January 12, 2023

Sitrep for January 11-12 (as of 1:00 p.m.)

The situation on the frontline

Independent military experts analyzed the data on Soledar and concluded that the town was almost completely captured. For example, OSINT analyst Def Mon marks almost the entire area of Soledar as controlled by pro-Russian forces on the map. This is confirmed by a geolocated video presumably showing Wagner Group mercenaries walking quite safely along the western outskirts of Soledar.

Contrary to the statements of Yevgeny Prigozhin [Russian oligarch, the confidant of Vladimir Putin and owner of the Wagner Group] about the complete capture of Soledar and his claims that the Wagner Group is the only unit to make a merit of that, the Russian Ministry of Defense reported on Jan. 11 that the airborne troops had blocked Soledar from north and south, assault squads were fighting in the city, and the Russian Aerospace Forces supported the offensive, inflicting attacks on enemy strongpoints. Neither the "People's Militia of the LPR and DPR", nor the Wagner Group were mentioned in this statement.

Thus, this report officially confirms that the pro-Russian forces had a sudden success on this axis due to the arrival of paratroopers.

Let us recall that Soledar is important primarily as a town the capture of which (together with nearby settlements) makes it possible for the RuAF to advance towards Sloviansk and cuts off two of the three supply routes for Bakhmut. Ukrainian forces might try to counterattack or hold the territories under their control, but they may as well decide to retreat and report this post factum.

On Jan. 11, pro-Russian Telegram channels reported that the body of British volunteer Chris Parry reported missing a few days earlier, had been found in Soledar together with documents in the name of another Briton — volunteer Andrew Bagshaw. According to Prigozhin, who posted photos of the documents, Parry was found armed and wearing gear, which indicates he was a serviceman of a Ukrainian battalion. If this is true (no visual evidence has been presented yet), then he is equated with a combatant.

The Russian Defense Ministry has claimed the capture of the village of Pidhorodne, which is located between Bakhmut and Soledar. A number of military analysts, including Def Mon, believe that this statement may be true since the village is located in a lowland area surrounded by heights, which makes holding it extremely difficult and meaningless. It would be more important for the AFU to hold two heights near Pidhorodne.

Currently, there is no Russian advance to the south of Bakhmut. In this area, it is most important to keep an eye on Klishchiivka because its capture (along with the fortifications to the west of it) is necessary to encircle Bakhmut, as this is the only way to cut off another supply route that runs southwest toward Kostyantynivka.

One of the main topics at the moment is a reform of the Russian "special military operation" command structure. Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov became commander of the group of Russian troops (it is not a demotion, he now holds two positions). Sergey Surovikin, the former commander of the group of troops, has been appointed Gerasimov's deputy and also remains Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Aerospace Forces. It is not very clear what these changes are connected with. It  is more likely to be an expansion of the command center than a removal of Surovikin as no serious incidents that could lead to his removal have happened recently.

It is worth mentioning the appointment of new Gerasimov's deputy commanders: in addition to Surovikin. They are Commander-in-Chief of the Ground Forces, Army General Oleg Salyukov, and Deputy Chief of the General Staff, Colonel General Aleksey Kim.

Interestingly, the order on this appointment states that the Commander-in-Chief of the Ground Forces will be deputy commander of the group of troops, that is, in case of Salyukov's temporary absence, Aleksandr Lapin will become deputy commander of the group of troops.

According to Yaroslav Yanushevych [Head of the Kherson region], a shell hit a local perinatal center in Kherson on Jan. 11. The blast wave knocked out windows and caused a fire. But fortunately, there were no casualties. We remind you that the bombing of a medical facility is a war crime.

Meduza [independent Russian media outlet] published photos by a Reuters photographer showing the aftermath of a strike on the building of vocational school No. 19 in Makiivka on New Year's Eve, where at least 89 people were killed.

Samara regional authorities prohibited publishing a list of draftees killed in Makiivka (allegedly due to information security concerns).

At the first meeting of the Russian Government this year, President Putin indirectly acknowledged an attack on Lantrativka, Luhansk region, which resulted in numerous deaths among workers building trenches. He hailed the "heroic actions of those who were building defensive structures" and urged officials to aid their families.

On Jan. 11, a meeting of the heads of Ukraine, Lithuania, and Poland took place in Lviv. After the meeting, Polish President Duda announced that his country would provide Ukraine with a company of Leopard 2 tanks (NATO has 14 tanks per company).

