Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, January 9, 2023

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Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, January 9, 2023

Jan 9, 2023 – Press ISW

Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin continues to use reports of Wagner Group success in Soledar to bolster the Wagner Group’s reputation as an effective fighting force. Wagner Group forces claimed to capture territory within Soledar over the past few days, and many Russian sources have discussed the gains as indicators that Wagner Group forces may soon encircle Bakhmut. Combat footage widely circulated on social media on January 9 shows Wagner Group fighters engaging in fierce small arms combat near the city administration building in central Soledar. Several Russian milbloggers remarked on January 8 and 9 that Wagner Group forces are responsible for block-by-block advances in Soledar and other critical settlements northeast of Bakhmut, as well as within Bakhmut. Prigozhin emphasized on January 9 that “exclusively” Wagner Group units are taking ground in Soledar, and noted that Wagner fighters are currently engaged in “fierce battles for the city administration building.” Prigozhin will continue to use both confirmed and fabricated Wagner Group success in Soledar and Bakhmut to promote the Wagner Group as the only Russian force in Ukraine capable of securing tangible gains, as ISW has previously reported.

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Iran Crisis Update, January 9, 2023

Jan 9, 2023 – Press ISW

Protest coordinators and organizations may have successfully deterred the judiciary from executing two arrested protesters in Iran on January 9. Social media accounts reported that the judiciary transferred these two protesters to solitary confinement at the Rajaei Shahr prison in Karaj with imminent plans to execute them. Citizens gathered outside the prison in the early morning hours of January 9 after protest organizers called for snap demonstrations there. The regime later denied that it planned to execute the protesters on January 9 but defended the death sentences. Persian-language social media accounts asserted that the snap demonstrations prevented the regime from conducting the executions. CTP cannot confirm whether the snap demonstrations actually delayed the executions, but their perceived success may encourage protest groups to organize additional gatherings outside prisons where arrested protesters are held.

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Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, January 8, 2023

Jan 8, 2023 – Press ISW

ISW is publishing an abbreviated campaign update today, January 8. This report discusses the Russian Ministry of Defense’s (MoD) attempts to claim that Russian forces responded to the December 31 Ukrainian strike on Russian positions in Makiivka; the Russian MoD’s use of a grievance-and-retaliation framework and the resulting creation of negative feedback loops in the pro-war Russian information space; Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin’s potential attempts to financially exploit Ukrainian natural resources around Bakhmut; and the United Kingdom Ministry of Defense’s (UK MoD) assessment that Russian forces may be preparing for Ukrainian counteroffensive actions along the Zaporizhia and Luhansk oblast frontlines.

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Iran Crisis Update, January 8, 2023

Jan 8, 2023 – Press ISW

Protest activity increased significantly on January 8—in line with the calls from protest organizers for countrywide demonstrations to commemorate the three-year anniversary of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) shooting down of a Ukrainian civilian airplane. These protests are the most that CTP has reported in a single day since December 5, 2022. Protests have seen reduced turnout in recent weeks, likely in part due to the discordant messaging and internal fissures within the protest movement. But protest coordinators and organizations aligned at least in their calls for countrywide demonstrations on January 8, demonstrating that they can still generate substantial turnout, especially when their messaging is coherent and consistent.

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Iran Crisis Update, January 7, 2023

Jan 7, 2023 – Press ISW

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei continues to empower hardline security figures to enforce his uncompromising position toward the protests and mandatory hijab law. Khamenei appointed Brigadier General Ahmad Reza Radan as law enforcement commander on January 7. Radan will thus head the Law Enforcement Command (LEC)—Iran’s national police force and first line of defense against protests. Khamenei called on Radan to provide public security, improve LEC capabilities, properly compensate LEC employees, and train specialized police units for different security missions.

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Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, January 7, 2023

Jan 7, 2023 – Press ISW

Recent Russian gains in Soledar do not portend an imminent encirclement of Bakhmut, contrary to claims made by Russian sources. Even at the most generous interpretation of Russian milblogger narratives, which claim that Russian forces are fighting on the outskirts of Razdolivka (about 6km northwest of Soledar), Russian forces are still far from being within striking distance of an operational encirclement of Bakhmut. In order to effectively cut Ukrainian ground lines of communication (GLOCs) into Bakhmut, Russian forces would have to establish control of the T0513 Siversk-Bakhmut highway (currently 7km west of the furthest point of confirmed Russian advances in the Soledar area) and reach the E40 Slovyansk-Bakhmut highway (13km from the furthest point of confirmed Russian advance in the Soledar area) at least. Considering that the recent rate of gains in this area has been on the order of a few hundred meters a day, at most, it is highly unlikely that Russian forces will be successful in cohering a mechanized push towards these GLOCs and move towards encircling Bakhmut. Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut would still have GLOCs available even if the Russians cut the E40, moreover, making the entire discussion of an encirclement at this point bizarre.

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