshchyna axes: the vicinities of Novovasylivka and Vovkivka settlements (Sumy oblast), as well as Hur’iv Kozachok, Strilecha, Starytsya, Ohirtseve, Vovchans’k, Vilcha, and Novomlynsk (Kharkiv oblast) were subject to mortar and artillery shelling.

Kup’yans’k axis: the enemy shelled the vicinities of Dvorichna, Zapadne, Kup’yans’k, Kislivka, Tabaivka, Krokhmal’ne, Berestov, Vyshneve, Ivanivka, and Pershotravneve (Kharkiv oblast); and Stelmakhivka (Luhansk oblast).

Lyman axis: Terny (Kharkiv oblast), as well as Makiivka, Ploshanka, Nevs’ke, Chervonopivka, Kreminna, Kuzmyne and Dibrova (Luhansk oblast) suffered enemy attacks.

Donetsk Battle Map. January 11, 2023. Source: ISW. ~

Donetsk Battle Map. January 11, 2023. Source: ISW.

Bakhmut axis: the vicinities of Spirne, Vyimka, Berestovka, Bilohorivka, Rozdolivka, Soledar, Krasna Hora, Pidhorodne, Bakhmut, Chasiv Yar, Ivanovs’ke, Klishchiivka, Bila Hora, Kurdyumivka, Diliivka, and Druzhba (Donetsk oblast) were subject to tank, mortar, barrel and rocket artillery attacks.

Avdiivka axis: Krasnohorivka, Avdiivka, Vodyane, Pervomais’ke, Nevels’ke, Heorgiivka, Maryinka, and Novomykhailivka (Donetsk oblast) were shelled.

Novopavlivka axis: Vuhledar and Velyka Novosilka (Donetsk oblast) suffered enemy shelling.

Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. January 11, 2023. Source: ISW. ~

Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. January 11, 2023. Source: ISW.

Zaporizhzhia axis: the vicinities of Vil’ne Pole settlement (Donetsk Oblast); Malynivka, Zelenyi Hai, Hulyaipole, Zaliznychne, Chervone, Charivne, Biloghirya, Kam’yans’ke, and Plavni (Zaporizhzhia oblast); and Manganets (Dnipropetrovsk oblast) were subjects to enemy attacks.

Kherson axis: Dudchany, Stepanivka, Antonivka, and Kherson came under MLRS and barrel artillery fire.

The village of Radensk (Kherson oblast, South-East from Kherson) . Russian invaders have built fortifications and a network of trenches and dugouts using sea containers, which were previously used as a field hospital.

It is known that the recruitment of mercenaries for the newly created private military companies “Shield” and “Rusych” has been announced in the temporarily occupied Crimea. Ex-servicemen and other employees of law enforcement agencies are invited to join the companies, with priority given to officers. In order to at least somehow attract interest, potential candidates are promised a high monetary maintenance, as well as the fact that they will allegedly not be involved in hostilities on the territory of Ukraine.

During the past day, Ukrainian Air Force delivered 20x air strikes on concentrations of russian troops, and 3x air strikes on enemy anti-aircraft missile systems.

Ukrainian defenders shot down 1x Ka-52 attack helicopter and 2x “Orlan-10” type reconnaissance UAVs.

Our missile and artillery troops attacked enemy command post, 7x concentrations of enemy troops, and 3x ammunition depots.

Military Updates

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst. ~

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.

Russia hasn’t captured the entire Soledar despite several claims that the city has fallen – ISW. In its January 10 Russian offensive campaign assessment, the US-based Institute for the Study of War says that “Russian forces have not captured the entirety of Soledar (city northeast of Bakhmut, Donetsk Oblast – Ed.) despite several false Russian claims that the city has fallen and that Bakhmut risks imminent encirclement.”

Ukrainian soldiers should be trained to operate Leopard tanks just in case, Chair of Bundestag’s Defense Committee suggests. It’s not decided yet whether Ukraine would receive the German Leopard 2 tanks, but German MP Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, the chair of the German parliament’s defense committee, believes that it makes sense to start training Ukrainian soldiers to operate the Leopards now, Spiegel reports.

