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    Content Assessment: Götterdämmerung for Wagner? Russo-Ukrainian War Update (January 17 - 23, 2023)

    Information - 92%
    Insight - 93%
    Relevance - 90%
    Objectivity - 94%
    Authority - 95%

    93%

    Excellent

    A short percentage-based assessment of the qualitative benefit of the post highlighting the recent Ukraine conflict assessments in maps from the Institute for the Study of War.

    Editor’s Note: The discipline of eDiscovery, which involves the identification, preservation, and analysis of electronic data, is increasingly being used in investigations and litigation relating to war crimes. In the case of the Russo-Ukrainian War, eDiscovery tools and techniques can be used to identify and collect electronic evidence of war crimes, such as emails, social media posts, and other digital communications that may provide valuable insights into the actions of individuals and organizations involved in the conflict. This evidence can then be used in investigations and legal proceedings to hold perpetrators of war crimes accountable for their actions. Additionally, eDiscovery can help to efficiently and effectively manage the vast amount of electronic evidence that may be relevant to war crimes cases, allowing investigators and legal teams to quickly and accurately analyze the data to identify key pieces of information. This weekly update may be useful for cybersecurity, information governance, and legal discovery professionals as they consider investigations and litigation resulting from war crimes committed during the war.


    Background Note: One of the most accurate and detailed sources for ongoing updates on the Ukraine crisis is the Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment from the Institute for the Study of War. The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) is a 501(c)(3) organization and produces strictly non-partisan, non-ideological, fact-based research. ISW seeks to promote an informed understanding of war and military affairs through comprehensive, independent, and accessible open-source research and analysis. ISW’s research is made available to the general public, military practitioners, policymakers, and media members. Providing a daily synthesis of key events related to the Russian aggression against Ukraine, ISW updates may benefit investigators and litigators as they follow the business, information technology, and legal trends and trajectories impacted by and stemming from the current Russo-Ukrainian conflict.

    Assessment and Maps*

    Russo-Ukrainian Conflict Assessments – An Overview in Maps

    General Assessment Background Info 

    • ISW systematically publishes Russian campaign assessments that include maps highlighting the assessed control of terrain in Ukraine and main Russian maneuver axes.
    • These maps augment daily synthetic products that cover key events related to renewed Russian aggression against Ukraine.

    The Russian Offensive Campaign Assessments

    • January 23, 2023
    • By Karolina Hird, George Barros, Kateryna Stepanenko, Layne Philipson, and Frederick W. Kagan

    Key Development

    • Ukrainian intelligence assessed that Russian forces are preparing for an offensive effort in the spring or early summer of 2023, partially confirming ISW’s standing assessment that Russian troops may undertake a decisive action in the coming months.

    Key Takeaways

    • Ukrainian intelligence assessed that Russian forces are preparing for an offensive effort in the spring or early summer of 2023, partially confirming ISW’s standing assessment that Russian troops may undertake a decisive action in the coming months.
    • The Wagner Group’s outsized reliance on recruitment from penal colonies appears to be having increasing ramifications on Wagner’s combat capability.
    • Russia continues to deepen military and economic relations with Iran in an effort to engage in mutually beneficial sanctions evasion.
    • Russian forces continued limited counterattacks to regain lost positions along the Svatove-Kreminna line.
    • Ukrainian forces struck Russian concentration areas in occupied Luhansk Oblast.
    • Russian forces continued ground attacks around Bakhmut and on the western outskirts of Donetsk City.
    • Russian forces likely conducted a failed offensive operation in Zaporizhia Oblast in the last 72 hours.
    • Russian forces have not made any confirmed territorial gains in Zaporizhia Oblast despite one Russian occupation official’s continued claims. The occupation official may be pushing a narrative of Russian tactical successes in Zaporizhia Oblast to generate positive narratives to distract Russians from the lack of promised progress in Bakhmut.
    • The Kremlin’s efforts to professionalize the Russian Armed Forces are continuing to generate criticism among supporters of new Russian parallel military structures.
    • Russian officials and occupation authorities continue efforts to integrate occupied territories into Russian social, administrative, and political systems and crack down on partisan dissent in occupied areas.

    Read the complete update.


    • January 22, 2023
    • By Kateryna Stepanenko and Frederick W. Kagan

    Key Development

    • Wagner financier Yevgeny Prigozhin’s star has begun to set after months of apparent rise following his failure to make good on promises of capturing Bakhmut with his own forces.

