Sitrep for December 23–26 (as of 1:30 p.m.)
The most discussed news at the moment is a Ukrainian drone attack on the Engels airbase on the night of Dec. 26. According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, the drone was shot down, and three servicemen were killed by falling debris. Pro-Russian journalist Semyon Pegov (a.k.a. WarGonzo) also reported that three people had been killed and two more had been injured. The available video recordings still do not provide an accurate picture of what exactly happened that night in Engels.
On the morning of Dec. 26 (a little earlier than the first news about the incident at the air base appeared), the pro-Russian Telegram channel Fighterbomber posted a video showing a Tupolev Tu-95 (Bear) strategic bomber launching a Kh-101 missile. However, there have been no reports of cruise missile attacks on Ukrainian territory so far.
On Dec. 25 explosions were heard near the airfield in Kursk.
The repetition of such incidents is another argument that Russia does not have enough air defense systems, so the only way to protect strategically important objects is to move air defense systems from the frontline. Strategic bombers can also be protected by rebasing them even further from the border with Ukraine.
On the evening of Dec. 23, there was a video filmed in the suburbs of Kherson showing the use of thermite incendiary munitions. In the video one can hear burning munitions fall directly onto the roof of the house where it is being filmed from. This video is direct evidence of the strike on a residential area with thermite incendiary munitions. Of course, it is a war crime, even if there is a military facility nearby.
On Dec. 25, Kherson was also hit with MLRS, artillery and mortars. The video shows massive destruction in the city: destroyed civilian vehicles and damaged buildings (non-military facilities). To date, there is information on 16 killed and 64 injured.
While representatives of the Ukrainian city administration are calling on civilians to evacuate from Kherson and the right bank of Dnipro, Russian-appointed governor of the Kherson region Volodymyr Saldo says that the shelling of Kherson is a provocation aimed at blaming Russia.
One can determine the shelling direction using photos of the craters from the hits, which show traces of fragments fanning out.
Pro-Russian sources said the rockets came from the north or northwest, and although they tried to use the same directional method as CIT, their conclusions were wrong.
Rockets (both BM-21 Grad MLRS and others) always fall at an angle (not vertically, like aerial bombs) and do not turn round in the air. When they explode, the fragments scatter in all directions relative to their axes, but due to the angle of impact, most of the traces from the fragments will be on the side.
Therefore, the central part of the fan of fragments on the ground always points in the direction from which the rocket came.
Thus, if you geolocate a photo with a crater and a fan of fragments, you can unambiguously determine the direction of arrival.
Having geolocated a photo at 47 Rishelevska Street, we concluded that the central line of the fan of fragments was directed south-southeast from the crater.
The following is curious: if the logic of pro-Russian sources (who suggested that the strike was delivered from the north or north-west) would be applied to the photos of strikes on Donetsk, it would turn out that it was struck by pro-Russian forces (we believe that those were not Russian strikes).
On the night of Dec. 24, the Dnipropetrovsk region was also attacked; more than 60 rockets were fired. Casualties have not been reported yet.
On Dec. 24, the Armed Forces of Ukraine attacked targets in the town of Oleshky and the village of Urzuf, east of Berdiansk (the nearest Ukrainian positions are located 105 km from Urzuf in Hulyaipole).
Had the strike on Urzuf been conducted with the Tochka-U missile system, there would have been greater destruction; GMLRS rockets can’t reach that far. Thus, it is logical to assume that a drone was used.
Analysts from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) note that, judging by the geolocation of the videos of ongoing fighting, Russian forces are now trying to advance along the Siverskyi Donets — Donbas canal northwest of Kurdiumivka.
On the other hand, on Dec. 25, a video emerged showing a Ukrainian drone tracking a group of Russian soldiers to their location in Ozarianivka, and then hitting them with an Excalibur guided shell. The Ukrainian side claims 12 killed.
In the Svatove area, the front line has remained almost unchanged. However, OSINT analyst Def Mon stresses that now Svatove falls within a twenty-five-kilometer range of Ukrainian tube artillery. This allows the use of long-range projectiles, for example, ones with the rocket assisted munition.
We attribute the Russian forces’ lack of ammo not to the country’s stockpiles running out of it, but to the logistical problems — it is impossible to move depots close to the front line. A post was published on the pro-Russian Telegram channel Dva Mayora [Two Majors] that the Russian side is currently using too many artillery shells and it is considered normal when about 300 of them are spent to destroy one tank. Therefore, at the moment the situation is developing in such a way that both sides need an operational pause in order to accumulate ammunition for a large-scale offensive.
On Dec. 25, the General Staff of the AFU reported that Ukrainian forces struck a meeting of Russian military officers of the Southern Military District in the village of Zabaryne, Kherson Region, and allegedly 70 servicemen were injured. We have not seen any confirmation yet.
The Wall Street Journal published an article on how Putin is leading the war. We found particularly interesting the information that Putin personally ordered not to surrender Lyman. Through the head of Russia's Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, he continues to receive folders with untimely and embellished news, along with the results of FSO [Federal Security Service] surveys of Russia’s public opinion. Putin does not trust military officials because they once tried to dissuade him from annexing Crimea.
As for the Ukrainian side, it is noted (in fact, in a Washington Post article — CIT) that in the coming months in Europe, partners will train tens of thousands of Ukrainians "to fight like NATO" and not to waste huge amounts of shells on a daily basis. The United States produces 14,000 155mm munitions per month, while Ukrainians can spend that amount in two days during heavy fighting.
The article also says that Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov requested 100 A-10 Thunderbolt attack aircraft from the U.S. depots in the spring but was refused. In response, he was told that they were so old and slow that they would be immediately shot down by Russian forces and would be useless. We should note that we still see Ukrainian Su-25 airplanes flying, which do not differ much from the A-10.
A source in the U.S. administration told the newspaper that M1 Abrams tanks would not be provided to Ukraine. Used by U.S. forces in Iraq, those tanks were hard for the Americans to sustain and maintain, and it would be impossible for the Ukrainians.
The United Arab Emirates is going to transfer 2.5 thousand generators to Ukraine by the end of the year. The aid is part of a $100 million humanitarian relief package to Ukraine from the UAE.
Vladislav Borisenko and Vasily Gavrilishyn, accused of setting a draft office on fire in Russia’s Nizhnevartovsk, are now facing more severe charges. They are now accused of committing a terrorist attack rather than damaging property and hooliganism. We believe that in the future the punishment for those who oppose the war will be tougher, and such actions will also be qualified as terrorism, and not as hooliganism.
Two videos have been published, one showing allegedly Ukrainian military surrendering during fighting near Marinka, and the second showing allegedly heavy losses of Ukrainian forces. Our team, like the anonymous Ukrainian researcher Necro Mancer, considers these videos to be staged: the prisoners have perfectly clean uniforms, yellow and blue ribbons and armbands are deliberately noticeable. Most likely, such videos aim at demoralizing the Ukrainian soldiers so that the Russian offensive in the Donetsk region would be more successful.