According to British Defence Intelligence , (last 48 hours):

  • Over the last two days, heavy fighting has continued both around the town of Soledar, Donetsk Oblast, and on the approaches to Kremina, Luhansk Oblast.
  • Since the start of January 2023, Russia has almost certainly allocated elements of the 76th Guards Air Landing Division of the VDV (airborne forces) to reinforce the Kremina front line after assessing the sector was significantly vulnerable.
  • Until November 2022, Russia committed almost the whole of the deployable VDV as long-term, ground-holding troops along the front line in the Kherson area. Now redeployed to the Donbas and southern Ukraine, commanders are likely attempting to employ VDV more in line with their supposed doctrinal role as a relatively elite rapid reaction force.

Losses of the Russian army 

Losses of Russian Army. Source: Ukrinform. ~

Losses of Russian Army. Source: Ukrinform.

Humanitarian 

Ukrainian Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets met with Russia’s human rights commissioner Tatiana Moskalkova in Turkey. “We discussed a wide range of humanitarian problems and cases related to the provision of human rights assistance,” Lubinets wrote.

Two British citizens went missing in Soledar, Donetsk Oblast. Andrew Bagshaw and Christopher Parry, volunteers helping with civilian evacuation in Ukraine, are reported missing by the police.

69% of Ukrainians refuse to give up aspirations to join NATO in exchange for the prospect of peace negotiations with Russia. An overwhelming majority of Ukrainians, 69%, reject abandoning NATO aspirations in exchange for a prospect of negotiations with Russia on the withdrawal of troops from Ukrainian territory, a poll conducted by the New Europe center has found. The results seem to confirm the results of an October poll, which revealed that a record 83% of Ukrainians want to join NATO, and 86% want to join the EU.

Environmental

Russia’s revenue from fossil fuel exports collapsed in December, according to a new report, significantly hampering President Vladimir Putin’s ability to finance the war in Ukraine–CNBC.

Legal 

Two effective death sentences in Russia’s most savage attack on Crimean Tatar civic journalists and activists. A Russian court has sentenced five Crimean Tatar recognized political prisoners to 13 years’ imprisonment, despite knowing that for two of the men, 60-year-old Dzhemil Gafarov and Servet Gaziev (62) this is a death sentence. Not one of the men was accused of a recognizable crime, with the charges against them and 20 other Crimean Tatar civic journalists or activists based solely on a harmless discussion on religious and political topics three years before their arrest and on the ‘testimony’ of anonymous witnesses.

Zelenskyy strips four Ukrainians charged with treason, including “Putin’s point man,” of citizenship. Speaking in his evening address, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy informed that he stripped four Ukrainian collaborators charged with state treason of their Ukrainian citizenship: Viktor Medvedchuk, Andrii Derkach, Taras Kozak, and Renat Kuzmin. Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council imposed sanctions against Viktor Medvedchuk, Taras Kozak, and Andrii Derkach in 2021.

Support

France helps Ukraine to restore a bridge damaged by Russian troops in Chernihiv Oblast. Ukraine has restored a bridge destroyed by the Russian Army during the battles for Chernihiv Oblast. On 10 January, Ukraine’s Ministry of Infrastructure reported that one of the three modular bridges delivered by France was installed in the region.

Britain plans to send tanks to Ukraine, British PM’s spokesperson confirms. A spokesperson for the British Prime Minister told journalists that PM Rishi Sunak has asked defense secretary Ben Wallace to “work with partners” in the coming weeks to go “further and faster with our support for Ukraine including the provision of tanks,” FT reports.

Poland to give Ukraine a company of Leopard 2 tanks as “part of an international coalition” – PAP. On 11 January in Lviv, Polish President Andrzej Duda announced that Poland had decided to hand over a company of its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, but as “part of an international coalition,” Polska Agencja Prasowa (PAP) reports.

