December 28, 2022

Sitrep for December 27–28 (as of 12:30 p.m.)

The situation on the frontline

Russian forces are reported to have advanced a little on the Bakhmut axis. Pro-Russian Telegram channels report the capture of five Ukrainian strongpoints in Opytnе (on the southern outskirts of Bakhmut), which is indirectly confirmed by the data we have. However, it is important to note that in fact the outskirts of Bakhmut keep “changing hands” i.e. can be called a contested area.

A Russian attack is also reported by the General Staff of the AFU on the village of Dyliivka, west of Kurdiumivka and Ozarianivka and indicates that the Russian forces managed to cross the Siverskyi Donets — Donbas canal again.

Presumably, these attacks are necessary in order to protect the flanks from Ukrainian counterattacks as they advance northwest along the Siverskyi Donets — Donbas canal.

Ukrainian servicemen posted a video allegedly filmed in the area of Kreminna showing an abandoned Russian latest T-90M tank. Judging by the damage to the tracks, the tank has hit an anti-tank mine.

On Dec. 27, Kherson was hit again. This time an operating maternity hospital was attacked; no casualties were reported.

On the morning of Dec. 28, Kharkiv was hit. Reportedly, a 48-year-old man received a shrapnel wound in the Slobidskyi district.

Besides, an air raid alert was announced in a number of other Ukrainian regions, including the Kyiv region.

Russia’s Finance Minister Anton Siluanov in response to incoming proposals by State Duma [lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia] members urged them to "do no harm" with threats to raise taxes for those who left Russia. According to the Minister, a special taxation procedure may create conditions under which businesses will have no interest in paying taxes to the Russian budget. He also notes that a new procedure for levying taxes can be adopted only a year later.

A serviceman in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky was sentenced to 20 months in a penal settlement for refusing to go to the war.

A serviceman from Chechen Republic who didn’t come back from vacation after the announcement of mobilization was sentenced to 2 years in a penal colony.

Two residents of Kabardino-Balkaria [constituent republic of the Russian Federation] were killed during their arrest. They were suspected of preparing an attack on a military commissariat. A criminal investigation on preparing an aсt of terror was initiated against Murat Shadov and Timur Marshenkulov on Dec. 26. According to the investigation, they had guns with them. They resisted the arrest and were killed.

Nine representatives of the CIS countries were given “club rings” with the CIS emblem and New Year greeting at the informal summit in Saint-Petersburg.

Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan at a meeting with Putin reported that Russian peacekeepers don’t fulfill obligations assumed in 2020. It was expected they would control the Lachin corridor which connects Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia. However, the corridor was blocked by representatives of Azerbaijan on December 12, and Russian peacekeepers haven’t done anything yet.

French Minister of the Armed Forces Sebastien Lecornu will come to Kiev to meet with Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov on Dec. 28.

The U.S. has sent two additional NASAMS surface-to-air missile systems to Ukraine and promised to send 8 more NASAMS batteries.

A video with a Bushmaster Australian armored car stuck in the mud at the front appeared. Soil which deceptively looks hard is actually very insidious and it takes a lot of force to pull out a stuck armored vehicle. So, the muddy season is still one of the main reasons for the current operational pause.

Many consider “shell hunger” to be another reason for this. Some pro-Russian sources voice concerns that Ukraine could gain an artillery advantage if Russia does not resolve the ammunition issue soon.

As for the Ukrainian power grid, which suffered from Russian attacks, recently one could hear claims that the situation is gradually being improved. In this case, time works in favor of Ukraine, but if the attacks on the energy infrastructure resume, power outages may occur again.

We would also like to once again emphasize the need for evacuation from front-line settlements. For example, it is reliably known that a certain number of civilians are still in Bakhmut, while the town is systematically being ruined as a result of constant shelling. A Vice [digital media company] report from the town, for example, tells of a family with a child who do not want to evacuate.

Recently, many (even State Duma members) are wondering what the Wagner Group allows itself, where they get the money for all this and whether they are really independent from the Russian Ministry of Defense. First of all, it is important to note that arms delivery is entirely under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defense. In Russia, there are no manufacturers of military vehicles or ammunition independent of the state. However, it is precisely the financial expenses of Prigozhin’s [Russian oligarch, the confidant of Vladimir Putin and owner of the Wagner Group] structures that are covered independently at the expense of profits from tenders (including those from the Ministry of Defense) for cleaning the premises and supplying food. In addition, the Ministry of Defense provides logistics services: for example, an aircraft of a flight unit of the Ministry of Defense transported mercenaries to Syria, Sudan, the Central African Republic, and the Donbas. The base of the Wagner Group was originally located next to the base of the 10th Special Forces Brigade, and many sources reported that the soldiers of this brigade trained the mercenaries.

Thus, in fact, the Wagner Group is a shadow structure of Russia's Ministry of Defense, and by no means a private military company. Investigators from Bellingcat once said that the idea of ​​creating this group arose when a representative of Executive Outcomes came to Moscow with a presentation of such a concept and presented the idea of a private army under the control of the state to carry out secret missions.

Kreminna now holds a special place in the reports from the front line. What is its importance? The liberation of Kreminna may enable the Armed Forces of Ukraine to quickly liberate the entire north of the Luhansk region and open the way to the Sievierodonetsk — Lysychansk agglomeration. The liberation of the agglomeration will allow Ukrainian troops to launch an offensive against Luhansk.

The Russian Army failed to organize provisioning of mobilized soldiers, and the problem persists. The Pro-Russian Telegram channel Govorit TopaZ, along with the problem of ammo shortages, raises the issue of mobilization. It stresses that the mobilization completely failed, because the vast majority of the mobilized (70-80%) turned out to be completely unfit for action for many reasons:

  • Lack of high quality military training. As a rule, mobilized soldiers are taken to the training ground for only two weeks or a month, where they fire from a machine gun only a couple of times, perhaps, manage to ride a tank and even go through a tank test (when a soldier lies down in a pit, a tank passes over him, and he throws a grenade at it).
  • Lack of ideology and motivation. People do not understand what they are fighting for, what denazification and demilitarization mean.

In the post, one interesting case is presented: mobilized people came up with a clever way to "simulate" fighting. The thing is that in some directions, units consist entirely of mobilized soldiers (including commanders) who don't want to fight. Sitting in dugouts, neighboring units maintain radio conversations with each other as if they were conducting combat operations, although everything is calm.

There is unconfirmed information recorded by Ukrainian soldiers from the words of Russian prisoners of war about cases when mobilized or regular Russian soldiers came to the front line, and fighters from the Chechen National Guard took away their night vision devices. Or when Wagner mercenaries took valuable items from a group of Russian contractors, saying that one of these Russian soldiers had not returned someone's money and now the entire unit would be paying for it. There was also a case when someone was selling drugs in a unit, was caught and, according to rumors, shot. That is, there are problems with the adjustment of units, discipline and order. Undoubtedly, they affect the course of the war. There are also cases when soldiers kill each other or commanders. This is a serious problem.