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ISW: Russian troops remain far from encircling Bakhmut

by The Kyiv Independent news desk January 8, 2023 6:14 AM 2 min read
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Russia's recent offensive in Soledar in Donetsk Oblast does not indicate an imminent encirclement of Bakhmut, contrary to Russian propagandists' claims that Russia had taken Soledar, the Institute for the Study of War said in its latest update.

Russian sources on Jan. 7 claimed that Wagner Group, a Kremlin-controlled mercenary group, had allegedly broken through Ukrainian lines of defense in Soledar, just north of Bakhmut, and was fighting Ukrainian forces in the town.

Wagner's founder Yevgeny Prigozhin, Russian oligarch, Putin confidant, and former convict, also claimed that the group was about to capture the town.

Later the Ukrainian military said it still controlled Soledar despite Russia's violent assaults on the town.

According to the ISW, even the claims from Russian military bloggers that Russian forces are fighting on the outskirts of Razdolivka, about six kilometers northwest of Soledar, do not signal that Russian forces are close to being within striking distance to be able to encircle Bakhmut.

In order to cut Ukrainian ground lines of communication to access Bakhmut, Russian forces would have to establish control of the T0513 Siversk-Bakhmut highway, located seven kilometers west of the furthest point of confirmed Russian advances in the Soledar area, the ISW said. Russian troops would then have to reach the E40 Slovyansk-Bakhmut highway, 13 kilometers from the furthest point of confirmed Russian advance in the Soledar area.

Considering the recent rate of Russian gains in the area has been around a few hundred meters per day at most, it is highly unlikely that Russian forces will be able to organize themselves to push toward these lines and encircle Bakhmut, the ISW assessed.

At any rate, the ISW said, Ukrainian forces would still have other ground lines of communication available, so any discussion of encirclement is at this moment a moot point.

The battle of Bakhmut has gone on for more than five months as Russian forces throw manpower and artillery at the town in an effort to capture it. Both Ukrainian and Russian forces have sustained major losses, but Bakhmut has remained Ukraine’s main fortress in Donetsk Oblast.

Bakhmut is also major transportation hub, making it a valuable target for Russia.

On Jan. 7, Prigozhin said he wanted to take over the Bakhmut and Soledar area for their rich resources and "underground cities." Soledar is the site of the Soledar Salt Mine. Its scale is vast and includes an underground concert hall.

As Battle of Bakhmut nears culmination, Ukraine’s artillery gasps for more ammo
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