The US think tank made the assessment in its latest analysis of the war in Ukraine, published on Saturday night.
Ukraine advances near Bakhmut
Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations in the Bakhmut direction on Saturday and continued to make gains in the area, the ISW reported.
Ukrainian forces have advanced south of Rozdolivka (about 13km northeast of Bakhmut) and in northern Klishchiivka (about 6km southwest of Bakhmut), as confirmed by geolocated footage posted on Friday, according to the US think tank.
The Bakhmut direction is currently the site of the most intense combat operations on the front lines, the RBC-Ukraine news agency reported.
Ukraine’s Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar noted that fighting is ongoing near Klishchiivka and Kurdyumivka (12km southwest of Bakhmut) and stated that Ukrainian forces continue to be successful in the Klishchiivka area, the ISW reported.
Ukraine advances in Zaporizhzhia
At the same time, Ukrainian forces also advanced in the southeastern Zaporizhzhia region on Saturday and continued to penetrate Russian defences ahead of the current extent of Ukrainian advances, according to the US think tank.
Ukrainian forces have advanced along Russian defensive positions to the west of Robotyne (10km south of Orikhiv); moreover, Ukrainian infantry has also advanced further along a series of Russian defensive positions immediately west of Verbove (18km southeast of Orikhiv) but likely did not maintain control of these positions, the ISW reported, citing geolocated footage released over the past two days.
The US experts assessed: “The Ukrainian presence at these Russian defensive positions indicates that Russian forces do not control these positions either and that Ukrainian forces are continuing to operate past the Russian defensive layer that runs northwest of Verbove to north of Solodka Balka (20km south of Orikhiv).”
The ISW added: “Ukrainian forces have likely made a significant tactical breach along a section of the current Russian defense layer in the Robotyne area over the past several weeks that they continue to widen.”
Russia brings troops from Bakhmut to defend positions in Zaporizhzhia
According to the US think tank, these ongoing Ukrainian advances in the western part of Zaporizhzhia, “have likely forced the Russian command to prioritize the Russian defense there and laterally redeploy elements of a relatively elite formation away from the Russian defense south of Bakhmut.”
The redeployments suggest Russia‘s “deep concern about Ukrainian advances in western Zaporizhia Oblast and the Russian prioritization of the defense there,” the ISW concluded.
Ukraine is seeking to encircle and recapture Bakhmut in the east, while its push through Zaporizhzhia in the southeast is intended to reach the port of Melitopol on the Sea of Azov, splitting Russian forces, according to news outlets.
Sunday is day 571 of Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, launching the largest military campaign in Europe since World War II.
Source: PAP, RBC-Ukraine, ISW