Russia's advances near Bakhmut in Donetsk Oblast have likely slowed in recent days, although it is too early to tell if Russia's efforts to take the city are reaching their end, the Institute for the Study of War said in its latest update.
According to the D.C.-based think tank, Russian military bloggers reported that Ukrainian forces in the area have succeeded in slowing down Russian advances, with one saying that Ukraine had pushed back units of the Kremlin-controlled paramilitary organization Wagner Group to previous positions.
The ISW wrote that it has "assessed that Russian forces made slightly fewer overall advances in the Bakhmut area in November and December combined as compared to the month of October."
President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Dec. 20 that Bakhmut in Donetsk Oblast remains the "hottest point" out of the entire 1,300-kilometer front line. Seizing Bakhmut could allow Russian forces to launch attacks on urban areas such as Kramatorsk and Sloviansk in Donetsk Oblast.
The Wagner Group, which has been conducting a large portion of Russian operations around Bakhmut, uses many poorly-trained convicts it recruited to fight against Ukraine in an attempt to take the city, the U.K. Defense Ministry previously reported.