For the first time in six months of the war, Russia has achieved success – it claims to have captured the city of Soledar. But strategically, this does not affect anything yet. Analysis of the situation at the front on the 330th day of the full-scale inva…
In January, the Russian army was able to almost capture a city for the first time since the summer of 2022 – Soledar in Donetsk Oblast. Before that, the Russians had only occupied villages and towns. Although Soledar was home to only 10,000 people before the invasion, its loss will significantly complicate the defense of Bakhmut. The battle for Soledar lasted about six months. This is the first significant Russian success at the front in six months, but strategically it does not change anything and does not mean the loss of Bakhmut. However, the Russians are gradually moving closer to cutting off all supply lines to the Ukrainian military in this city. Although from a strategic point of view, Bakhmut is no longer of great importance. It was important for the Russians to capture it when they were still in Izyum and advancing on Sloviansk. Back then, they needed this town to reach Sloviansk and Kramatorsk from several directions. Now the Russians do not have the Izyum group. The possible loss of Bakhmut could lead to the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from some areas, such as the city of Siversk, to avoid encirclement. But this would mean neither a breakthrough in the defense nor a “finish line” for the capture of Donbas.
Russian massive missile attacks
Russian troops continue their tactics of massive missile attacks on Ukraine, mostly targeting energy facilities. Previously, the occupiers fired 60 to 80 missiles in one attack, but now they fire about 40 missiles. Now the Russians are trying to change their tactics. A serious problem for them has been the Ukrainian air defense, which has learned to shoot down most high-precision cruise missiles, such as Kalibr, X-101, and X-555. The lack of missiles is forcing the Russians to look for new tactics.
On January 14, Russians began firing anti-aircraft missiles from S-400 systems at Kyiv. These are the most advanced of Russia’s air defense systems, whose main purpose is to shoot down air targets. However, it has now become clear that, like the S-300, they also have the ability to hit ground targets. The range of the S-400 missile is about 250 kilometers, but there is no exact data on how far it can fly when striking ground targets and what its accuracy is. The main problem is that anti-aircraft missiles are very fast and follow a ballistic trajectory. Therefore, the Ukrainian army is not yet able to shoot them down.
This is the missile that hit a high-rise building in Dnipro, collapsing the entire entrance. So far, 45 people are known to have died, but 11 people are still missing. This is not the first time the Russians have used an X-22: on June 27, such a missile fell near the Amstor shopping center in Kremenchuk, where a fire killed 21 people. Although the X-22 fell on the territory of the Kremenchuk Road Machines Plant, the likely target could have been the bridge over the Dnipro River, which is located two kilometers from Amstor. In the summer, the Russians tried to hit bridges and railroads.
On July 1, the X-22 hit near a high-rise building in the village of Serhiivka. Twenty-two people were killed. The probable target could have been the bridge over the Dniester estuary, which is 10 kilometers from Serhiivka. On August 24, a Russian X-22 hit on a rural road near Myrhorod five kilometers from the local military airfield.
The probable target of the strike in Dnipro could have been the Prydniprovska TPP, which the Russians have repeatedly shelled. But the X-22 again missed its target by about four kilometers and hit a building. Most likely, the Russians realize that they cannot achieve their goal of completely destroying Ukraine’s energy system with their precision missiles, so they use super-powerful missiles that are difficult for Ukrainian air defense to shoot down.
Replacement of the Commander of Russian troops and mobilization
On January 11, Russia again replaced the commander of the invading forces in Ukraine. Russia has again changed the commander of all its troops in Ukraine. They will now be led by Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov, who is the commander-in-chief of the entire army. Gerasimov replaced Sergei Surovikin, who was appointed on October 8 and is best remembered for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Kherson and tactics of massive missile strikes on the Ukrainian energy system. Telegram channels close to the Russian Defense Ministry criticized Surovikin after his dismissal for having spent a huge amount of Russian precision missile stockpiles but failed to destroy Ukraine’s power grid.
Ukrainian intelligence and the Defense Ministry report that Russians are preparing a new wave of mobilization to launch a large-scale offensive in the near future. Initially, the head of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine, Kirill Budanov, named the following date as a possible date for the announcement of a new mobilization in the Russian Federation on January 5, and then on January 15. But it hasn’t happened yet. It seems that in this way Ukraine is trying to force Russia to constantly postpone the mobilization and change its timing.
Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief Valeriy Zaluzhny and the General Staff emphasize that the Russians are preparing for another massive offensive. This is why they need mobilization. Intelligence sources say that Putin has set Gerasimov the task of capturing the entire Donbas by March. Then, the Russians may launch a large-scale offensive in Zaporizhzhia region. . A possible new offensive on Kyiv from Belarus, where Russian mobilized soldiers are constantly arriving, is not ruled out. But for now, it seems that they are only trained there and then go back to Russia, from where they are transferred to Donbas.