Canada to purchase NASAMS missile defense system in the US for Ukraine. Canada will buy a US-made missile defense system for Ukraine and will welcome US President Joe Biden for a visit in March, Canada’s Prime Minister’s Office says, according to CBC. NASAMS is a distributed and networked short- to medium-range ground-based air defense system.

Germany’s Baerbock announces EUR 20mn for Starlinks in a surprise visit to Kharkiv. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock paid an unannounced visit to Kharkiv, a city that suffered greatly from Russian artillery strikes, on 10 January. She is the first German official to visit the east of Ukraine.

New Developments 

Fighting at Bakhmut, Soledar showed vital importance of stepping up military support to Ukraine – Stoltenberg. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the fierce fighting around Bakhmut and Soledar showed the bravery of Ukrainian forces and the vital importance of stepping up military support to Ukraine, according to the NATO website.

Russia reshuffles its generals removing Ukraine invasion force chief Surovikin installed last fall. On 11 January, the Russian Defense Ministry (MoD) removed Russia’s overall commander of the Ukraine invasion force, Army-Gen. Sergei Surovikin, replacing him with Chief of Russia’s General Staff Valery Gerasimov. Surovikin has been demoted to Gerasimov’s deputy.

Duda, Nauseda meet with Zelenskyy sign joint declaration to support Ukraine. On 11 January, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Lithuanian President Lithuania Gitanas Nausėda, and President of Andrzej Duda Poland met in Lviv during the Second Summit of the Lublin Triangle. The summit was established in 2020 to strengthen mutual military and political cooperation and support Ukraine’s integration into the European Union and NATO.

Hierarch of Moscow-linked Ukrainian Orthodox Church to be tried for encouraging Russian invasion. Ukraine’s Security Service has announced that it gathered indisputable evidence of the guilt of Ionafan, a hierarch of the Moscow-linked Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the Vinnytsia Oblast, in publicly justifying the Russian war against Ukraine. The materials are sent to court; Ionafan could face up to 8 years in prison.

Ukraine’s security service exposes over 600 Russian agents and spies since the start of the invasion. Since Russia’s full-scale invasion on 24 February, Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) has exposed over 600 Russian spies and agents who were conducting intelligence and subversive activities, the agency’s press service reports.

Assessment

  1. On the war.

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of January 11, 2023:

The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced on January 11 that Chief of the General Staff Army General Valery Gerasimov will take over as theater commander as part of a major reshuffle of the Russian command structure for the war in Ukraine. The Russian MoD officially announced Gerasimov as Commander of the Joint Grouping of Forces and named three deputies under Gerasimov’s command: previous theater commander in Ukraine from October 8 to January 11 Army General Sergei Surovikin, Commander-in-Chief of the Aerospace Forces; Army General Oleg Salyukov, Commander-in-Chief of the Ground Forces; and Colonel General Alexei Kim, Deputy Chief of the Russian General Staff.[1] Surovikin has served as commander of the Aerospace Forces since October 2017 and commanded the “Southern” group of forces in Ukraine from June to October 2022, before his appointment as overall theater commander.[2] Salyukov has served as commander-in-chief of the Russian Ground Forces since 2014, and Kim has served as Deputy Chief of the General Staff since September 2022 following several positions in Russian military higher education institutions.[3]

The Russian MoD’s public announcement of this restructuring framed the change as necessary to both improve Russian command and control and to intensify Russian operations in Ukraine. The official MoD readout of the appointment states that these changes were made in association “with the expansion of the scale of tasks solved in [the special military operation’s] implementation, the need to organize closer interaction between the services and branches of the Armed Forces, as well as improving the quality of all types of support and the effectiveness of command and control.”[4] Putin’s decision to have the Russian MoD publicly announce the changes and their intent, unlike several previous changes to the Russian command structure that were not officially announced, indicate the Kremlin intends Gerasimov’s appointment as a major shift—both in actual conduct of the war, as well as the framing of the Russian MoD’s role. Gerasimov’s appointment and the overall command restructure are likely in part intended to signal, both internationally and domestically within Russia, the Kremlin’s dedication to the traditional power structures of the Russian MoD and Putin’s willingness to fight a long war in Ukraine.

