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ISW: Russia makes minor gains near Bakhmut and Avdiivka

Russian forces made marginal gains northeast of Bakhmut and near Opytne and Stepove, Avdiivka direction. Ukrainian forces continue to hold positions on the eastern bank of the Dnipro in the Kherson Oblast.
Ukrainian defenders somewhere on the frontline. Credit: Ukraine’s General Staff

Russian forces made marginal gains northeast of Bakhmut and southeast and northwest of Avdiivka, Donetsk Oblast, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in its daily report.

According to the ISW, which cited geolocated footage, Russian forces made minor gains south of Spirne, located northeast of Bakhmut.

However, the ISW has not confirmed the claims made by Russian milbloggers that Russian forces conducted assaults in a new area northeast of Bakhmut, advancing from Berestove (23 km northeast of Bakhmut) towards Vyimka (21 km northeast of Bakhmut).

Russian forces made a confirmed advance northeast of Opytne (southwest of Avdiivka) and northeast of Stepove (northwest of Avdiivka), the ISW reported.

Russian forces are said to have advanced up to 400 meters northwest of Stepove. Despite these advances, Ukrainian forces reportedly continued to counterattack in the direction of the Avdiivka.

As of 22 December, Ukrainian forces continue to hold positions on the eastern (left) bank of the Kherson Oblast, with neither Russian nor Ukrainian forces having made confirmed territorial gains in the area.

Other takeaways from the ISW report:

  • Ukrainian officials continue to warn that Russia maintains its maximalist objectives and additional goals for territorial conquest in Ukraine, despite recent comments made by Western officials suggesting that Russia is already defeated.
  • Ukraine will very likely receive the first batch of F-16s before the end of 2023.
  • The Russia Aerospace Forces (VKS) reportedly lost three Su-34 attack aircraft in southern Ukraine between December 21-22.
  • The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) named Russian President Vladimir Putin’s close ally and Secretary of the Russian Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, as the individual responsible for the assassination of Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin.
  • The Kremlin continues to position itself as a neutral arbitrator in the Israel-Hamas war despite its recent increasing anti-Israel rhetoric.
  • US President Joe Biden signed an executive order on December 22 granting the US Treasury Department the authority to impose sanctions on banks and other financial institutions that facilitate Russian sanctions evasion.
  • Russian officials continue to downplay deteriorating Russian-Armenian relations, possibly as part of a concerted campaign to improve the bilateral relationship amid concerns about Russia’s waning influence in the South Caucasus.

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