A coalition of NATO member states reportedly will send Ukraine modern main battle tanks. The Wall Street Journal reported on January 24 that US President Joe Biden is preparing to send “a significant number” of Abrams M1 tanks to Ukraine and that the White House may announce the delivery as soon as January 25. German newspaper Der Spiegel reported on January 24 that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz decided to deliver at least one tank company (14 tanks) of Leopard 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine in an unspecified time frame. Poland likely will send Ukraine Leopard 2 tanks following Germany’s decision. Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak stated on January 24 that Poland formally requested Germany grant permission to transfer Poland’s Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock stated that Berlin would not interfere if Poland wanted to send its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. British officials confirmed on January 16 that the United Kingdom would send Ukraine 14 Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine. French President Emmanuel Macron stated he would not rule out the possibility of France sending Ukraine Leclerc tanks on January 22.
Western states’ provision of main battle tanks to Ukraine will help enable Ukraine to conduct mechanized warfare to defeat the Russian military and liberate Ukrainian territory. ISW previously assessed that the West has contributed to Ukraine’s inability to take advantage of having pinned Russian forces in Bakhmut by slow-rolling or withholding weapons systems and supplies essential for large-scale counteroffensive operations. Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief Valery Zaluzhny previously emphasized in December 2022 that Ukraine needs 300 main battle tanks (among other weapon systems) to enable Ukrainian counteroffensives.
Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov continued efforts to portray himself and the traditional Russian military command structure as the true defenders of Russia. Gerasimov reiterated on January 23 that Russian President Vladimir Putin approved Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu’s plan to develop Russian forces’ ability to respond to “new threats to the military security” of Russia, and Gerasimov accused Ukraine and NATO states of aiming to threaten Russia. Gerasimov invoked the Russian General Staff’s historical role in guiding and protecting Russia through several military crises, including the Great Patriotic War (World War II). Gerasimov claimed that “modern Russia has never known such a level and intensity of hostilities” and heavily implied that the current war in Ukraine presents the greatest threat to Russia since the Great Patriotic War, therefore necessitating the leadership and protection of the Russian General Staff under Gerasimov’s leadership. Gerasimov’s framing of the war and the General Staff’s ongoing revitalization efforts within the historical context of the Great Patriotic War is part of the continued campaign to counter the growing power and influence of Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin, Chechen Republic Head Ramzan Kadyrov, and their respective paramilitary structures, all of which threaten Gerasimov and the Russian General Staff as ISW has previously reported. It also continues Putin’s efforts to reframe the current struggle as an effort like the Great Patriotic War to justify protracted demands for sacrifice and mobilization by the Russian people.
Russian outlet RBK claimed on January 23 that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu appointed Colonel General Sergey Kuzovlev as the Southern Military District (SMD) commander and Lieutenant General Yevgeny Nikiforov as the Western Military District (WMD) commander. RBK claimed that Nikiforov replaced Kuzovlev as WMD commander after Kuzovlev held the position from December 13, 2022, to January 23, 2023. The United Kingdom Ministry of Defense (UK MoD) claimed that the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) appointed Kuzovlev WMD Commander in late October of 2022. RBK claimed that the Russian MoD had appointed Lieutenant General Roman Berdnikov as WMD commander in October of 2022, however. The Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reported on December 26, 2022, that Nikiforov left his position as Chief of Staff of the Eastern Military District (EMD) to replace Kuzovlev as a part of the internal power struggles between Wagner Financier Yevgeny Prigozhin, Shoigu, and Gerasimov. Nikiforov previously commanded Wagner Group fighters in Ukraine as commander of the 58th Combined Arms Army in 2014 and may have connections to Prigozhin. The conflicting reporting on the WMD and SMD command suggests that military district command dynamics remain opaque, indicating that the Russian military is struggling to institute sound command structures and maintain traditional command
- A coalition of NATO member states reportedly will send Ukraine modern main battle tanks.
- Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov continued efforts to portray himself and the traditional Russian military command structure as the true defenders of Russia.
- Russian outlet RBK claimed on January 23 that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu appointed Colonel General Sergey Kuzovlev as the Southern Military District (SMD) commander and Lieutenant General Yevgeny Nikiforov as the Western Military District (WMD) commander.
- Russian forces continued limited counterattacks along the Svatove-Kreminna line and Ukrainian forces reportedly continued counteroffensive operations near Kreminna.
- Russian forces continued to conduct ground attacks in the Bakhmut and Avdiivka-Donetsk City area. Russian forces made marginal territorial gains near Bakhmut.
- Russian sources claimed, likely to distract from the lack of progress in Bakhmut, that Russian forces launched an offensive around Vuhledar.
- Russian forces likely continued to conduct limited and localized ground attacks in Zaporizhia Oblast but likely did not make territorial gains, further undermining Zaporizhia Oblast occupation official Vladimir Rogov’s prior territorial claims.
- Ukrainian special forces conducted a raid across the Dnipro River in Kherson Oblast on January 23-24.
- Russian authorities are likely continuing efforts to mobilize ethnic minorities to fight in Ukraine.
- Russia’s defense industrial base (DIB) is reportedly increasing the production of drones and loitering munitions.
- Ukrainian partisans targeted a member of the Zaporizhia occupation administration.