Gerasimov’s appointment as theater commander likely advances two Kremlin efforts: an attempt to improve Russian command and control for a decisive military effort in 2023, and a political move to strengthen the Russian MoD against challenges from the Russian millbloggers and siloviki, such as Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin, who have criticized the Kremlin’s conduct of the war.

Gerasimov’s appointment is likely intended to support an intended decisive Russian military effort in 2023, likely resumed Russian offensive operations. Putin has repeatedly demonstrated he misunderstands the capabilities of Russian forces and has not abandoned his maximalist war aims in Ukraine. Putin may have appointed Gerasimov, the highest-ranking officer in the Russian military, to succeed a series of theater commanders to oversee a major offensive that Putin—likely incorrectly—believes Russian forces can accomplish in 2023. ISW has previously assessed that Russian forces appear to be preparing for a decisive military effort, possibly in Luhansk Oblast.[5] ISW has also forecasted a most dangerous course of action (MDCOA) of a new Russian invasion of Ukraine from Belarus into northern Ukraine, though this remains a worst-case scenario within the forecast cone.[6] Ongoing Russian force generation efforts are likely intended to support some form of further offensive operations, and Gerasimov, who approved and did not push back on Russia’s disastrous February 2022 war plan, is unlikely to begin resisting Putin now.[7] Putin may alternatively (or additionally) perceive the threat of further Ukrainian counteroffensive operations in 2023 and intend for Gerasimov to strengthen Russian forces against these likely attacks.

The elevation of Gerasimov and the Russian MoD over Surovikin, a favorite of Prigozhin and the siloviki faction, is additionally highly likely to have been in part a political decision to reassert the primacy of the Russian MoD in an internal Russian power struggle. The Russian MoD and the siloviki faction, often most publicly represented by Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin, have feuded throughout 2022 on Russia’s conduct of the war in Ukraine. Prigozhin has increasingly criticized the Russian MoD’s conduct of the war since late 2022.[8] Igor Girkin, former commander of Russian militants in Donbas and a prominent milblogger heavily implied that he would support the removal of Russian President Vladimir Putin from office in his most direct criticism of Putin to date on January 10.[9] Surovikin, the previous theater commander in Ukraine, was a public favorite of Prigozhin, and Ukrainian intelligence reported Surovikin is a rival of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.[10] It is unclear why Putin implicitly demoted Surovikin in favor of Gerasimov, unlike previously replaced Russian theater commanders who were blamed for battlefield setbacks. Gerasimov’s elevation is likely in part a political move to weaken the influence of the broadly anti-MoD siloviki faction and a signal for Prigozhin and other actors to reduce their criticism of the MoD.

Putin’s elevation of Gerasimov and the highly criticized Russian MoD may prompt siloviki like Prigozhin to further carve up the Russian information space and push back on the Kremlin’s conduct of the war, however. Prigozhin has relentlessly promoted the Wagner Group at the expense of the Russian MoD’s reputation and may double down on his flashy advertisements on Russian social media and state-affiliated outlets to assert the superiority of his forces.[11] Gerasimov’s centralizing efforts will additionally likely face resistance from Prigozhin and other actors eager to retain their private stakes in the war in Ukraine. Prigozhin may have known of Putin’s decision to reappoint these commanders and attempted to preempt this news by amplifying information about Wagner’s efforts to seize Soledar in the past several days to claim a victory.[12] Putin’s decision to elevate the MoD may also signal Putin’s departure from attempts to appease siloviki -affiliated milbloggers in an effort to regain control over the dominant narrative. ISW will continue to monitor the sentiment among different milblogger factions regarding their ability to criticize the Russian MoD or Russian military commanders.

