Sitrep for December 15–16 (as of 12:30 p.m.)
On the morning of Dec. 16, information was received about explosions in Kyiv, Dnipro, Zaporizhzhia, Kharkiv and Mykolaiv regions.
The situation on the frontline
The temperature fluctuates around zero degrees, and the muddy season still contributes to the calm. None of the sides have made large-scale advances.
According to pro-Russian sources, in the Svatove direction, Russian troops managed to repulse the attack of the AFU near Sofiivka. These events confirm the Def Mon analyst's hypothesis that the Ukrainian forces intend to liberate Nyzhnia Duvanka in order to cut off the supply of Svatove from the north. Also, the AFU is trying to move in the direction of Kuzemivka.
General Oleksiy Gromov, representative of the General Staff of Ukraine, said that Ukrainian forces had advanced about one and a half kilometers in the area of Dibrova.
In addition, the AFU reports on striking targets in Tokmak, Polohy and Berdiansk (Zaporizhzhia direction). There are reports of attacks on command and logistics posts in this direction almost every day, therefore, despite the absence of large-scale offensives, military activity has increased markedly.
As a result of the strike on Donetsk, which head of the occupation administration Aleksey Kulemzin called "the most massive strike since 2014" (although, according to him, only one package of rockets was fired at the city by BM-21 Grad MLRS), one woman was killed and ten more people, including one child, were injured.
We cannot say which side has launched the rockets, since there is not enough evidence.
Anonymous Ukrainian researcher Necro Mancer noted an interesting pattern: Ukrainian strikes on the Luhansk region are usually limited to military facilities, but residential areas are very often under attack in Donetsk, which leads him to a thought about possible false flag attacks. But there is not enough evidence to support this hypothesis.
The Economist published a long interview with General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the Commander-in-Chief of the AFU. In this interview, he says that for him the war began in 2014, and what is happening now is the same war, but on a much larger scale.
According to Zaluzhnyi, now it is necessary to continue fighting without delay, but Ukraine needs resources for that. For the current invasion, according to him, the Russian army has been accumulating resources for 3.5-4 years. He also believes that from a military point of view, the decision to take Kyiv was correct, but Russia did not calculate its resources and capabilities.
Russia’s forces are now concentrated on Donbas to preserve whatever resources they have left, Zaluzhnyi believes. They are looking for ways to stop fighting and get a pause by any means, shelling the cities and leaving civilians without electricity and heating. This is done in order to buy time, gather resources and create new potential so they can continue to pursue their goals.
But they are working on another task in parallel, doing everything possible not to let the AFU regroup and strike back.
What is vital for Ukrainian forces at this point is to hold the front line, because it is ten to fifteen times harder to liberate the territory than not to surrender it.
The second crucial task for Ukraine is to create reserves (what is needed the most are tanks, armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles, gear and air defense systems to protect the safety of civilians) and to prepare for the new stage of the war that can commence in January-March. Zaluzhnyi does not rule out the possibility that this new stage starts not in Donbas: Russia’s forces may as well set out again from Belarus towards Kyiv, or from Crimea towards Kherson and Mykolaiv.
Valerii Zaluzhnyi did not respond when asked whether the western allies were holding Ukraine's Armed Forces from advancing on Crimea. However, he noted that in order to reach the borders of Crimea, the AFU needed first to cover a distance of 84 km to Melitopol. Melitopol would give Ukraine full fire control of the land corridor from Russia to Crimea. From Melitopol, the Armed Forces of Ukraine can fire at the Crimean Isthmus, cutting the supply lines of those Russian forces that will stay in the southern part of the Kherson region.
Zaluzhnyi estimates that for the next stage of the war Ukraine needs 300 tanks, 600-700 infantry fighting vehicles, and 500 howitzers. This would make it feasible to get to the lines of Feb. 23.
Problems that Russian mobilized troops face are not so dire to prevent these people from fighting, Zaluzhnyi says. Much like with the Chechen wars, Russians will fight because they were ordered to, without thinking whether it is right or wrong. According to Zaluzhnyi’s estimates, Russia’s reserve may amount to 1.2-1.5 million people (with some 200,000 fresh troops being actively prepared). Zaluzhnyi has no doubt Russia will have another go at Kyiv.
The Commander of the Ground Forces of the AFU, General Oleksandr Syrskyi, also believes that the Russian army has a great personnel potential. By way of example, he mentions Russian recruits armed only with light personal weapons who held back Ukrainian attacks in Kreminna and Svatove in the Luhansk region successfully – though the muddy season also played into their hands. Besides, according to him, mobilization enabled the Russian army to rotate units, allowing soldiers to rest and recuperate.
The UK is considering the supply of Storm Shadow air-launched cruise missiles with a range of about 560 kilometers to Ukraine.
Germany has updated its list of aid to Ukraine, now it includes:
- IRIS-T air defense system missiles;
- two Bergepanzer 2 armored repair and recovery vehicles;
- 30,000 rounds for 40mm grenade launchers;
- 5,000 155mm artillery rounds;
- 4 ambulances;
- 18 8x8 trucks with a special loading system (Wechselladesystem).
Note that 5,000 artillery rounds is a very small amount. In the aforementioned interview, Zaluzhnyi spoke about a conversation with Britain’s top soldier [Antony Radakin], in which he compared the current military situation with one during the First World War and stressed that Ukraine needs a lot of shells to win the war. Unfortunately, Ukraine’s partners do not have such a quantity, and they have to work under conditions of limited supply.
The Ukrainian army has received a batch of 152mm shells produced in Iran in 2022 for 2S3 Akatsiya self-propelled guns and D-20 towed gun-howitzers.
The German defense concern Rheinmetall plans to construct a new factory in Germany to produce ammunition, including for Gepard SPAAGs. The main goal of the new production line is to restore the supply of ammunition to the Bundeswehr [German Armed Forces], which would be independent of foreign production facilities, but at the same time, it will help to arrange the supply of shells to Ukraine. Earlier, Switzerland twice refused to allow to re-export ammunition to Ukraine in response to Germany’s request.