    Key Takeaways

    • Russian State Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin made uncredible threats of nuclear escalation as part of an ongoing information operation aimed at deterring the Western provision of further military aid to Ukraine. ISW continues to assess that Russia is very unlikely to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine and extraordinarily unlikely to use them against the West.
    • Russian milbloggers on January 22 continued to discuss the potential of a pending major Russian or Ukrainian offensive and speculated as to which areas present the highest priority targets.
    • Russian forces continued limited counterattacks to regain lost positions along the Svatove-Kreminna line on January 22. Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces struck an industrial facility in Kadiivka, Luhansk Oblast with HIMARS rockets.
    • Russian forces continued offensive operations in the Bakhmut and the Donetsk City-Avdiivka areas.
    • Russian sources claimed on January 22 that Russian forces continued offensive operations in two directions in Zaporizhia Oblast, with their main efforts focusing on Hulyaipole and Orikhiv. Head of the Ukrainian Joint Press Center of the Tavrisk Direction Defense Forces Yevhen Yerin stated on January 22 that Russian forces are not conducting large-scale operations in the Zaporizhia direction.
    • Russian occupation authorities continued commandeering civilian infrastructure in occupied territories at the expense of civilian health and safety on January 22.

    Read the complete update.


    • January 21, 2023
    • By Karolina Hird, Grace Mappes, Angela Howard, George Barros, and Frederick W. Kagan

    Key Development

    • Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin has launched a series of information operations aimed at portraying himself as a sacrificial hero of Russia in a crusade against petty and corrupt Russian authorities.

    Key Takeaways

    • The Ukrainian defense of Bakhmut is likely a strategically sound effort despite its costs for Ukraine.
    • Milblogger discourse surrounding the reported replacement of Colonel General Mikhail Teplinsky with Lieutenant General Oleg Makarevich as commander of the Russian Airborne Forces (VDV) has further emphasized the fracture between two main groups within the Russian MoD—the pro-Gerasimov camp, comprised of those who represent the conventional MoD establishment, and milblogger favorites who are less aligned with the MoD institution. The milblogger discourse on this issue additionally offers insight into internal Russian MoD dynamics that may have led to Teplinsky’s removal.
    • Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin has launched a series of information operations aimed at portraying himself as a sacrificial hero of Russia in a crusade against petty and corrupt Russian authorities.
    • The Sun reported that US intelligence estimates total Russian military casualties in Ukraine as 188,000 as of January 20, suggesting a possible 47,000 Russians killed in action in less than a year of fighting.
    • Russian forces conducted a small ground reconnaissance into northeastern Sumy Oblast.
    • Russian forces continued limited ground attacks to regain lost positions along the Svatove-Kreminna line.
    • Russian forces continued to conduct ground attacks around Bakhmut and west of Donetsk City. Russian forces are likely making incremental gains around Bakhmut.
    • Available open-source evidence as of January 21 indicates that Zaporizhia Oblast Russian occupation official Vladimir Rogov’s January 20 claims of a major territorial capture are likely part of a Russian information operation.
    • Complaints from Russian milbloggers indicate that Russian forces continue to rely on cell phones and non-secure civilian technologies for core military functions – serious breaches of operational security (OPSEC).

    Read the complete update.


    • January 20, 2023
    • By Kateryna Stepanenko, Karolina Hird, Riley Bailey, Grace Mappes, George Barros, Layne Philipson, and Frederick W. Kagan

    Key Development

    • Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov continues to frame Chechen fighters’ involvement in the war in Ukraine on distinctly religious grounds, thereby building out his reputation and the reputation of his power base.

    Key Takeaways

    • Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov continues to frame Chechen fighters’ involvement in the war in Ukraine on distinctly religious grounds, thereby building out his reputation and the reputation of his power base.
    • The Wagner Group appears to be struggling to present itself as an effective parallel military structure, thus increasingly proving to be a parasitic paramilitary entity.
    • US intelligence confirmed the rivalry between the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) and Wagner Group on which ISW has long reported.
    • Prigozhin’s quest for legal recognition of the Wagner Group may also trigger further factionalization within the Russian government.
    • The Kremlin continues to engage in demonstrative public actions aimed at setting informational conditions for a protracted war in Ukraine.
    • Russian Telegram sources claimed that Putin dismissed Russian Commander of the Airborne Forces Colonel General Mikhail Teplinsky, but these reports remain unconfirmed.
    • The Kremlin continues to promote information operations threatening escalation over Western military assistance to Ukraine in order to weaken Western support.
    • Russian and Ukrainian forces reportedly continued offensive operations near Svatove and Kreminna.
    • Russian forces continued offensive operations across the Donetsk Oblast front line. Russian sources continued to falsely claim that Russian forces are close to encircling Bakhmut.
    • Russian forces in Zaporizhia Oblast are still likely preparing for a defensive operation in the long term despite recent claims of territorial gains.
    • Russian officials and sources continue to indicate that mobilization measures are ongoing despite numerous claims that mobilization has officially concluded.
    • Russian officials and occupation authorities continue deporting Ukrainian children from occupied Ukraine to Russia.

