December 13, 2023

Sitrep for Dec. 11-13, 2023 (as of 8:30 a.m. UTC+3)

Frontline Situation Update

Most analysts are noting the advancement of Russian forces in the Bakhmut direction, specifically around Bohdanivka, Khromove and Ivanivske. According to the DeepState project, the Armed Forces of Ukraine have initiated a defensive operation near Chasiv Yar, a strategically vital location for protecting the Kramatorsk metropolitan area. Chasiv Yar's elevated position should be easier to defend than lowland locations. This has led analysts, including our team, to consider it beneficial for the AFU to retreat from Bakhmut to positions near Chasiv Yar.

The Russian Armed Forces have also made progress in the Avdiivka direction, gaining control of the industrial zone. The fighting has now reached the outskirts of Avdiivka itself, specifically around Kolosova Street (formerly Kirova Street) and Yasynuvatskyi Lane.

Russian forces have also achieved some success in the Marinka direction, likely capturing the southern part of the town of Marinka. This development potentially allows the RuAF to advance towards Kurakhove. However, intense fighting persists, indicating the situation could change.

Considering challenges in Western weapons supply and personnel replenishment, the AFU may soon decide to prepare defensive positions at a distance from the current line of contact. To preserve lives and resources, Ukraine might find it beneficial to relinquish some positions rather than fight for them until the end.

However, as reported by the Financial Times, the overly optimistic picture of events painted by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy exacerbates the rift between Ukraine’s political and military leadership. While Zelenskyy’s goal was evidently to boost the fighting spirit of Ukrainians and stimulate Western allies to intensify support, the detachment from reality, according to some Ukrainian sources, could worsen an already challenging situation.

The New York Times reports that the United States will intensify consultations between the US and Ukrainian military. For this purpose, three-star general Antonio Aguto Jr. will even be sent to Ukraine to assess the current situation, directly engaging with the leadership of the AFU. Alongside planned military exercises in Wiesbaden, Germany, scheduled for next month, this is intended to help formulate a new strategy for the upcoming year. Washington’s position, as stated, is to maintain existing territories and accumulate resources for future confrontations. At the same time, representatives of the AFU allegedly insist on either a new ground offensive or an escalation of long-range strikes on targets connected to the RuAF, particularly in Crimea.

Unfortunately, this article does not consider the perspective of Russian authorities on the situation on the frontline and the possible responsive measures that the Russian military command may take. We still believe that in 2023, the RuAF enlisted 150,000-160,000 new contract soldiers, and the recruitment process may continue at a comparable pace in 2024. Additionally, after the presidential elections in March 2024, there is an increased probability of a new wave of mobilization, which Russian authorities are afraid to launch before the election.

Politico informs that US intelligence, with the aim of expediting Congress's approval of military aid to Ukraine, declassified data on RuAF losses in eastern Ukraine, allegedly in the Avdiivka-Novopavlivka direction. However, it is unclear which specific Novopavlivka is meant, as all known places with that name are significantly distant from the Avdiivka direction.

According to US intelligence, Russia has lost over 13,000 soldiers, both killed and wounded, since the beginning of October in the Avdiivka direction. This implies that around 3,000-4,000 people have been killed in about 60 days (based on the typical RuAF wounded-to-killed ratio of 1:3), averaging 40-50 people per day. While we acknowledge that this number of soldiers killed per day may have occurred during the days of the most intensive attacks, we find it unlikely that such a large number of soldiers was killed on a daily basis. This contradicts the data, including visual evidence, received from the frontline. For example, many videos of hits on Russian military equipment show that after the initial strike, soldiers manage to disperse before drones or artillery can destroy their vehicle. Additionally, according to the 93rd Separate Mechanized Brigade, the number of people killed during drone attacks is relatively low compared to the amount of equipment destroyed.

Reuters has published an article citing declassified US intelligence data claiming that Russia has lost 315,000 soldiers killed and wounded since the start of the full-scale invasion. This is said to be 87% of the force that initially invaded Ukraine. However, the day before the invasion, US intelligence estimated the strength of this force not at 362,000 soldiers, but at 190,000, roughly in line with our estimates of 190,000-200,000. Additionally, Reuters reports the loss of 2,200 tanks out of 3,100 that were in service with the RuAF as of February 2022. It is worth noting that according to a US intelligence leak, Russia had lost 2,048 tanks by February 2023. This implies that Russia lost only 152 tanks in the following nine months, which contradicts not only common sense, but also visually confirmed Oryx data indicating that Russia lost 2,548 tanks since the beginning of the full-scale invasion.

