European Parliament pushes for special tribunal to punish Russian crimes in Ukraine. European countries to supply more weapons to Ukraine. President of the European Council Charles Michel said tanks “must be delivered” to Ukraine and “No free Europe without free Ukraine.”
Daily overview — Summary report, January 20, 2023
A map of the approximate situation on the ground in Ukraine as of 00:00 UTC 20/01/23. pic.twitter.com/jSZzGeTEJI
— War Mapper (@War_Mapper) January 20, 2023
The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 18.00 pm, January 20, 2023 is in the dropdown menu below:
"[Russian forces] understand that Bakhmut is an impregnable fortress."@rferl's @currenttimetv correspondent Andriy Kuzakov spent a day with a Ukrainian drone commander along the front line between Bakhmut & Soledar, where brutal fighting goes on pic.twitter.com/zK7WowmCxz
— Euromaidan Press (@EuromaidanPress) January 19, 2023
According to British Defence Intelligence, (last 48 hours):
- On 27 December 2022, the Russian Unified State Register showed that the proxy paramilitary Wagner Group had formally registered as a legal entity. The group declared their core activity as ‘management consultancy’; no mention was made of combat services.
- It is not yet clear to what extent the ‘PMC Wagner Centre’ entity will be used to administer Wagner’s paramilitary activity. Private Military Companies (PMCs) remain illegal in Russia, despite protracted discussion about reforming the law. Wagner’s owner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has likely partially funded the organisation via inflated government contracts awarded to his other companies.
- The registration continues the remarkably rapid development of the traditionally opaque group’s public profile. Prigozhin only admitted to founding Wagner in September 2022; in October 2022, it opened a glossy HQ in St Petersburg. Wagner almost certainly now commands up to 50,000 fighters in Ukraine and has become a key component of the Ukraine campaign. The registration likely aims to maximise Prigozhin’s commercial gain and to further legitimise the increasingly high-profile organisation.
Losses of the Russian army
As of Jan 19, 11 people are still considered missing after the Russian Jan 14 missile strike on the high-rise building in Dnipro, according to the police. https://t.co/Xc2RXJUTUn https://t.co/SfLwJSUbWn
— Euromaidan Press (@EuromaidanPress) January 19, 2023
Russians hit Nikopol district in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast with MLRS and artillery – Oblast Head. More than 30 shells hit Chervonohryhorivka and Marhanets communities damaging homes. According to preliminary data, no one was injured.
Last night Russians once again hit Nikopol district in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast with MLRS and artillery – Oblast Head
— Euromaidan Press (@EuromaidanPress) January 19, 2023
Maramures express: Ukraine launches first train to Romania after a 17-year pause. The first train connecting Ukraine with Romania has been launched on 18 January after a 17-year pause, CEO of Ukraine’s state train service Ukrzaliznytsia Oleksandr Kamyshin reported. Train #810 will connect Ukraine’s Rakhiv and Dilove to Romania’s Valea Viseului and will run twice a day.
European Parliament pushes for a special tribunal to punish Russian crimes in Ukraine. On 19 January, the European Parliament adopted a resolution demanding the political and military leadership of Russia and Belarus be held accountable for the crime of aggression against Ukraine. 472 MEPs voted in favor, 19 against with 33 abstentions. DW says that a special tribunal – analogous to the Nuremberg trials – should be created in close cooperation with Ukraine, preferably through the UN, according to the adopted resolution.
— Zarina Zabrisky 🇺🇸🇺🇦 (@ZarinaZabrisky) January 19, 2023
Crimean lecturer faces 5-year sentence for writing about Russia’s killing of innocent civilians in Ukraine. Andriy Bielozierov is under house arrest in occupied Crimea, facing preposterous criminal charges of ‘discrediting the Russian army’, although it is Moscow and its soldiers who discredit Russia by bombing and killing civilians. He has already lost his job as a lecturer, been beaten by enforcement officers and spent two brief terms of imprisonment for Ukrainian songs and could now be imprisoned for up to five years for telling the truth about Russia’s war against his native Ukraine.
Denmark to donate all of its 19 French-produced Caesar howitzers to Ukraine. At Ukraine’s request, Denmark is sending its French-produced Caesar self-propelled howitzer weapon systems to Ukraine, according to Danish Defense Minister Jakob Ellemann-Jensen who said it after a meeting in the country’s Foreign Policy Council, Avisen Danmark reports.
Sweden to supply Archer artillery systems, NLAWs, and 50 Strf90 combat vehicles to Ukraine. Sweden will send 50 Stridsfordon 90 combat vehicles, and anti-tank NLAW systems to Ukraine, the country’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson announced during a press conference on 19 January, SVT reported. This military aid package also includes an undisclosed number of the Swedish Archer artillery systems.
