January 10, 2023

Sitrep for January 9-10 (as of 2:30 p.m.)

The situation on the frontline

Pro-Russian forces are trying to capture the settlements of Krasna Hora, Blahodatne and Pidhorodne located between Bakhmut and Soledar in order to cut off two of Bakhmut's three supply routes: to Siversk and Sloviansk.

Yuriy Butusov, Ukrainian journalist and editor-in-chief of the censor.net.ua website, confirms the success of Russian troops in Soledar. According to him, they "reached a position from which they could fire at the main supply route of Soledar." Although the town has not been completely surrounded yet, this situation leads to supply problems.

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in another video address thanked Ukrainian servicemen defending Bakhmut and Soledar, and said that their resilience had helped to win extra time for Ukraine and provide additional forces. In our opinion, such words mean that the AFU might retreat from Soledar in the near future.

Although at first glance the situation in Bakhmut and Soledar is somewhat reminiscent of one in Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, the consequences of the withdrawal of troops from Soledar could be much more significant. Among other things, this will make it possible for the RuAF to advance towards Sloviansk and endanger Bakhmut. However, the AFU command may have good reasons for making such a decision.

It is also an open question what impact new deliveries of military vehicles and weapons will have on this situation.

We consider the area of the single-family residential neighborhood shaded in red in the satellite image of Soledar to be under the control of pro-Russian forces (Wagner mercenaries and, possibly, paratroopers). The yellow circle marks the only part of the town with multi-storey buildings. Fighting for this area is underway now, which is confirmed by several videos. One of them shows a departing military vehicle of the AFU.

Fierce battles continue on the Donetsk axis, but so far, neither side has made any progress. The AFU repelled Russian attacks near Vodiane, Pervomaiske, Marinka, Pobieda, and Novomykhailivka.

Details of a strike on Marinka with thermite incendiary munitions have appeared (perhaps it was a strike on Jan. 5, which we mentioned in yesterday's sitrep). The Mash na Donbasse [Mash in Donbas] Telegram channel published a video of “night strikes on a settlement” with thermite incendiary munitions, where separatist intelligence had allegedly discovered a concentration of personnel. Thus, the "People's Militia of the DPR" exposed their own war crime.

Russian forces launched a powerful missile attack on the town of Ochakiv in the Mykolaiv region that caused an explosion, which was heard even in the Kherson region. As a result, more than 100 houses were damaged and 8 people were injured. According to Head of the Mykolaiv Regional Military Administration Vitalii Kim, Russian Kh-47M2 Kinzhal hypersonic aero-ballistic air-to-surface missiles hit the underground storage of anti-ship missiles [actually mines — CIT] left over from the time of World War II.

News on the "released" convicts

Members of the Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights have sent requests to the Federal Penitentiary Service and the Prosecutor General's Office  about the legitimacy of recruiting convicts by the Wagner Group and using them at war. The agencies refused to answer on the merits citing the articles of  the Criminal Code,  the Constitution and the regulations of the Federal Penitentiary Service's work.

The Human Rights Council member, Eva Merkachyova, reported that, according to the relatives of convicts, Putin had granted them pardon before their departure to the frontline. Meanwhile, the presidential pardon decrees are not published, since they contain information that is a state secret.

Olga Romanova, Executive Director of the civil rights movement Rus’ Sidyashchaya [Russia Behind Bars] tells what exactly she knows about the "released" convicts. According to her, every convict has a special tattoo, which is the mark of the Wagner Group. All the convicts have signed a renewal contract with the group and received push-button cell phones, via which they will be called back to the frontline after 45 days. Those convicts who didn't sign their renewals, died at the frontline. They show pardon documents signed Jul. 6 (they were recruited on Jul. 4-5), while on court websites they are still listed as convicts with sentences and  criminal records. As soon as the "ex-convicts" arrived home, they  received calls from the Federal Penitentiary Service or were visited by the district police officers and were ordered to come for administrative supervision.

Relatives of the prisoners recruited by the Wagner Group write to the Federal Penitentiary Service requesting information on the whereabouts of their close ones. In response, they are told that these convicts have allegedly refused to provide information about their location, and therefore, according to the provisions of the law on personal data, it is impossible to provide such information.

According to Igor Kalyapin, the founder of the Committee Against Torture human rights organization, since the fall of 2022, convicts from the Nizhny Novgorod region began to be transported directly to penal colonies in the Luhansk region.

Mobilization news

In July, a resident of Crimea Anatoly Kim went to Mariupol to work at a construction site and help with wreckage removal (the Russian authorities offer quite a lot of money for such work by Crimean standards), but he was sent to the frontline, where he was wounded. Now his sister is trying to get compensation, which they refuse to pay since the man was not officially mobilized.

Two large tents were recently set up (already after the end of the fall draft) in the yard of a military commissariat [enlistment office] in the Chkalovsky district of Yekaterinburg. According to employees of the military commissariat, these tents are needed "for the organization of service activities."

Arms supply news

Ukraine asked Georgia to return Buk SAM systems transferred in 2008, but the Georgian authorities refused on the grounds that these air defense systems were paid for then. Ukraine's request also included Javelin anti-tank systems sent to Georgia by the United States (the U.S. agreed to their transfer).

SkyNews writes that the U.K. is considering supplying ten Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine. We believe that the supply of such tanks is only good for breaking the taboo on the supply of heavy weapons, so that other countries, which have tanks, would not fear escalation. Apart from the fact that the delivery of Challenger 2 tanks will lead to problems with spare parts and logistics (which are always aggravated when Ukraine gets any new weaponry), the Challenger 2 tank weighs 75 tons (for comparison, the T-72B3M tank weighs about 47 tons). Soviet-built bridges are designed to carry up to 50 tons; Ukraine's trawls are also not capable of carrying such heavy vehicles; moreover, there may be problems with oversize during the transportation of such tanks by rail.

The Prime Minister of Sweden claimed that his country will soon supply Ukraine with Archer self-propelled howitzers, which are considered the most modern in the world.

The Czech Republic is sending a new batch of upgraded T-72 tanks to Ukraine. Prime Minister Petr Fiala wrote a dedication to “Brave defenders of Ukraine” on the barrel of one of the tanks.

News emerged about a meeting being planned between Ukrainian Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets and his Russian counterpart Tatyana Moskalkova. It may take place in Turkey between Jan. 12 and 14. Talks on the return of civilians prosecuted in criminal cases are on the proposed agenda.

General Lapin was appointed Chief of Staff of the Ground Forces. This is an honorary position, which has no real power in the structure of the Russian Army. The Command of the Ground Forces is not involved in making strategically important decisions in the "special operation", and operational-strategic command is conducted by officers in other positions. Contrary to the hypotheses of some political scientists that thus Putin supported the military brass in their conflict with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and Russian oligarch, confidant of Vladimir Putin, and the owner of the Wagner Group Yevgeny Prigozhin, we believe that this is just an ordinary manifestation of the rule “generals from the Russian Armed Forces are not fired for mistakes.”

Photos have appeared from the funeral of RIA FAN [Internet news agency linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin] journalist Kirill Romanovsky. In them a large number of awards may be seen, including two Orders of Courage and a number of awards from the Wagner group, as well as a dog tag, which indicates that Romanovsky might have been an ordinary mercenary prior to journalist career. There was also an honor guard at his funeral.