ISW says Russians’ claim to have captured Soledar false, Bakhmut not under encirclement threat

11 January, 11:50 AM
Satellite image of Soledar as of January 8, 2023 (Photo:Sentinel-2 images)

Satellite image of Soledar as of January 8, 2023 (Photo:Sentinel-2 images)

Invading Russian forces have not captured the entirety of the town of Soledar, Donetsk Oblast, despite several false Russian claims that the town has fallen and that the town of Bakhmut risks imminent encirclement, U.S. think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in a Jan. 10 report.

ISW reiterated that several Russian sources had claimed that Wagner Group forces advanced into the west of Soledar on Jan. 10. However, Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin refuted these claims, remarking that Wagner Group forces are still fighting against concerted Ukrainian resistance.

ISW said it had only observed visual confirmation of Wagner Group forces in central Soledar as of Jan. 10.

Video of day

“The reality of block-by-block control of terrain in Soledar is obfuscated by the dynamic nature of urban combat, however, and Russian forces have largely struggled to make significant tactical gains in the Soledar area for months,” reads the report.

“Even taking the most generous Russian claims at face value, the capture of Soledar would not portend an immediate encirclement of Bakhmut. Control of Soledar will not necessarily allow Russian forces to exert control over critical Ukrainian ground lines of communication into Bakhmut, as ISW has previously assessed.”

Other key takeaways by ISW analysts:

·         Russian media reported on Jan. 10 that Colonel General Aleksandr Lapin, former commander of the Central Military District and Russian forces in Kharkiv and northern Donetsk oblasts during Russia’s significant losses in September 2022, has been appointed Chief of Staff of the Russian Ground Forces;

·         The news of Lapin’s appointment is generating further schisms in the already-fragmented pro-war Russian information space;

·         Former handler for the Donetsk puppet authority and prominent milblogger Igor Girkin heavily implied that he would support the removal of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin from office, suggesting that a willingness to reduce self-censorship and directly criticize Putin may be growing among some milbloggers;

·         The Ukrainian General Staff deviated from its normal reporting pattern about Russian forces in Belarus and near Ukraine’s northern border on Jan. 10, an indicator of possible Russian preparations for an offensive in northern Ukraine, though ISW assesses this course of action remains unlikely at this time;

·         Ukrainian forces continued to make gains along the Svatove-Kreminna line;

·         Russian forces conducted ground attacks across the Donetsk Oblast frontline and made gains around Soledar but have not captured the settlement, despite false claims;

·         The Kremlin continues to deny that Russian authorities are preparing for another wave of partial mobilization;

·         Russian occupation authorities are struggling to contain an effective partisan movement in occupied territories.

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