Sitrep for December 26–27 (as of 1:30 p.m.)
A video recorded by the Wagner Group mercenaries near Bakhmut appeared, in which they scolded General Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff of the RuAF and First Deputy Minister of Defense, in obscene terms because of the shell hunger due to logistical problems on the pro-Russian side.
At first glance, the video seems rather implausible, and might look like a psyop. However, firstly, the people in the video really look very similar to the Wagner Group mercenaries (a shoulder patch is visible on the uniform of one of the participants, which is usually worn by the members and supporters of the Wagner Group).
And secondly, Yevgeny Prigozhin, Russian oligarch, the confidant of Vladimir Putin and owner of the Wagner Group, confirmed in his Telegram channel that this video was not staged. At first, he spoke neutrally, and then added that he had visited the positions where the mercenaries from the video were located, and that he was aware of the problem with shells, and their main task then was to take Bakhmut. He also quoted the words of the fighters, “When you are in a warm office, it is easy to ignore the problems of the frontline, and when you pull your comrades out of the ruins ... you become more sensitive to the shell hunger problem.”
It remains unclear why such claims are made specifically against Gerasimov, and who gave the Wagner Group mercenaries the right to demand ammunition from the Russian Ministry of Defense.
However, things get a little bit clearer if we trace the history of the conflict between the Wagner Group and the Ministry of Defense to the beginning of the Russian military operation in Syria. At first, the Wagner Group existed as a completely secret unit, but due to the constant efforts of international investigators, its existence has become an open secret. In 2017 or 2018, there was a spat between the leaders of the Wagner PMC and the Russian Ministry of Defense, and at about the same time, the mercenaries lost air and logistical support of the Russian Army, but they still were provided with weapons.
Based on all this, there is a suspicion that the video criticizing Gerasimov was recorded, at least, with Prigozhin's approval and possibly with his encouragement.
The problem of shell hunger is also confirmed by other experts, including OSINT analyst Def Mon, who noted a decrease in the intensity of shelling in the Donetsk direction and the Bakhmut and Soledar areas.
Over the weekend, there were reports of the liberation of Kreminna (without official confirmation or even circumstantial evidence). But as of now, we know that they were fake, and there is no indication that Kreminna will be liberated in the coming days.
Russian forces are attacking in the direction of Nevske and Ploshchanka in order to cut off Ukrainian attempts to assault Chervonopopivka. It is related to the fact that the liberation of Chervonopopivka or Zhytlivka by the Ukrainian Armed Forces would bring the moment of Kreminna's liberation significantly closer.
On Dec. 26, eight mobilized soldiers were detained in the Moscow region; they had left the Luhansk region and showed up at the Podolsk police station, stating that they wanted to turn in their weapons. Almost all of them had been mobilized in the Kaliningrad region and sent near Luhansk after training.
On Decr 26, the Federal Security Service special forces reportedly killed Ukrainian saboteurs on the Russian-Ukrainian border in the Bryansk region. Later, the names of those killed were announced. Experts associate them with the Bratstvo [Brotherhood] far-right movement of Dmytro Korchynsky, which later became a political party. A long time ago, the movement was in opposition to President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko, against rapprochement with the U.S. and NATO, and has recently received minimal support from voters.
It’s been stated that the saboteurs had explosives with them. We did not notice anything strange in these photographs, and in general the story seems quite plausible to us.
In August, IStories [independent Russian investigative media outlet] published an interview with Russian serviceman Daniil Frolkin from the 64th Motorised Rifle Brigade. In the interview, he confessed to the murder of a civilian in the village of Andriivka near Kyiv and recalled the names of his commanders involved in the killings and looting. OVD-info [independent Russian human rights media project] reports that a criminal case might have been opened against Frolkin for “spreading fakes” about the Russian Army.
The Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine declares that the commander of the Western Military District of the Russian Armed Forces has yet again changed. This time Lieutenant General Yevgeny Nikiforov has been appointed. Ukrainian intelligence believes that the appointment of a new commander is connected with the replacement of people from the group of Sergei Shoigu [Russia’s Minister of Defense] and Valery Gerasimov with people loyal to Sergey Surovikin[( commander of the Joint Grouping of Forces in the areas of the “special military operation”] and Yevgeny Prigozhin. We assume that the new appointment is a result of restructuring of the Western Military District and the reestablishing of the Moscow and Leningrad Military Districts. Also, such a frequent change of commanders of this district may be directly linked to the failures of its constituent units in different directions, for example, in Kharkiv and Chernihiv. The previous commander, Kuzovlev, had lasted for less than a month.