Gerasimov is unlikely to rapidly revitalize and reform Russia’s conduct of the war in Ukraine to achieve Putin’s maximalist objectives. Gerasimov signed off on Putin’s fundamentally flawed initial invasion plans before February 24 and largely faded into obscurity following the collapse of Russia’s flawed initial planning assumptions. Gerasimov is highly unlikely to successfully meet Putin’s unrealistic expectations for his performance. The Russian MoD announcement of the command restructure did not specify how the command chain under Gerasimov will function other than to name Gerasimov’s three “subordinates” and the Russian command structure will likely remain fractured without a considerable pause to adjust Russia’s conduct of the war. Gerasimov will likely preside over a disorganized command structure plagued by endemic, persistent, and self-reinforcing failures that he largely set into motion in his initial role before the invasion of Ukraine.

The Russian defense industrial base’s inability to address munitions shortages will likely hinder the ability of Russian forces to sustain offensive operations in eastern Ukraine in 2023. US and Ukrainian officials told CNN on January 10 that Russia’s daily rate of artillery fire has decreased in some areas by 75%, a historic low since the start of the Russian full-scale invasion on February 24, 2022.[13] These officials noted that Russian forces may be rationing artillery shells as a result of dwindling supplies, or could be reassessing their tactics. Spokesperson for the Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Serhiy Cherevaty stated that Russian forces previously depleted their reserves of 122mm and 152mm artillery shells and other reserves over the summer of 2022 under an assumption that excessive artillery fire would lead to faster results.[14] Cherevaty noted that Russian forces must now transfer additional shells from rear areas in Russia and purchase additional munitions from foreign countries to counteract such shortages, resulting in a reduced rate of fire. Cherevaty added that Ukrainian strikes against Russian ammunition depots and logistics have also inhibited Russia’s ability to unload munitions close to the frontlines, reducing the intensity of Russia’s artillery fire.[15]

Russian sources are increasingly also acknowledging that Russia’s ammunition and supply shortages are decisively impeding the ability of Russian forces to advance. A prominent Russian milblogger (and member of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s mobilization working group) stated on a federal TV program that Russian force generation efforts such as mobilization are not sufficient, noting that Russia’s success on the frontlines is contingent upon its economy and military-industrial complex.[16] ISW had previously assessed that the Kremlin’s force generation campaigns are unlikely to decisively affect the course of the war unless Russia addresses its fundamental problems with supplying its war effort in Ukraine. Russian forces achieved some victories in the first stages of the invasion due to Russia’s rapid use of its manpower and reliance on artillery superiority, and the Kremlin’s inability to replace expended personnel and munitions may further undermine its ability to wage protracted combat.

Russian forces have not yet fully captured Soledar despite recent Russian advances, and the possible capture of Soledar is unlikely to enable Russian forces to capture Bakhmut. ISW assesses that Russian forces have not yet captured Soledar, despite numerous claims from Russian sources.[17] Russian claims about Russian advances in Soledar continue to generate discussion amongst Russian sources about the likelihood of Russian forces capturing Bakhmut.[18] Some Russian sources have begun discussing an implausible collapse of the current Ukrainian frontline and a Ukrainian retreat as far back as Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.[19] The Russian discussion about the imminent capture of Bakhmut and the collapse of Ukrainian defensive lines are divorced from the current operational reality in the Bakhmut area, where Russian forces remain far from severing Ukrainian ground lines of communication (GLOCs) needed to encircle Bakhmut.[20] Russian offensive operations to capture Bakhmut have likely culminated due to degraded operational capabilities.[21]

Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly issued secret and preemptive pardons to Russian convicts fighting with the Wagner Group in Ukraine, potentially further empowering Wagner to operate with impunity in the theater. Russian Human Rights Council member Eva Merkacheva told Russian outlet RIA Novosti on January 9 that prisoners recruited by Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner Group to fight in Ukraine receive pardons before they are released from penal colonies for deployment.[22] Under the Russian Criminal Code and Article 89 of the Russian Constitution, only the Russian President may issue a pardon.[23] Merkacheva stated that the presidential decree on pardoning convicts who participated in combat in Ukraine contains information that is classified as an official state secret per existing Russian legislation.[24] Prigozhin earlier announced pardons for the first group of Wagner Group returnees on January 5, and ISW noted at the time that Prigozhin has no legal authority under Russian constitutional or criminal law to grant such pardons himself.[25] However, the existence of the secret presidential pardons suggests that Prigozhin announced the pardons for merely performative reasons, to continue to promote the Wagner Group, and to legitimate its recruitment practices.

