Day 324 of the Invasion of Ukraine: VSU Advances in Luhansk, Russians want to Surround Bakhmut
Here are the highlights of events related to the war in Ukraine over the past 24 hours:
Zelensky expects more weapons from the allies, heavy fighting for Soledar
Ukraine says its troops are holding their ground in the eastern town of Soledar, where heavy fighting is taking place. President Volodymyr Zelensky stressed the need for more weapons from the allies.
Ukrainian troops are inflicting significant losses on Russian forces in Soledar, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in another video address.
Russian sources in the Donetsk region say there are still "hotbeds of resistance" in Soledar, and there have been reports the town has already been taken.
Zelensky added that he met with senior military commanders and discussed what reinforcements are needed in the battle for Soledar and nearby towns, as well as actions in the coming days to supply weapons and ammunition and cooperation with partners in this regard.
He hoped that the support offered to Ukraine by Poland and Lithuania could mean that other countries would follow suit.
Polish President Andrzej Duda announced that Warsaw would supply Kyiv with Leopard tanks, and his colleague Gitanas Nauseda - that Lithuania would supply it with anti-aircraft weapons and ammunition.
Finland expressed a cautious desire to deliver Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, DPA notes.
Croatia and Estonia have supported Ukraine politically and sent substantial military aid after Russian aggression and will continue to do so, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and his Estonian counterpart Kaja Kallas said at a joint press conference in Tallinn.
“The support offered to Ukraine by Poland and Lithuania could mean that other countries will follow their example”, said Volodymyr Zelenskiy in an interview with the Polish public television channel TVP Info. Reuters notes that the statement is on the occasion of Warsaw's announced intention to supply Kyiv with Leopard tanks. Lithuania is ready to supply Ukraine with air defense equipment and ammunition.
Meanwhile, Slovakia's Ministry of Defense announced that the US will soon withdraw its Patriot system from the country, which was deployed there in exchange for the S-300 anti-aircraft missile complex provided to the defense of Kyiv.
The Netherlands and Germany also sent the Patriot to Slovakia, but the Netherlands has already withdrawn its system. However, the German Patriots will remain at least until the end of this year.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said that if there are negotiations with Ukraine, they should be direct.
“The best option would be negotiations without intermediaries”, stated in an interview with TASS Alexey Polishchuk, a senior official of the Foreign Ministry in Moscow. According to him, practice shows that Western mediators often act not for the benefit of the negotiating parties, but for their own economic and political interests. He recalled that last year's talks between February and April in Belarus and Turkey were held directly with Ukrainian representatives.
US transfers weapons to bolster NATO's eastern flank
The United States has begun a massive transfer of weapons to Poland and Latvia as part of strengthening NATO's eastern flank, the agencies said. American tanks and combat vehicles have begun arriving at the Dutch port of Vlissingen, to later head for Poland and Lithuania as part of efforts to bolster NATO's eastern flank.
"About 1,250 pieces of military equipment are arriving at this port," said Colonel Robert Kellam, who is leading the operation on the American side. Combat equipment includes M-1 Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Hood, Texas. In December, the US had already transferred about 700 combat vehicles to Poland, including Abrams tanks. This was implemented as part of the Atlantic Resolve initiative launched in 2014.
ISW: VSU advances in Luhansk region, Russians fail to encircle Bakhmut
The defenders of Ukraine are approaching Kreminna in the Luhansk region. The Ukrainian Armed Forces (VSU) offensive continues, and the Russians retreat their positions. The occupiers are trying to encircle Bakhmut in the Donetsk region, but fail to do so. This is how analysts from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) describe the situation at the front in their new analysis. They also published maps of the battles.
According to the experts, the Ukrainian forces successfully repel the attacks of the Russian occupiers.
"On January 12, Russian and Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations on the Svatovo-Kremenna line. According to the Ukrainian General Staff, Ukrainian forces repelled an advance of Russian forces near Stelmakhovka (16 km west of Svatovo). The Russian Ministry of Defense announced that the Russian troops destroyed Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance groups 44 km northwest of the town of Svatovo near Kislivka, Olshan, Tabaevka, Kromale and Pervomaysk in Kharkiv Oblast.The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled an attack by Russian forces near Kremenna, which could to mean that Ukrainian forces continue to advance towards the settlement," the analysts said.
The experts also refer to information from the British Ministry of Defense, according to which heavy fighting has continued in the last two days on the outskirts of Kreminna and that Russian troops have transferred units of the 76th Guards Airborne Assault Division of the Russian Airborne Forces to the vulnerable section of the front line in Kreminna. According to intelligence in London, the Russians are trying to draw conclusions from their mistakes in the Kherson region. Thus, Russian commanders are trying to use the airborne troops more as an elite, quick-reaction force than as a long-term ground force.
The experts are also analyzing the situation in the Bakhmut direction. They refer to information from the Ukrainian General Staff, according to which the Ukrainian defenders repelled the attacks of the Russians near Bakhmut itself, as well as 19 km northeast of the city near several settlements. In addition, the Ukrainian military repulsed enemy attacks within a radius of 22 kilometers southwest of Bakhmut, near Kleschiivka and Mayorsk.
"A Russian blogger claims that Russian troops are storming Ukrainian positions near Blagodatnoe (11 km north-east of Bakhmut) and that units of the Wagner group are trying to advance to the eastern outskirts of Bakhmut. Russian sources claim that Russian troops have fully captured Opitne (4 km south of Bakhmut), but ISW cannot independently confirm that Russian troops did it," the analysts added.
They also comment on the information of Russian propagandists about the alleged capture of Marinka. Experts do not confirm such claims.
Military expert Oleg Zhdanov: If Kreminna falls, it will be scary for the Russians
The Ukrainian armed forces continue to storm Kreminna. And the loss of this settlement for the Russians would mean a collapse of the front in the Luhansk region, believes military expert Oleg Zhdanov.
"We are storming Kreminna and we are having success. And for the Russian army, the loss of Kreminna is a danger of the collapse of the entire front in the Luhansk region. This is an opportunity for our troops to surround the Russian units near Soledar. From Kreminna we can go east, to Starobelsk - and this is a direct road to Lugansk," said the specialist in an interview with "Obozrevatel".
At the same time, he noted that if the Ukrainian Armed Forces liberate Kreminna from the Russian occupiers, they will head to Sieverodonetsk and Lysychansk.
"Then the Bakhmut direction also turns out to be in a semicircle. If we capture Kreminna and continue to Severodonetsk, there will be a danger of encircling the Russian troops. By the way, in the Kreminna region, the Russian occupation troops have thrown into battle the best they have - parachute units. They are trying to use counteroffensive tactics. That is, we attack and they attack," concluded Zhdanov.
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