Netherlands says open to paying for Leopard tanks for Ukraine
Dutch defense minister speaks in interview from Davos. Suggests similar approach to one used to pay for Czech tankshttps://t.co/zOkKpdFd2Z
— Euromaidan Press (@EuromaidanPress) January 20, 2023
Iran does not recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea, foreign minister says. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has said that Iran does not recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea “despite excellent relations between Tehran and Moscow” in an interview with TRT World. Iran opposes Russia’s military aggression and displacement of people in Ukraine and hopes for political solutions to end the war, he added. At the same time, the minister considers the actions of NATO and the West to be the main cause of the invasion.
President of the European Council Charles Michel: Ukrainians are fighting for their land, for the future of their children. But they are also fighting for our common European values of peace and prosperity. They need and deserve our support
📷 by Anton Sheveliov pic.twitter.com/GwK8Bygol1
— Euromaidan Press (@EuromaidanPress) January 19, 2023
“There can be no free Europe without a free Ukraine,” says Charles Michel during a visit to Kyiv. President of the European Council Charles Michel said tanks “must be delivered” to Ukraine after he visited Kyiv on 20 January for talks with President Volodymyr Zelensky. “We hear your message. You need more air defense and artillery systems, more ammunitions. I firmly believe that tanks must be delivered. We want to support you because we are aware that the next few weeks may be decisive for what comes next,” the European Council President stressed.
- On the war.
The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of January 19, 2023:
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. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin discussed unspecified bilateral military cooperation, the implementation of unspecified strategic deterrence measures, and “progress in preparing” the joint Russian-Belarusian Regional Grouping of Troops (RGV) in a January 19 phone call. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk and discussed an unspecified Russo-Belarusian “shared vision” for Russia’s war in Ukraine on January 19. Lavrov and Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergey Aleinik discussed how Russia and Belarus can defeat an ongoing Western hybrid war against the states and signed an unspecified memorandum of cooperation on “ensuring biological security.” This memorandum could be a leading indicator of the intensification of an existing Russian information operation falsely accusing Ukraine of developing chemical and biochemical weapons in alleged US-funded biolabs in Ukraine that was part of the Kremlin‘s pretext for the February 2022 invasion.
The most dangerous course of action (MDCOA) of a new Russian attack against Ukraine from Belarus in early 2023 seems less likely given current Russian military activity in Belarus. A new MDCOA of an attack from Belarus in late 2023 seems more likely. Russian forces currently deployed in Belarus are undergoing training rotations and redeploying to fight in eastern Ukraine. There are no observed indicators that Russian forces in Belarus have the command and control structures necessary for the winter or spring 2023 attack against Ukraine about which Ukrainian issued warnings in late 2022. It seems more likely that Russian forces may be setting conditions for a new MDCOA of attacking Ukraine from Belarus in late 2023 given recent Ukrainian intelligence reports that Russia and Belarus plan to conduct major exercises (Zapad 2023 and Union Shield 2023), likely in September 2023. ISW is thus adjusting its forecast; the current assessed MDCOA is a Russian attack against Ukraine from Belarusian territory in late 2023. This is not simply a deferment of the timeframe for the previous MDCOA. It is an entirely new MDCOA given that it would occur in different circumstances. Russia will have completed the Autumn 2022 annual conscription cycle and be well into the Spring 2023 cycle, on the one hand, and may well have completed one or more additional reserve call-ups by Autumn 2023. A delayed timeline for this COA could allow Russia’s military industry to gear up sufficiently to provide a greater proportion of the necessary materiel for a renewed invasion from Belarus than Russia can provide this winter. ISW continues to assess that a Russian attack against Ukraine from Belarus remains a highly unlikely scenario in the forecast cone this winter and unlikely but more plausible in Autumn 2023.
Russia’s nationalist military bloggers continue to criticize the idea of Russian forces attacking Ukraine from Belarus. Russian milbloggers continue to react negatively every time the idea of Russian forces attacking Ukraine from Belarus resurfaces. One milblogger stated that it is a bad idea for Russia to significantly expand the front from Belarus because Russian forces’ battlefield performance improved after compressing the front following Russia’s withdrawal from upper Kherson. This milblogger stated that Russian forces do not have the capability to project deep into Ukraine along multiple axes of advance as Russia attempted to do in early 2022 and advocated that Russia prioritize re-establishing a strong conventional military capable of fighting NATO.