Politico reports that German chancellor Olaf Scholz is holding off on making a decision regarding the supply of Leopard tanks to Ukraine until the United States shows leadership in this regard. In the past months, Ukraine has asked the United States to transfer several Abrams tanks in order to encourage Europe to supply heavy armor, but the Pentagon refused, as these tanks would become a burden for Ukraine's Armed Forces and besides, they contain technologies that cannot be exported. Unfortunately, the Leopard 2 tanks promised by Poland cannot be delivered without Germany's consent. Perhaps the delivery of Challenger 2 tanks by the UK will help to get this consent.

The Foreign Policy magazine reports (citing unnamed sources in the US and Europe) that Turkey began sending so-called dual-purpose improved conventional munitions (DPICMs) to Ukraine in late 2022. These munitions were made in Turkey during the Cold War era under a co-production agreement with the United States. The weapons are designed to destroy tanks by bursting into 88 smaller submunitions. The United States is barred from exporting DPICMs under U.S. law because of their high dud rate (they linger on the battlefield for years if they do not immediately explode).

The Turkish authorities deny the supply of such munitions to Ukraine and call the article a provocation that harms the image of Turkey and its relations with Ukraine.

We have not yet seen evidence of the supply of such munitions in open sources.

Germany will provide Ukraine with another 20 million euros for the purchase of 10,000 Starlink terminals; a third of them will be handed over to the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and the rest will go to civilian purposes: “Invincibility Points” [heating centers], hospitals, and schools.

Pentagon spokesman Patrick S. Ryder said the Bradley infantry fighting vehicles would arrive in Ukraine within the next few weeks. However, the Pentagon is not going to announce the exact date of delivery. Ukrainian soldiers will be trained to operate these IFVs as part of their general training in Germany.

Lithuanian President Gitanas NausÄ—da claimed that Ukraine would receive Bofors L/70 40mm automatic anti-aircraft guns (designed in 1950s) and ammunition. Unfortunately, it is not specified which radar systems are compatible with them, so we do not yet know how effective these anti-aircraft guns will be.

Swiss open-source data analyst Benjamin Pittet has posted a satellite image of the airport in Berdyansk, which is now being repurposed by Russian forces into an airbase. At least 17 helicopters and various fortifications are visible in the image. According to Pittet, the air base located in the village of Chaplynka on the border of Crimea and the Kherson region is being redeployed to this airport, which now falls within HIMARS target range.

A meeting between Ukrainian Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets and his Russian counterpart Tatyana Moskalkova took place in Turkey. They discussed issues of providing humanitarian assistance to citizens of both countries. The sides are reported to have also agreed upon the “40 for 40” prisoner exchange. Who will be exchanged is not specified (it was believed prior to the meeting that civilians convicted in criminal cases would be on the agenda).

A Russian serviceman, who in March 2022 tried to smuggle weapons across the border of Ukraine and Russia, got his illegal border crossing and weapon trafficking sentence overturned after the sham referendum on the annexation of the occupied territories.

Volunteer Alexander Leshkov, who pushed an officer in Patriot Park, was sentenced to 5.5 years in a maximum security penal colony.

Belarusian Hajun project, citing the Community of Railway Workers in Belarus, reports that some of the mobilized soldiers trained near Gomel are being deployed to the Podgornoye station in the Voronezh region (about 100 km from the border with the Luhansk region). This may be an indirect confirmation that these troops are not meant for a new attack on Kyiv: they have been in Belarus because there aren’t enough training grounds and instructors in Russia to train all those conscripted.

Earlier, Shoigu suggested reforming the regular biannual conscription period by raising the lower limit from 18 to 21 years and the upper from 27 to 30 years. Chairman of the State Duma Defense Committee Andrey Kartapolov announced plans to draft into the army people under the age of 30 during the spring 2023 draft already. The lower limit is not moved yet, so citizens from 18 to 30 years old are subject to conscription.

Many people asked us to comment on the video, which was made by someone from the pro-Russian side during a battle, as it is claimed, near Bakhmut. In the video, a man shooting it demanded two Ukrainian soldiers to surrender, but they didn't surrender, and the soldier killed them.

We don’t see in this case, a military crime from the point of view of legislation and warfare rules. If you want to surrender, you must drop your weapon and clearly show you are surrendering and raise your hands up. Ukrainian soldiers (probably, being in a state of shock) didn’t do this. Moreover, one of them grabbed his assault rifle; thus, he showed he didn’t surrender and continued to fight. Thereby, it was an ordinary situation on the battlefield, as a result of which Ukrainian soldiers were killed.