    Read the complete update.


    • January 19, 2023
    • By George Barros, Riley Bailey, Kateryna Stepanenko, Madison Williams, Layne Philipson, and Frederick W. Kagan

    Key Development

    • Senior Kremlin officials continue holding high-level meetings with Belarusian national leadership – activity that could be setting conditions for a Russian attack against Ukraine from Belarus, although not necessarily and not in the coming weeks.

    Key Takeaways

    • Senior Kremlin officials continue holding high-level meetings with Belarusian national leadership – an activity that could set conditions for a Russian attack against Ukraine from Belarus, although not necessarily and not in the coming weeks.
    • A new Russian attack against Ukraine from Belarus in early 2023 seems less likely given current Russian military activity in Belarus, although an attack from Belarus in late 2023 seems more plausible.
    • Ultranationalist Russian milbloggers continue to criticize the idea of Russian forces attacking Ukraine from Belarus.
    • Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attacked the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), underscoring the infeasibility of the Kremlin supporting a third Minsk-type agreement.
    • Lukashenko continues to balance against the Kremlin by framing Belarus as a sovereign state within the Russian-dominated Union State.
    • The Kremlin continues to falsely promote a narrative that the war will escalate if Ukraine receives weapons with the capability to strike Russian forces in occupied Crimea.
    • An extremist Kremlin ally reintroduced nuclear escalation rhetoric aimed at scaring Western policymakers away from providing additional military aid to Ukraine.
    • Russian President Vladimir Putin is increasingly siding with the enemies of Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin, likely in an ongoing effort to reduce Prigozhin’s influence in Russia.
    • Prigozhin’s continued use of the Wagner Group’s claimed tactical success to elevate his position is likely deepening a conflict with the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) for influence in the Russian information space.
    • Russian Chief of the General Staff Army General Valery Gerasimov may have officially declared that the Wagner Group does not belong in the structure of the Russian Armed Forces and that the Russian military does not collaborate with Wagner despite ample evidence to the contrary.
    • Ukrainian forces reportedly continued counteroffensive operations near Svatove, and Russian forces conducted limited counterattacks near Kreminna.
    • Russian sources claimed that Russian forces captured Klishchiivka amidst ongoing Russian offensive operations around Soledar, Bakhmut, and Avdiivka.
    • Russian sources claimed that Russian forces conducted localized offensive operations in Zaporizhia Oblast.
    • Russian officials are reportedly continuing to prepare for a second wave of mobilization.
    • Ukrainian partisans may have conducted an IED attack in Zaporizhia Oblast.

    Read the complete update.


    • January 18, 2023
    • By Riley Bailey, George Barros, Grace Mappes, Layne Philipson, and Frederick W. Kagan

    Key Development

    • Russian President Vladimir Putin’s speech commemorating the Soviet forces’ breaking of the siege of Leningrad illustrated that he remains uncertain about his ability to significantly shape the Russian information space.

    Key Takeaways

    • Russian President Vladimir Putin’s speech commemorating the siege of Leningrad continued to illustrate that Putin remains uncertain about his ability to significantly shape the Russian information space.
    • Putin’s speech is likely part of a larger informational effort to wrap the “special military operation” inside the greater Russian national mythos of the Great Patriotic War (the Second World War) to increase Russian support for a protracted war and mobilization.
    • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov augmented these efforts to increase Russian support for a protracted war by explicitly and ludicrously claiming that Ukraine and the West are pursuing the genocide of the Russian people.
    • Putin continues efforts to reinvigorate Russia’s defense industrial base to support a protracted war in Ukraine.
    • Putin and Lavrov continue to deny Ukrainian sovereignty and outright reject direct negotiations with Ukraine.
    • Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin is becoming increasingly bold in his verbal attacks against the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) and the Kremlin.
    • Prigozhin and other notable voices in Russia are carving out a new space to criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin without fear of retribution.
    • Russian forces continued limited counterattacks to regain lost positions near Kreminna.
    • Russian forces continued offensive operations near Soledar, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Donetsk City.
    • The Russian MoD continues to attempt to downplay the role of the Wagner Group in claimed tactical advances in the Soledar area.
    • Ukrainian officials have indicated that Russian forces are concentrating in Zaporizhia Oblast, possibly for a large defensive or offensive effort.
    • Russian forces’ increasing use of incendiary munitions to conduct what appear to be otherwise routine strikes in southern Ukraine supports ISW’s recent assessment that Russian forces likely face a shortage of conventional artillery rounds.
    • Ukrainian and Russian sources continued to indicate that Russian authorities are likely preparing for a second wave of mobilization.