Ukrainian and Russian Strikes

The Russian MoD reported the interception of a Ukrainian Tochka-U missile near the village of Bessonovka, Belgorod region on Dec. 12.

On the night of Dec. 11, Kyiv was attacked, presumably with 9K723 Iskander ballistic missiles. In the Darnytskyi district, four people were injured by falling debris. According to the Ukrainian Air Force, all eight missiles were shot down, yet in Bortnychi (a historical area in the above-mentioned district), judging by the crater, one of the missiles detonated as it hit the ground. A photo of a spent PAC-3 anti-aircraft missile of the MIM-104 Patriot SAM system was also published.

On the night of Dec. 13, the RuAF launched another attack with ten 9K723 Iskander ballistic missiles targeting the Darnytskyi and Dniprovskyi districts of Kyiv. Reportedly, all the ballistic missiles were intercepted, but at least 51 people were injured by falling debris.

On Dec. 12, Ukraine's mobile service provider Kyivstar experienced a large-scale hacker attack. Subscribers began reporting connectivity issues in the morning, followed by other infrastructure problems such as ATM shutdowns, street lighting malfunctions and disruptions to the air raid alert system. While the connection has been partially restored, repair work is still ongoing. Monobank also faced DDoS attacks.

Several Telegram channels reported communication issues at Russian forward positions. This is not surprising, as Russian soldiers often lack radio stations necessary for encrypted communication or do not know how to use them, and therefore resort to cellular communication. However, this poses a security risk, as it allows the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) to intercept conversations.

Coca-Cola and the Ukrainian Red Cross Society jointly donated 37 mobile boiler houses to Ukraine, with an additional 8 expected soon. The project, valued at over $3.5 million, aims to provide heat to more than 50 thousand Ukrainians.

The Centre for Strategic and International Studies examined Planet’s satellite images of the North Korean port of Najin from early October to late November. According to US intelligence, Russia uses this port to transport ammunition to the Far Eastern port of Dunay, and from there, it is further transported by railway to the European part of Russia. Throughout this period, the number of both moored ships and railway containers fluctuated, with the level of activity consistently surpassing pre-pandemic levels. Experts also analyzed railway traffic around the port, noting a significant increase in intensity. It is obvious that the supply of artillery ammunition to Russia continues.

The United Kingdom has established an office tasked with enforcing compliance with anti-Russian sanctions, with its operations set to commence in early 2024. The Office of Trade Sanctions Implementation will aid companies in adhering to sanctions, investigate any violations and, if necessary, refer cases to HM Revenue and Customs Authority.

A new package of sanctions against Russia, scheduled to include a prohibition on selling tankers to Russia, failed to be adopted on Dec. 12. This time, the adoption was blocked by Austria, which expressed dissatisfaction with Ukraine’s inclusion of the still-operating Russian subsidiary of Raiffeisen Bank in the list of international sponsors of war.

Western Assistance

The meeting between Zelenskyy and Biden in Washington resulted in the allocation of a new package of US military aid to Ukraine. It will include:

  • AIM-9M missiles for air defense;
  • Air defense system components;
  • Additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems;
  • 155mm and 105mm artillery rounds;
  • High-speed Anti-radiation missiles;
  • Tube-Launched, Optically-Tracked, Wire-Guided missiles;
  • Javelin and AT-4 anti-armor systems;
  • More than 4 million rounds of small arms ammunition;
  • Demolitions munitions for obstacle clearing;
  • Equipment to protect critical national infrastructure;
  • Spare parts, generators, maintenance and other ancillary equipment.

The discussions also addressed the issue of frozen Russian assets.

Blogger david D. has published a post discussing an established procedure in the United States, whereby military equipment taken out of service can be transferred for non-commercial purposes. Funded by Congress through the National Defense Authorization Act, the ultimate recipient only covers the processing and transportation costs. For example, HMMWVs from US Army reserves were provided to the police, fire departments, museums and various organizations. This procedure was also used during the Yom Kippur War in 1973 to transfer military vehicles to Israel. However, it remains unclear whether the NDAA procedure allows for the transfer of military equipment to Ukraine.

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