Lavrov attacked the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), underscoring the infeasibility of the Kremlin supporting a third Minsk-type agreement. Lavrov accused NATO and the European Union of using the OSCE against Russia and falsely claimed that the OSCE agreed to the Minsk agreements (the failed ceasefire accords that the Kremlin coerced Ukraine into accepting in 2014-2015, which stipulated major political concessions undermining Ukraine’s sovereignty) only to buy time to prepare for a war against Russia. Lavrov accused unspecified OSCE Special Monitoring Mission staff in Ukraine of aiding Ukraine in conducting military operations against civilians in Donbas.
The OSCE was a key neutral party in implementing the first two Minsk agreements in 2014 and 2015. Lavrov’s attack against the OSCE indicates Moscow’s unwillingness to engage in the future serious cooperation with the OSCE that would be necessary for another Minsk Accords-style ceasefire. Lavrov’s attack may also be an attempt to justify Russian forces’ reported illegal commandeering of OSCE off-road vehicles to support Russian combat operations in Luhansk Oblast.
Lukashenko continues to balance against the Kremlin by framing Belarus as a sovereign state within the Russia-dominated Union State. Lukashenko’s readout of his meeting with Lavrov stated that he and Lavrov identified unspecified areas of cooperation to “preserve the sovereignty of the two countries in all respects.” This rhetoric is consistent with Lukashenko’s longstanding efforts to avoid ceding Belarusian sovereignty to the Kremlin-dominated Union State structure.
The Kremlin is intensifying its information operation to promote a false narrative that the war will escalate if Ukraine receives weapons capable of striking Russian forces in occupied Crimea. Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov responded on January 19 to a New York Times report that US officials are considering providing Kyiv with weapons capable of striking Russian military infrastructure in occupied Crimea and southern Ukraine. Peskov stated that Western provisions of long-range weapons to Ukraine that can threaten Russian forces in Crimea will bring ”the conflict to a new qualitative level, which will not go well for global and pan-European security.” Peskov added that even the discussion of providing such weapons is ”potentially extremely dangerous,” but then noted that Ukraine already has weapons that it uses to strike occupied territories in Ukraine. Crimea is legally Ukrainian territory and Ukraine is within its rights under the laws and norms of armed conflict to strike Russian military targets in Crimea. It would be within its rights under international law and norms to attack targets in Russia as well, as the invading country retains no right to sanctuary for military targets within its own territory.
Peskov’s threats are part of a Russian information operation designed to discourage Western support to Ukraine and do not correspond to Russia’s actual capabilities to escalate against the West. Kremlin officials have made similar threats regarding select Western security assistance in the past and will likely continue to do so in the future. Russian forces, however, do not have the capacity to escalate their conventional war effort in Ukraine and certainly are not capable of conducting successful conventional military operations against the West and NATO in their current state. Russia has severely weakened its military posture against NATO by deploying military units and equipment – including air defense systems – away from NATO and to Ukraine and suffering horrific losses in men and materiel. The Kremlin never assessed that it could defeat NATO in a conventional war, moreover, an assessment that was at the heart of its hybrid warfare doctrine. The Kremlin seeks to minimize Western military aid to Ukraine by stoking fears of an escalation Russia cannot execute. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s theory of victory likely depends on Putin’s will to force his people to fight to outlast the West’s willingness to support Ukraine over time.
The Kremlin is also very unlikely to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine and extraordinarily unlikely to use them against the West despite consistently leaning on tired nuclear escalation threats. Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev, in response to NATO Command’s planned January 20 meeting in Germany, stated on January 19 that Western officials do not understand that the “loss of a nuclear power in a conventional war can provoke the outbreak of a nuclear war.” Medvedev argued that ”nuclear powers [like the Russian Federation] have not lost major conflicts on which their fate depends.” Medvedev routinely makes hyperbolic and inflammatory comments, including threats of nuclear escalation, in support of Russian information operations that aim to weaken Western support for Ukraine and that are out of touch with actual Kremlin positions regarding the war in Ukraine. Medvedev’s consistently inflammatory rhetoric may suggest that the Kremlin has encouraged him to promote extremist rhetoric that aims to frighten and deter the West from giving further military aid to Ukraine over fears of escalation with Russia or that he is simply continuing a pattern of extremist rhetorical freelancing. ISW continues to assess that Russian officials have no intention of using nuclear weapons in Ukraine or elsewhere, and certainly not in response to the provision of individual weapons systems.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is increasingly siding with the adversaries of Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin, likely in an ongoing effort to degrade Prigozhin’s influence in Russia. Putin met on January 18, 2023, with St. Petersburg Governor Alexander Beglov – one of Prigozhin’s overt enemies – for the first time since early March 2022 to discuss St. Petersburg’s role in the Russian war effort. Beglov stated that his administration formed three volunteer battalions that support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine under the Russian Western Military District (WMD). ISW previously reported that Prigozhin had launched an intensive campaign petitioning Russian State Duma officials to remove Beglov from his office and had even called on the Russian Prosecutor General’s office to investigate Beglov for treason for failing to adequately support the Russian war effort. Prigozhin-affiliated outlets also published exposés on Beglov over the summer of 2022, claiming that Beglov deliberately impeded the advertising efforts for recruitment into the three local volunteer battalions. Prigozhin had also suggested that he assisted Beglov in campaigning for the governor role – claiming that he had made Beglov’s career and made several proposals to improve his administration.
