Russian forces have reportedly made advances near Bakhmut, and Ukrainian troops are being surrounded by mercenaries fighting for Moscow.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) noted on Friday that Russian sources and military bloggers reported that Wagner Group troops had broken through in Soledar, some 11 miles from the Donetsk Oblast town that had been the subject of months of fighting .
Although it was too early to say if Soledar had been fully captured, one milblogger claimed that Russian troops had advanced as far as Krasnopillia, about two and a half miles to the north-west, and that “the Ukrainian detachment at Bakhmut escaped from an encirclement a result is threatened.”
However, the ISW said in its daily update that it “has not yet observed any visual information to support these Russian claims.”
Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin stressed that it was “exclusively” his troops who made these alleged gains, although talk of taking Soledar outright was “premature,” he said in a statement on his Social -Media channel Telegram.
Newsweek has reached out to the Russian and Ukrainian defense ministries for comment.
The US think tank also said that Russian officials and milbloggers had reacted “negatively” to Vladimir Putin’s Jan. 5 ceasefire announcement, which was followed by ongoing hostilities.
British Defense Officers said on Saturday that fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces continued at “routine levels” well into the Orthodox Christmas season, with some of the fiercest fighting around the Luhansk Oblast town of Kremina.
Hostilities were concentrated in densely forested terrain west of the city, where “fighting has centered on dismounted infantry fighting, often at short range”.
Russian forces “most likely see the pressure around Kremina as a threat to the right flank of their Bakhmut sector,” and this is important for any future advance to occupy the rest of Donetsk Oblast.
Mikhail Razvozhaev, the Russian-installed governor of the occupied Crimean city of Sevastopol, said air defenses shot down a drone in an apparent attack on the port where Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is based in the early hours of Saturday.
Meanwhile, the White House’s announcement of a $3.75 billion US arms package for Kyiv, including Bradley combat vehicles for the first time, drew little reaction from Russian officials and war bloggers.
This was because the Kremlin was more intent on pushing a narrative about the impact of Western military aid on specific operations in Ukraine than focusing on specific weapon systems or red lines, the ISW said.
https://www.newsweek.com/russia-ukraine-bakhmut-wagner-prigozhin-surrounded-1772032 Ukrainian forces are surrounded by Wagner troops in Bakhmut – ISW