Sitrep for December 22–23 (as of 5:00 p.m.)
The situation on the frontline
Summing up the week's proceedings, we note that there are still no significant changes on the frontline. However, it is worthwhile to comment on the situation on some axes separately.
On the Svatovе — Kreminna axis the AFU are still carrying out active military operations near the settlement of Dibrova (north-west of Kreminna). As we have recently reported they managed to approach about 5 km to the settlement of Kreminna.
To the north of it, Ukrainian forces have approached Zhytlivka, but it is still under the control of Russian forces, who were also pursuing offensive attempts in the areas of Ploshchanka and Chervonopopivka throughout the week.
As for Svatove, it is important to note the reports of the General Staff of the AFU about regularly repulsed Russian attacks on Stelmakhivka and Kuzemivka northwest of Svatove.
On the Bakhmut axis the AFU counterattacked north of Bakhmut, pushing back the pro-Russian forces in the areas of Yakovlivka and Soledar and having zeroed out their advances over the past week (or even a fortnight).
South of Bakhmut, the situation in the areas of Kurdiumivka and Ozarianivka did not change, however, pro-Russian forces managed to capture Andriivka, which is confirmed by a geolocated video with an RT correspondent. Now they are trying to attack Bakhmut from Opytne.
It is interesting that on the Donetsk axis, Russian troops launched an attack on Niu York (a settlement west of Horlivka in the Donetsk region). It has been speculated that it was a symbolic gesture timed to coincide with Zelenskyy's speech in the US Congress.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited the “special operation” zone for the second time in a week but the exact spot is not reported. He was accompanied by General Mikhail Ugolev, who is called the chief of staff of the "1st Army Corps of the People's Militia of the DPR", and Timur Ivanov (a person involved in a fresh investigation by Navalny's team).
The Chief of the General Staff of the RuAF, General Valery Gerasimov, said that Russian troops are currently “focused on completing liberation of the Donetsk Region”.
The Visual Investigation Team from The New York Times have published an article about killings of civilians in Bucha. The investigators established names of 32 paratroopers from the 234th Air Assault Regiment, who called using phones of the killed people (several hours after the death of the owners). It is impossible to definitively conclude from this investigation who exactly killed civilians, but it is now known that the soldiers who called were located around the time and in the area where these crimes were committed.
Also, according to records from CCTV cameras, it was found that in a number of cases, Lieutenant Colonel Artyom Gorodilov, commander of the 234th regiment, was present in these places. Moreover, it is shown that at the moment when an airborne combat vehicle opened fire on cyclist Irina Fokina, he was standing very close to this place, literally around the corner. Thus, it is emphasized that these unprovoked killings of civilians were carried out at least with knowledge, and possibly with approval (or even by order) of the military leaders.
Additionally, it was proven (with the assistance of the CIT) that military vehicles caught on cameras belong to the 234th. We are thankful to a CIT volunteer who helped collect photos from military exercises and parades with the participation of the regiment.
After the withdrawal of Russian forces from this direction, Artyom Gorodilov was promoted to colonel.
Based on satellite imagery from March through December, the Associated Press found more than 10,000 new graves in and around Mariupol, mainly in the Staryi Krym cemetery.
It also became known that the Mariupol Drama Theater, damaged as a result of a Russian attack, is probably being demolished.
During repair works, a fire broke out aboard the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft-carrying cruiser, which was quickly put out. No significant damage was caused.
Interestingly, according to the documents, this ship is not an aircraft carrier (officially, Russia doesn't have them), but an aircraft-carrying cruiser. This is due to the fact that the Montreux Convention prohibits the passage of aircraft carriers through the Bosporus Strait into the Black Sea. According to the Convention, an aircraft carrier is a ship "designed or adapted primarily for the purpose of carrying and operating aircraft at sea."
Since it is not the main purpose of the ship (the Admiral Kuznetsov carries P-700 Granit anti-ship cruise missiles), then this is an aircraft-carrying cruiser.
According to Oleg Tsaryov [former separatist official], Rogozin's [Russian nationalist politician and former Director General of Russia’s space agency Roscosmos] injuries turned out to be more severe than it seemed at first. In addition, it became known that during the strike on the Shesh-Besh restaurant, the ex-head of internal audit and the former(?) head of the security service of Roscosmos were wounded.
Andriy Shtep, Russia-appointed “head” of Lyubymivka, was killed as a result of a car explosion in the Kherson region.
A video of the incident, which occurred on Nov. 16, has been published. A drone dropped RPG grenades on an oil storage near Oryol, 170 kilometers from the border with Ukraine (the fire was quickly extinguished).
The German Rheinmetall concern began supplying the first MAN HX 8x8 (four-axle) trucks to the Armed Forces of Ukraine on behalf of the German government. A total of 26 such trucks are planned to be delivered. These vehicles are used to transport platforms and containers with equipment or ammunition.
The Wall Street Journal has published an article citing sources in Germany and Romania about the “shell hunger” in Ukraine. It describes efforts being made to scale up the production of artillery shells in Europe. Germany will finance the modernization and renovation of a plant in Romania, which produces ammunition to meet not only NATO, but also Soviet standards. This may be publicly announced at the end of December.
Vladimir Putin has commented on the news about the supply of Patriot systems to Ukraine. He claimed that it is an outdated air defense system that does not work as well as the Russian S-300.
An MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air missile system can indeed be compared with the latest modifications of S-300 or even S-400 SAM systems (but with an operational range of about 100 km). However, unlike them, a Patriot SAM system can obtain data from radars of other systems and even from satellites.
Experts from the Long War Journal studied the serial numbers of Kh-101 missiles launched by Russia from Tu-160 and Tu-95MS bombers that remained at the impact sites in Ukraine. As a result, they came to the conclusion that Russia managed to increase the production rate of these missiles during the full-scale invasion. In 2018, by conservative estimates, Russia manufactured one missile every four days, and now it produces at least one missile every three days.
However, according to the representative of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) of Ukraine, Vadim Skibitskyi, since Feb. 24, Russia has produced 240 such missiles, that is, the production rate was approximately 0.8 missiles per day.
The US State Department has confirmed reports of North Korean arms supplies to the Wagner Group. John Kirby, Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council in the White House, said the Wagner Group was searching around the world for arms suppliers to support its military operations in Ukraine. The United States estimates that the Wagner Group has 50,000 personnel deployed in Ukraine, including 40,000 convicts recruited from Russian prisons.
So far, we have not seen evidence of the use of North Korean weapons in Ukraine.