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    Russians aim for operational pause

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    Ukrainian forces have probably managed to slow down Russian attacks in the Bakhmut region. The adversary will seek an operational or tactical pause in the region, assesses the US Institute for the Study of War (ISW) in a report.

    “Russian forces’ rate of advance in the Bakhmut area has likely slowed in recent days, although it is too early to assess whether the Russian offensive to capture Bakhmut has culminated,” ISW writes.

    Citing Russian ‘war bloggers’, ISW writes that Ukrainian forces have succeeded in slowing down the Russians somewhat in the Bakhmut area, including – pushing out troops of the private pro-Kremlin army’s so-called Wagner Group from previously held positions. Ukrainian media, on the other hand, had claimed in previous days that they had succeeded in pushing the aggressor forces out of the eastern suburbs of the city. According to ISW, Russian advances in Bakhmut area were slightly fewer in November and December than in October.

    “Russian forces will likely struggle to maintain the pace of their offensive operations in the Bakhmut area and may seek to initiate a tactical or operational pause,” US analysts estimate.

    ISW notes that the Kremlin-linked head of the mercenary Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has called for assets to be stripped from oligarchs who do not support the war. According to analysts, this could mean preparing the conditions for the confiscation of oligarchs’ assets for the war, although it could also be another populist move by Prigozhin to strengthen his position. The idea was picked up by bloggers associated with the Wagner Group. Previously, non-patriotic oligarchs were criticised by Vladimir Putin.

    The think tank also cites Ukrainian intelligence chief Kyryla Budanov’s assessment that procedures and the chain of command are being violated in the Russian military leadership, and that Prigozhin has allied himself with the commander of the Russian war in Ukraine, Sergei Surovikin, against Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu.

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