In Kharkiv region, the situation remains largely unchanged – the Russians still control a very small area in the northeast of the region, near the Russian-Ukrainian border. Ukrainian troops continue to push north toward the state border and east toward Luhansk, in particular toward the town of Svatove.
In Luhansk region, positional fighting continues near the towns of Svatove and Kreminna and along the road between them. The Russians are trying to push Ukrainian troops away, while the main goal of the Ukrainian Defense Forces is to surround these towns from several sides and cut the road between them.
The Ukrainian army is putting more effort around Kreminna. To the east and south, the city is surrounded by forests, which makes it easier for various sabotage groups to operate, but it limits the movement of heavy equipment. Fighting continues for the villages of Dibrova and Kuzmine to the east of Kreminna. Over the past few days, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces has started to mention Kreminna in the list of settlements shelled by the Russians. This means that Ukrainian troops have come within a few kilometers of the city. The Russians are aware of their precarious position around Kreminna and are sending reinforcements, including paratroopers.
On the right (southern) bank of the Siverskyi Donets River, on the administrative border of Luhansk and Donetsk regions, fighting continues for the village of Bilohorivka and the villages of Verkhnokamianske and Spirne. These settlements prevent Russians from reaching the outskirts of the city of Siversk.
The defense of Siversk became much more difficult after the Russians managed to capture almost all of Soledar. At the end of December, they occupied the village of Yakovlivka to the north of Soledar and immediately developed their offensive further. In a few days, they reached the central part of Soledar from the north. On January 5, it became known that the Russians had managed to break through the Ukrainian troops’ defenses in the area of the village of Bakhmutske, south of the city. As a result, the Defense Forces had to retreat to the central part of Soledar.
Having reached the center of Soledar from three sides at once, the Russians engaged in urban fighting with Ukrainian troops. At the same time, other units continued to bypass Soledar to enter the western part of the city and cut off supply lines. On the way, they also captured the village of Pidhorodne, northeast of Bakhmut, and are currently fighting for the village of Krasna Hora.
Photos and videos of Russians have already appeared in the western parts of Soledar, in particular near mine No. 7. They are also already in the area of the Sil railway station, which is also administratively part of Soledar. Ukrainian troops are likely to have withdrawn west of the Bakhmut-Siversk road and settled in the hills there.
The loss of Soledar creates a serious gap in the defense of the Ukrainian cities of Bakhmut and Siversk. After capturing Soledar, the Russians attempt to advance north toward Siversk and further west to cut the Bakhmut-Slaviansk road.
This rapid advance has allowed the Russians to launch an offensive along all the eastern outskirts of Bakhmut. Fighting is already underway in almost all residential areas of Bakhmut on the right bank of the Bakhmutka River. In addition, if the Russians do reach the Bakhmut-Slaviansk highway, they will be able to launch an offensive on the city from the north.
South of Bakhmut, the situation is also deteriorating. Heavy fighting continues for the village of Klishchiyivka, specifically for a strong fortified area of Ukrainian troops on the hill behind it. The Russians are trying to get around this fortified area from three sides simultaneously to force the Ukrainian Defense Forces to retreat. If the Russians capture Klishchiyivka, they will be able to access another important road, the Bakhmut-Konstantinovka highway. Then only one road will be left to supply Ukrainian troops in Bakhmut, the Bakhmut-Chasiv Yar road, but the Russians will be able to reach it with artillery.
Fighting continues in other areas of Donetsk region, but Russians have made almost no progress. They continue their attempts to surround Avdiivka and advance from the Donetsk airport and Pisky to the villages of Opytne, Vodiane, and Pervomaiske.
The situation is similar in Mariinka, where fighting continues in the central and western parts of the city. The Russians are also trying to advance to the north and south of the city, gaining several hundred meters in two weeks.
On the Vuhledar – Velyka Novosilka line, the front line is also unchanged, despite occasional attempts by the occupiers to advance.
Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions
The situation at the front in Zaporizhzhya region has not changed since spring. Ukrainian troops are systematically destroying Russian bases, ammunition and fuel depots, and equipment clusters. Almost every day, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reports on hits to Russian bases in Zaporizhzhia.
On December 31, the Russian Ministry of Defense reported on the alleged capture of the village of Dorozhnyanka, south of the town of Gulyaypole. No photos or videos have been released to confirm this. However, the Deepstate project, citing its own contacts among the military, later confirmed the loss of the village. Before the Russian offensive, it was actually in the “gray zone”.
The situation in the Kherson region is not changing either. Here, the frontline has stabilized along the Dnipro River and is not likely to change until Ukrainian troops begin to liberate Zaporizhzhia region. Kherson itself is shelled by Russians almost daily with artillery and multiple launch rocket systems. This situation will continue until the Ukrainian army liberates the left-bank Kherson region.