Strategic SitRep Week of 16-23 March 2023

Unstable Sudan Ceasefire/Wagner Claims Control of Bakhmut/Anti-Putin Militia Liberates Russian Towns!

Conflict Continues in Sudan's Capital Despite Saudi and U.S.-Brokered Ceasefire

Despite a week-long ceasefire agreement brokered by Saudi and the U.S., air strikes and clashes were reported in Sudan's capital, Khartoum. The ceasefire, signed between the army and the rival paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), is expected to begin on Monday, alongside an internationally-supported monitoring mechanism. However, there are doubts about whether the army chief, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the RSF commander, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, can enforce the ceasefire. Since the conflict began on April 15, approximately 1.1 million people have been displaced, causing a major humanitarian crisis. The deal is aimed at allowing the delivery of much needed humanitarian aid.

Deeper Dive: The Sudanese conflict, ongoing since mid-April, has precipitated a major humanitarian crisis, displacing more than a million people. This ongoing violence, even in the face of ceasefire agreements, illustrates the complex nature of Sudan's political landscape and the volatile balance of power between the army and the RSF. If the ceasefire is not upheld, it could further aggravate the humanitarian situation and potentially destabilize the wider region. However, if the truce holds, it could represent a significant step towards the resolution of the conflict, allowing for essential humanitarian aid to reach those in need. Moreover, successful ceasefire enforcement might serve as a confidence-building measure for future peace negotiations, opening the path for a potential resolution of the conflict.

Russian Rebel Groups Fighting for Ukraine Claim to Overrun Villages in Russia's Belgorod Region

Freedom of Russia Legion’s Statement on Social Media

Russian military groups Legion of Free Russia and Russian Volunteer Corps, reportedly fighting on Ukraine's side, claimed to have entered and liberated villages in Russia's Belgorod region bordering Ukraine. These groups claim to consist solely of Russian citizens and are working towards creating a demilitarized zone along the border with Ukraine. Belgorod Governor Viacheslav Gladkov stated that a "counter-terrorist operation" has been launched in response to this infiltration. The military groups' stated goal is to liberate Russia from President Putin's regime and to ensure the safety of the Ukrainian civilian population.

Deeper Dive: These events mark an interesting turn in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, with Russian groups reportedly fighting against their own country's military forces. This could potentially escalate tensions and lead to a widening of the conflict, especially if such actions inspire similar resistance within Russia. However, this development may also strain Russia's internal security situation, forcing it to redirect resources towards internal stability, potentially impacting its war efforts in Ukraine. Lastly, these actions raise critical questions about the level of opposition to Putin's regime within Russia, which could have significant implications for Russia's political landscape in the future.

Conflicting Claims on Control of Bakhmut Amid Widespread Destruction

Despite Russia's assertion of full control over the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, Kyiv's leadership, including President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has disputed these claims. Bakhmut, a city of significant symbolic value for both sides, has been devastated by the conflict, compared by Zelenskiy to the atomic destruction of Hiroshima. Russian claims of victory come amid reports of Ukrainian advances in the areas surrounding Bakhmut, bolstering prospects of a counteroffensive. Zelenskiy, on the other hand, is leveraging the devastation of Bakhmut in his appeal for more aid to G7 leaders, even as strategic disagreement continues over the city's military importance.

Deeper Dive: The battle over Bakhmut, a city of 70,000 pre-war inhabitants, signifies more than territorial contest; it symbolizes the broader conflict and the resilience of Ukraine in the face of the Russian invasion. Despite its devastated state, the city remains a focal point for both sides. Kyiv is using the destruction of Bakhmut to secure international aid and sympathy, underpinning the gravity of the Russian invasion's humanitarian consequences. The city's fate may also shape the narrative of the war and can potentially galvanize further international assistance for Ukraine.

Simultaneously, the destruction of Bakhmut calls into question the strategic value of holding the city, with some Western military officials deeming it overstated. However, Bakhmut's destruction has also bought Kyiv time to prepare additional troops for a counteroffensive, while potentially bleeding Russian resources. Therefore, the tactical dimension of Bakhmut's defense could be more complex than it appears.

Finally, the ongoing debate over Bakhmut's control illuminates the fog of war, where information and misinformation are weaponized. This further underscores the importance of credible, on-the-ground reporting and intelligence in understanding and responding to the evolving situation in Ukraine.