December 22, 2022

Sitrep for December 20–21 (as of 4:00 p.m.)

According to CNN, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy left for Washington, where he is planning to address the US Congress. This is the first foreign visit of Volodymyr Zelenskyy since February 24, 2022. All this time, President Zelenskyy has remained in Ukraine with his people, but now, almost 10 months after the start of a full-scale invasion, he decided to address the Congress and meet with President Biden, as the US is the most important partner for Ukraine. It was this country that has provided the most significant aid and continues to demonstrate consistent support for Ukraine.

Russian President’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Rossiyskaya Gazeta [Government of Russia's media outlet and official publisher] that Vladimir Putin had been to the "special operation" zone and talked to the commanders of troops there.

It is interesting since it is now reliably known that the meeting took place in Rostov-on-Don. Does this statement mean that the border regions of Russia are now also included in the “special operation” zone?

Rostov-on-Don is located about 200 km from the frontline, so it is quite safe for the president there. The only Ukrainian weapons capable of reaching this far from the frontline are drones, but it seems impossible to use them for a strike, since all the air defenses around the city are clearly on alert due to such a significant event.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, Russian oligarch, the confidant of Vladimir Putin, owner of the Wagner Group, recorded a video somewhere at the front commenting on the visit of President Zelenskyy to Bakhmut.

Russian-appointed governor of the Kherson region Volodymyr Saldo told the Rossiya-24 state-run television news channel that "the return of the right-bank part to the Kherson region is one of the priority tasks in 2023."

This task will prove to be an exceptionally challenging one, since Russian forces are separated from the right bank of the Dnipro by a wide natural obstacle, namely the river itself.

Serhiy Haidai, Head of the Luhansk Regional Military-Civil Administration, reports that the AFU are within several kilometers of Kreminna, but their advance is stalled since the area is mined heavily. Indeed, a video with Ukrainian servicemen was geolocated in a forest 5.5 km to the south of Kreminna.

It is worth noting that the Borshchevik [Hogweed] mobile direction-finding system (mentioned by us in yesterday’s sitrep), the main purpose of which, as it seems, is to pinpoint the location of Starlink terminals, is not as effective as claimed. Its range is 10 km, but if we take into account that Starlink terminals are deployed around 2-4 km away from the frontline, and a Borshchevik itself (being quite hefty) has to stay at least 2 km away, its actual range is far less than what is claimed. Thus, a Borshchevik is more likely to be attacked by Ukrainian forces (it is easily spotted by UAVs) than it is to spot a Starlink terminal and aim Russian artillery pieces at it.

Having analyzed the two videos of Dec. 19 of attacks on helicopters, we are now certain that the two videos depict the same incident captured from different angles. It is evident that only one helicopter was shot down. Moreover, a video emerged of these same helicopters first tossing rockets (shooting unguided rockets pitching nose up), then firing off their heat flares, then circling around and moving downwards, at which point one of them is struck by a missile that leads to a crash.

There was information about a Russian-friendly fire incident, which reportedly occurred in early December on the Zaporizhzhia axis. A Russian Pantsir-S1 (SA-22 Greyhound) self-propelled anti-aircraft missile and artillery system detected a flying object in the night sky and shot it down. Subsequently, it turned out to be a Russian Ka-52 (Hokum B) attack helicopter. The helicopter crew survived.

Such incidents partly explain why Ukrainian drones can sometimes fly safely over Russian territory. Russian air defense crews are often afraid to shoot down their own aircraft when they detect an unidentified object.

According to eyewitnesses, three floors of the Regional Clinical Hospital named after Kalinin collapsed as a result of strikes on Donetsk. No casualties have been reported yet.

The village of Makhnovka in the Sudzhansky district of the Kursk region was also hit. One person was injured.

The US Ambassador to the UN accused U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres of "apparently yielding to Russian threats" and not sending an official delegation to Ukraine to check the drones that Russia uses during combat activities (we are talking primarily about Iranian-made UAVs).

The German Ministry of Defense temporarily refuses to purchase the latest German model of Puma IFVs put into service 7 years ago.

Instead, the German Bundeswehr will continue to use Marder IFVs developed in the 1960s. According to German Defense Minister Christina Lambrecht, the decision is directly related to the scandal when about 20 Pumas were not operational after problems arose during a recent firing exercise.

A direct consequence of this decision could be a slowdown in the pace of deliveries of armored vehicles to Ukraine (Marder infantry fighting vehicles will have to remain at the disposal of the German Army, so they cannot be transferred to Ukraine or to any NATO country on the circular exchange scheme).

The new package of US $1.8 billion aid to Ukraine has been announced. It will include:

  • Patriot air defense systems;
  • JDAM kits that convert unguided bombs into precision-guided munitions;
  • additional ammunition for HIMARS MLRS;
  • AGM-88 HARM anti-radar missiles;
  • artillery and mortars shells;
  • trucks, weapons, training and other necessary aid.

Details about JDAM kits are yet unknown. As we understand it, they are designed to be used with Western munitions, and not with Soviet aerial bombs Ukraine has.

The problem connected with Russian air defense is also still relevant for Ukraine. In order to achieve the maximum range of such a bomb, an aircraft needs to drop it from a maximum height, becoming vulnerable to air defense systems. However, this problem is partially solved by tossing bombs.

The State Duma [lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia] adopted in the first reading a package of bills on setting fines of up to 1 million RUB for the distribution of maps "challenging the territorial integrity of Russia."

In Crimea, an entire reconnaissance battalion refused to participate in the war. According to a relative of one of the soldiers who wrote a corresponding report, they refused because they suffered heavy losses and did not want to die to no avail.

In the village of Bakinskaya, Krasnodar region, which is located near the Molkin rural locality and the base of the Wagner Group, a cemetery with a large number of fresh graves of convicts reportedly recruited by the Wagner Group and killed in action has been discovered.

Such cemeteries, monuments and memorials are important targets of research, allowing us to establish the names of KIAs. Recently, special reports from different regions of Russia have been published and broadcasted. They indicate that the lists of names of those who were killed in Ukraine on such monuments have already become longer than the lists of casualties in the Afghan and Chechen wars.

In Moscow, the police are seeking migrants without Russian citizenship. They force them to register with a draft office and volunteer to join Russian troops.

Soldiers from the Moscow region complained to their relatives about the living conditions in their unit near Bryansk. According to a relative of one of the conscripts, the soldiers have been living in abandoned houses without heating and water supply and sleeping on the floor. This week, according to the servicemen, they are being transferred to live in trenches, and mobilized soldiers are to move in their place.

Navalny's team has released a new investigation about Russian Deputy Defense Minister Timur Ivanov. He is responsible for the construction of objects of the Ministry of Defense, including those on the territory of the destroyed Mariupol.