What Is the Current Situation on the Frontline?

January 11, 2023
UkraineWorld spoke to Oleh Zhdanov, military expert.

Key points — in our brief, #UkraineWorldAnalysis: 

1. On the situation around Bakhmut and Soledar

  • Russian troops want to bypass Bakhmut from the north and break through our lines between Soledar and Bakhmut in order to enter the operational space in the direction of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk. They failed to take Bakhmut and suffered a serious defeat, so they have now concentrated on Soledar.
  • PMC Wagner, as Russia's most combat-ready force, has moved from Bakhmut to Soledar. For the regular Russian army, this is a burden and a weakening of the offensive potential of their troops, since they have remained in their positions near Bakhmut.

2. On the conflict between the Russian military and the executive power

  • There is a conflict between military personnel and private mercenaries at the grassroots level, because while Wagnerites are using the T-90, the regular army is already resorting to old Soviet tanks. But at the level of management between Surovikin and Prigozhin, harmony reigns, because the provision of private companies like Wagner is done entirely at the expense of the Russian Armed Forces.
  • There is a conflict between Prigozhin and Shoigu, for shifting responsibility for the failure of the missions assigned to the Russian Armed Forces.
  • Surovikin is able to make the General Staff dependent on him, since he makes decisions on the spot. The Ministry of Defense is the body that ensures the fulfillment of these tasks, and responsibility for any failure will be on the Ministry of Defense.
  • Prigozhin and Surovikin are trying to win Putin's trust in order to usurp the authority currently held by the leadership of the Russian Armed Forces. For this, they need a victory on the battlefield, and for this, a success by Wagner would be more important than a success by Russia's regular forces.

3. On a future Russian offensive

  • There are 3 probable directions of a future Russian offensive: on the Belorussian front, on the Kharkiv front, and on the Donetsk front. The latter is the most realistic, since Russia's ability to create a 100,000-strong group of forces for an offensive from Belarus is doubtful. Their next offensive may come at the end of February.
  • The situation around the left bank of the Dnipro remains difficult, as weapons are needed, and weather conditions are not conducive to crossing the Dnipro.
  • On the left bank of Zaporizhzhya and Kherson Oblasts, we are systematically destroying Russian supplies and logistics, using the same tactics as we did on the right bank of the Dnipro.
  • There is a question of announcing the second wave of mobilization. Russia plans to call up as many as 500,000 servicemen, which will take about 3 months. If you recall the previous mobilization, Russia took in 300,000 personnel in 2.5 months. Putin's dream is to assemble 2 million soldiers by the end of the year. Theoretically, Russia has a military reserve of 17 million people, but the problem is that there is no ability to arm the people they mobilize.
Oleh Zhdanov, military expert

This material was prepared with financial support from the International Renaissance Foundation.

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