Putin’s demonstrative meeting with Beglov and their specific discussion of Beglov’s contribution to the war effort directly challenges Prigozhin’s ongoing effort to assert his own authority over Beglov and St. Petersburg. Putin had also recently reappointed Colonel General Aleksandr Lapin, former commander of the Central Military District (CMD) as the Chief of Staff of the Russian Ground Forces despite Lapin receiving significant criticism from the siloviki faction of which Prigozhin is a prominent member. Putin had also doubled down on the official rhetoric that only Russian forces contributed to the capture of Soledar, Donetsk Oblast, rejecting Prigozhin’s claims that Wagner forces had accomplished the tactical victory. Putin is likely attempting to reduce Prigozhin’s prominence in favor of the re-emerging professional Russian military and Russian government officials.
Prigozhin nevertheless continues to use claims about the Wagner Group’s tactical success to elevate his position, likely deepening a conflict with the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) for influence in the Russian information space. Prigozhin claimed on January 19 that Wagner Group elements captured Klishchiivka, Donetsk Oblast, and emphasized that Wagner Group forces were exclusively responsible for the tactical advances south of Bakhmut. This statement is the first time Prigozhin has personally broken the news of a purported Russian tactical success and likely supports Prigozhin‘s effort to promote himself as an independently successful wartime leader. Russian sources largely responded to Prigozhin’s claim as if it were an official confirmation that Russian forces took the settlement.
Prigozhin’s announcement generated widespread conversation among Russian milbloggers about the operational significance of the Russian capture of the settlement. The Russian MoD’s announcement concerning the capture of Sil, Donetsk Oblast near Soledar on January 18 generated far less conversation and excitement amongst Russian milbloggers. The Russian Ministry of Defense previously tried to downplay the Wagner Group’s involvement in the capture of neighboring Sil by referring to Wagner Group fighters as ”volunteers of assault detachments” on January 18. The Russian MoD has started to use more specific language for Russian units in its reporting on Russian operations likely in order to claim more responsibility for tactical advances and minimize Prigozhin’s ability to claim that Wagner Group forces are the only Russian forces that are able to secure tactical advances in Ukraine. The Kremlin is likely aware that Prigozhin‘s recent use of the Wagner Group’s tactical success has had a greater effect in the Russian information space than its own efforts to portray the Russian military as an effective fighting force.
Chief of the General Staff Army General Valery Gerasimov reportedly declared that the Wagner Group does not belong in the structure of the Russian Armed Forces. Gerasimov allegedly responded to Moscow City Duma parliamentarian Yevgeny Stupin’s inquiry on the status of the Wagner Group and its “operational interaction” with the Russian Armed Forces in an official letter, dated December 29, 2022, that Stupin shared on his Telegram on January 19.Stupin stated that he had received numerous complaints from his constituents who have relatives serving in Wagner detachments that they are unable to contact officials that would connect them with their family members on the frontlines. Gerasimov stated in the letter that “the organization [Stupin] referred to as PMC Wagner does not belong to the structure of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation” and that ￼the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) is not responsible for Wagner servicemen￼.”￼ Stupin asserted that the letter is real, although ISW has no independent verification of his claim.
Clear evidence indicates that Wagner Group has operated under the direction of the Russian chain of command.￼ A Bellingcat investigation found that Wagner founder Dmitry Utkin reported to current Western Military District Commander Lieutenant General Evgeny  – among other Russian military intelligence officials – when Nikiforov was the Chief of Staff of the Russian 58th Combined Arms Army in 2015.￼ The Russian Ministry of Defense recently claimed on January 13 that Russian forces worked with the Wagner Group to capture .￼ ISW assesses that Gerasimov’s apparent letter is, at the very least, another pointed effort by the Russian government to undermine Prigozhin’s influence. Its release at this time is noteworthy in this respect. Gerasimov was appointed overall commander of the Russian war effort in Ukraine on January 11, for one thing, and Stupin’s publication of the nearly month-old correspondence comes in the midst of a concerted Kremlin campaign to clip Prigozhin’s wings, on the other.
- 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 Zaporizhzhia Oblast.
- Russian officials are reportedly continuing to prepare for a second wave of mobilization.
- Ukrainian partisans may have conducted an IED attack in Zaporizhzhia Oblast.