January 13, 2024

Institute for the Study of War:  Russian forces advance near Kreminna and Avdiivika 

Institute for the Study of War

A recent video appeal by a Serbian mercenary addressed to Russian President Vladimir Putin has unleashed discussions about an ongoing “clan war” within the Kremlin and the Russian information space against the backdrop of the Russian presidential campaign. Serbian sniper Dejan Beric (also known as “Deka”) – who has reportedly fought with Russian forces in Ukraine since Russia’s initial invasion in 2014, conducts Russian mercenary recruitment in Serbia, and became a member Putin’s election team – published a video appeal on January 8 wherein he accused military commanders of the Russian 119th Guards Airborne (VDV) Regiment (106th Guards VDV Division) of mistreating Serbian mercenaries in the “Wolves” (Volki) detachment. Elements of the 119th Guards VDV Regiment are currently operating on Bakhmut’s southern flank near Klishchiivka. Beric claimed that commanders of the 119th VDV Regiment forced Serbian mercenaries to conduct an assault without sufficient weapons, which prompted the entire detachment to refuse to continue attacks and demand a transfer to the nearby Chechen “Akhmat” Spetsnaz units. Beric stated that Russian military officials and police declared that the Serbian mercenaries were deserters and war criminals, disarmed them, pushed them out of their trenches, and forced them to admit that they were spies.

A fire destroyed a large warehouse in St. Petersburg belonging to Russia’s largest online retailer Wildberries on January 12. Russian sources claimed that on the night of January 10 to 11 a mass fight broke out between migrant workers at the facility and that this prompted Russian authorities to conduct a raid on the warehouse, during which several migrants received military summonses. Russian law enforcement recently detained 700 migrants at a Wildberries warehouse in Moscow Oblast and issued some military summonses in November 2023. Russian authorities have consistently conducted raids on migrant communities to issue military summonses to naturalized migrants and coerce other migrants into military service. Wildberries appears to be a notable target for these mobilization raids, and the company has previously admitted that such raids have interrupted their operations.

Key Takeaways:

  • A recent video appeal by a Serbian mercenary addressed to Russian President Vladimir Putin has unleashed discussions about an ongoing “clan war” within the Kremlin and the Russian information space against the backdrop of the Russian presidential campaign.
  • In-fighting and factional dynamics within the Kremlin are not new phenomena and do not indicate the imminent collapse of Putin’s regime, particularly because power verticals are the foundation of Putin’s regime.
  • Russian forces launched a medium-sized drone, missile, and air attack against Ukraine on the night of January 12-13 using a strike package similar to recent Russian strike packages.
  • Russian forces are reportedly increasingly using chemical weapons in Ukraine in continued apparent violations of the Chemical Weapons Convention, to which Russia is a party.
  • A fire destroyed a large warehouse in St. Petersburg belonging to Russia’s largest online retailer Wildberries on January 12.
  • Russian forces made confirmed advances near Kreminna and Avdiivka amid continued positional engagements along the entire front line.
  • Russian forces may be forming air assault brigades within combined arms ground formations as part of ongoing large-scale military reforms.
  • Russian officials continue to fund social projects in occupied Ukraine in an effort to integrate these territories further into Russia and create the veneer of an active civil society in occupied areas.

For full report:  https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-january-13-2024 

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