ISW: Russian troops’ likely capture of Ukraine’s Soledar will not lead to encirclement of Bakhmut

Russian forces have likely captured the city of Soledar, Donetsk region, however, that will unlikely lead to the city of Bakhmut being encircled, the US Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reports in its daily bulletin.

Russian troops are controlling most if not all of Soledar, and have likely pushed Ukrainian forces out of the western outskirts of the city, the ISW experts note.

Russia’s Defence Ministry has not reported the capture of Soledar by Russian forces, however, the Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov congratulated Russian troops on a successful offensive in the city, ISW writes.

“All available evidence indicates Ukrainian forces no longer maintain an organized defense in Soledar. <…>

“Russian information operations have overexaggerated the importance of Soledar, which is at best a Russian Pyrrhic tactical victory.

“ISW continues to assess that the capture of Soledar—a settlement smaller than 5.5 square miles—will not enable Russian forces to exert control over critical Ukrainian ground lines of communication (GLOCs) into Bakhmut nor better position Russian forces to encircle the city in the short term,” ISW reports.

Russian troops likely captured Soledar by using significant resources to achieve a tactical success, which “will accelerate degraded Russian forces’ likely culmination near Bakhmut”.

“Russian forces may decide to maintain a consistently high pace of assaults in the Bakhmut area, but Russian forces’ degraded combat power and cumulative exhaustion will prevent these assaults from producing operationally significant results,” ISW concludes.

Furthermore, “authorities” of the self-proclaimed Donetsk “people’s republic” claim that Russian troops put Bakhmut in an “operational encirclement”. There has been no confirmation of this information neither from Russia nor Ukraine.

Soledar is a city in the Donetsk region of Ukraine located close to the city of Bakhmut.

On 10 January, the press office of Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of private military company Wagner, claimed that the Wagner units had taken control over the entire territory of Soledar. However, Deputy Defence Minister of Ukraine Anna Maliar said that “heavy fighting” was continuing over the city. On 11 January, Russia’s Defence Ministry confirmed the Ukrainian statement, saying that fighting was still going on in the city.

American company Maxar Technologies posted satellite images of Soledar from 1 August 2022 and 10 January 2023. Only debris is left of what once were buildings.

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