Preemptive presidential pardons are likely further driving Wagner Group recruitment within penal colonies and empowering Wagner Group fighters to operate with a large degree of impunity in Ukraine. The promise of a legal pardon for criminal activity likely incentivizes convicts to sign contracts with the Wagner Group, knowing that if they survive operations in Ukraine, they will be released back into Russian society following their deployment with clean records. ISW has previously observed that Wagner Group fighters recruited from prisons are deployed to the frontline in Ukraine chiefly as an expendable attritional force, and often show incredibly lax discipline in the theater. A Russian milblogger circulated imagery on January 10 of Wagner Group fighters in Soledar wearing Ukrainian uniforms in what likely constitutes a resort to perfidy in violation of international law.[26] Wagner continues to build out its reputation as a brutal and attritional fighting force through instances such as this apparent war crime, and Prigozhin is likely empowering Wagner Group forces to continue similar conduct in the expectation that if they survive, they will return to Russia as free and respected men and without accruing further criminal records through actions in Ukraine. Putin’s guarantee of a legal carte blanche for Wagner Group fighters will likely allow Prigozhin to use the promise of a pardon to drive recruitment efforts, therefore lending more untrained and unprofessional personnel as an attritional force that often perpetrates atrocities.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reiterated that a renewed Russian offensive operation from Belarus remains highly unlikely. Zelensky stated during a coordination meeting on the security of Ukraine’s northwestern borders on January 11 that Ukraine does not see any inflections in Belarus “apart from strong statements.”[27] Zelensky noted that Ukraine needs to prepare its northwestern borders and regions on the Ukraine-Belarus border for any situation. The Ukrainian General Staff also reported that Ukraine had not observed any formation of assault groups in Belarus on January 11, after deviating from its normal reporting pattern on Russian forces in Belarus on January 10.[28] ISW continues to assess that a renewed invasion of northern Ukraine possibly aimed at Kyiv remains unlikely.

Key Takeaways

  • The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced on January 11 that Chief of the General Staff Army General Valery Gerasimov will take over as theater commander as part of a major reshuffle of the Russian command structure for the war in Ukraine.
  • Gerasimov’s appointment is likely intended to support an intended decisive Russian military effort in 2023, likely in the form of resumed Russian offensive operations.
  • The elevation of Gerasimov and the Russian MoD over Surovikin, a favorite of Prigozhin and the siloviki faction, is additionally highly likely to have been in part a political decision to reassert the primacy of the Russian MoD in an internal Russian power struggle.
  • Gerasimov will likely preside over a disorganized command structure plagued by endemic, persistent, and self-reinforcing failures that he largely set into motion in his initial role before the invasion of Ukraine.
  • The Russian defense industrial base’s inability to address munitions shortages will likely hinder the ability of Russian forces to sustain offensive operations in eastern Ukraine in 2023.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reiterated that a renewed Russian offensive operation from Belarus remains highly unlikely.
  • Russian forces have not yet fully captured Soledar despite recent Russian advances, and the possible capture of Soledar is unlikely to enable Russian forces to capture Bakhmut.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly issued secret and preemptive pardons to Russian convicts fighting with the Wagner Group in Ukraine, potentially further empowering Wagner to operate with impunity in the theater.
  • Russian forces continued limited counterattacks near Svatove as Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations near Kreminna and struck rear areas in Luhansk Oblast.
  • Russian claims about Wagner Group and conventional Russian military formations’ operations in the Soledar area likely reflect competing claims over the responsibility for the most recent notable Russian tactical advances in Ukraine.
  • Russian forces conducted ground attacks across the Donetsk Oblast frontline.
  • Ukrainian officials reported that Russian forces are withdrawing key assets and restructuring logistics networks in southern Ukraine due to Ukrainian strikes.
  • Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced a plan to improve the Russian defense industrial base.

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