On 20 December, there were a lot of updates from the Chasiv Yar direction.
Since Russian forces launched their offensive operations, Chasiv Yar became one of their five main targets for the winter campaign. Chasiv Yar is a small town with a pre-war population of 12 thousand people, and it is located less than 5 kilometers away from Bakhmut.
Over the last months, Ukrainians tried to undercut Russian forces in Bakhmut from the south and put them into an operational encirclement. During the whole campaign, Ukrainians advanced by 7 to 10 kilometers, and once the fighting reached the railway embankment, the Ukrainian progress stalled.
Ukrainian fighters from the 3rd Assault Brigade reported that the main reason was that Russians deployed several divisions’ worth of troops to prevent the front line from further collapse. Russian waves of counterattacks were never-ending, making it very difficult to maintain the momentum, especially in the face of the additional barrier in the railway embankment.
An officer from the 26th Artillery Brigade reported that the number of Russian troops in the Bakhmut area recently reached 80 thousand troops. This is as many as during the peak heat of the Battle for Bakhmut and twice as many as Russians had allocated for the Avdiivka offensive that is happening right now.
Russian forces started increasing the number of attacks in this region instead. Moreover, a fighter from the 24th Assault Brigade reported that several days ago, Russians deployed the best-equipped motorized rifle detachments to Bakhmut, as those troops have the most modern tanks, armored fighting vehicles, radios, and other equipment.
Considering all of that, it becomes evident that Russians would launch another offensive. Since Ukrainian forces were actively operating south of Bakhmut, Russians launched their first attacks from the north.
The first target of the Russian forces became Bohdanivka. Geolocated footage shows how Russians were shelling this village extensively. Ukrainian fighters reported that some trenches were shelled so heavily that the soil was basically plowed and the positions wholly destroyed.
Nonetheless, Russian forces did not get a foothold in the region. If we look at the topographic map, we can see that the village is located in the lowlands – right in between two hills.
Such a setting makes the village’s defense much easier as long as Ukrainians control the hills. That is why Russian forces increased the intensity of their attacks from Yahidne along the ridge. Russian sources released a video showing how they are using North Korean so-called golf cars to deploy new assault units across the field quickly.
Russians also intensified their operations north of Bohdanivka because taking Bohdanivka is virtually impossible without these positions. Russians managed to improve their tactical position south of Bohadanivka, while all Russian attacks north of Bohdanivka have been repelled.
Russian forces also shifted their focus to the southern flank because the Russians were lagging and had to retake all tactical heights that they had lost during the Ukrainian counteroffensive. The main direction of their attack became the strong point north of Klishchiivka. To achieve it, the Russians are leveraging the forest that connects Klishchiicka and Bakhmut.
This is a very smart move because Russians avoid the need to attack across the rails and, if successful, can automatically recapture Klishchiivka.
Geolocated footage shows extensive Russian artillery preparations on the main Ukrainian strong point on the hill. This is the place of the most intense clashes right now, as Russians took half of the strong point north of the road while Ukrainians are holding the half that is south of the road.
Simultaneously, intense clashes are happening in the so-called forest appendix. The freshest updates suggest that Russians reduced the number of attacks here, meaning that Ukrainians stabilized the front line in this sector. Ukrainian fighters reported that they discovered they were Wagner forces after capturing some Russian soldiers from the Strorm-V detachment.
This should have been obvious, as Strom-Z detachments, which are comprised of prisoners, have the letter “Z” in the name, which stands for “zek” or “prisoner” in Russian, while Storm-V detachments have the letter “V” because it stands for “Wagner.” The integration of the Wagner Group into the Russian military was completed. They were deployed to Bakhmut to leverage their experience and knowledge of the ground.
Overall, the Bakhmut area may soon become the place of the biggest battle once again, as Russians accumulated a significant number of troops, including motorized detachments with the best equipment and Wagner detachments with the best experience.
The main objective of the Ukrainian forces right now is to leverage the tactical heights, and the good news is Ukrainians control almost all heights in the region.
Since Russians are committing a lot of forces to seize and keep the initiative throughout the winter, one of the main strategic goals of Ukrainian forces is to use defenses and weather conditions to bleed out Russian forces as much as possible while minimizing their losses to secure a chance of retaking the initiative once Russians exhaust themselves throughout their winter campaign.
In our daily frontline report, we pair up with the military blogger Reporting from Ukraine to keep you informed about what is happening on the battlefield in the Russo-Ukrainian war.