Key Takeaways from the ISW:

  • Speculations about the Wagner Group’s withdrawal from Belarus suggest that aspects of the deal between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin following Wagner’s armed rebellion on June 24 have collapsed.

  • Putin is likely still concerned about the threat that Prigozhin poses to his long-term goals and continues to focus on definitively separating Prigozhin from Wagner.

  • Alternatively, Putin may intend for Wagner's forces to return to Russia in order to facilitate the destruction or restructuring of Wagner.

  • The likely collapse of aspects of the Wagner-Putin-Lukashenko deal indicates that Putin has failed to decisively resolve issues posed by Prigozhin and Wagner following Wagner’s June 24 rebellion.

  • Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu attempted to justify the recreation of the Moscow and Leningrad Military Districts by reamplifying boilerplate rhetoric posturing NATO as an existential threat to Russia.

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  • Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the front and advanced in some areas on August 9.

  • The Russian veteran community may be attempting to rehabilitate the nominal Russian deputy theater commander in Ukraine, Army General Sergei Surovikin, following scrutiny over his affiliation with the Wagner Group.

  • Marchenkov’s interview may suggest that Surovikin and the anti-Gerasimov faction believe there is a chance for Surovikin to return to the frontlines.

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  • Russian sources claimed that poor safety regulations led to an explosion near the Zagorsk Optical Mechanical Plant in Moscow on August 9, and notably most Russian sources did not suggest that Ukrainian actors may have been responsible for the incident.

  • Russian forces continued offensive operations on the Svatove-Kreminna line, in the Bakhmut area, along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line, along the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast and advanced on the Svatove-Kreminna line, north of Bakhmut, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast.

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  • Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the front and advanced in some areas on August 9.

  • Footage published on August 9 further supports ISW’s assessments that the Ukrainian incursion near Kozachi Laheri in the east (left) bank of Kherson Oblast on August 8 was likely a limited raid.

  • Russian forces may be moving military equipment through Kazakhstan to Russia, but ISW has observed no geolocated footage confirming these reports.

  • Russian officials appear to be setting conditions to justify the possible need to cancel or postpone regional elections in the occupied territories in case of Ukrainian counteroffensive successes.

Authors: Riley Bailey, Nicole Wolkov, Angelica Evans, George Barros, Kateryna Stepanenko, and Frederick W. Kagan

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