    Read the complete update.


    • January 17, 2023
    • By Kateryna Stepanenko, Karolina Hird, Riley Bailey, Madison Williams, Layne Philipson, George Barros, and Frederick W. Kagan

    Key Development

    • Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu announced on January 17 that he will implement Russian President Vladimir Putin’s directive to conduct large-scale military reforms between 2023-2026 to expand Russia’s conventional armed forces, likely in preparation for a protracted war in Ukraine and also to set conditions to build a significantly stronger Russian military quickly.

    Key Takeaways

    • Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu announced on January 17 that he will implement Russian President Vladimir Putin’s directive to conduct large-scale military reforms between 2023-2026 to expand Russia’s conventional armed forces, likely in preparation for a protracted war in Ukraine and also to set conditions to build a significantly stronger Russian military quickly.
    • Putin may announce a second mobilization wave in the coming days, possibly as soon as January 18.
    • The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) is trying to improve professionalism within the Russian armed forces and likely test and improve the effectiveness of its chains of command down to the small unit level.
    • Several prominent voices in the pro-war information space seized on these guidelines to support further criticisms of the Russian MoD, suggesting that the MoD will likely face stiff resistance.
    • Serbian President Alexander Vucic called on the Wagner Group to cease recruitment in Serbia.
    • Russian forces continued to conduct limited counterattacks near Kreminna as Ukrainian officials continued to suggest that Russian forces may be preparing for a decisive effort in Luhansk Oblast.
    • Russian forces continued offensive actions across the Donetsk Oblast front line.
    • The Russian information space is struggling to portray tactical Russian gains around Soledar as operationally significant.
    • Russian forces in Kherson Oblast continue to struggle to maintain their logistics efforts in east (left) bank Kherson Oblast due to Ukrainian strikes.
    • A Russian occupation official claimed that Putin will make an “important statement” pertaining to the war in Ukraine on January 18.
    • Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin may be attempting to establish the Wagner Group as a legal entity in Russia.

    Read the complete update.


    We do not report in detail on Russian war crimes because those activities are well-covered in Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we are assessing and forecasting. We will continue to evaluate and report on the effects of these criminal activities on the Ukrainian military and population and specifically on combat in Ukrainian urban areas. We utterly condemn these Russian violations of the laws of armed conflict, Geneva Conventions, and humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.


    Chronology of Maps from January 17 – 23, 2023 – Mouseover to Scroll

    Ukraine Conflict Maps - 011723 - 012323

    See the Institute for the Study of War Interactive Map of the Russian Invasion
    Read the latest Ukraine Conflict updates from the Institute for the Study of War 

    * Shared with direct express permission from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).


    About the Institute for the Study of War Research Methodology

    ISW’s research methodology relies on both primary and secondary sources, enabling researchers to develop a comprehensive understanding of the situation on the ground. In order to analyze military and political developments in any given area, ISW’s research analysts must wholly understand the systems of enemy and friendly forces. They must also understand the population demographics, physical terrain, politics, and history of that area. This lays the analytical foundation for understanding the reasons for particular developments and fulfilling their assigned research objectives. ISW analysts also spend time in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere in order to gain a better understanding of the security and political situation and to evaluate the implementation of current strategies and policies. Our researchers compile data and analyze trends, producing a granular analysis of developments in areas of research, producing an accurate, high-resolution, timely, and thorough picture of the situation. ISW’s research methodology guarantees its success and commitment to improving the nation’s ability to execute military operations, achieve strategic objectives, and respond to emerging problems that may require the use of American military power.

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    The Institute for the Study of War advances an informed understanding of military affairs through reliable research, trusted analysis, and innovative education. We are committed to improving the nation’s ability to execute military operations and respond to emerging threats in order to achieve U.S. strategic objectives. ISW is a non-partisan, non-profit, public policy research organization.

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    Additional Reading

    Source: ComplexDiscovery

     

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