Sitrep for December 28–29 (as of 13:30 p.m.)
On Dec. 28, there was another kamikaze drone attack on the territory of Ukraine. At first, those were reported in the Mykolaiv and Dnipropetrovsk regions. Reportedly, five kamikaze drones were shot down during the evening.
On the morning of Dec. 29, the attack was followed by a massive missile strike. Estimates on the number of missiles fired so far vary: Mykhailo Podolyak, advisor to the President of Ukraine, reported more than 120 missiles fired, Oleksiy Arestovych, advisor to the head of the President’s Office of Ukraine, claimed there were about 100 of them, and the General Staff of the AFU stated that the Ukrainian Defense Forces shot down 54 of the 69 missiles fired at Ukraine. It is important to understand that the numbers may vary as information was published at different times. Thus, the scope of the attack can be assessed accurately only after some time.
An air raid alert was announced throughout Ukraine. Explosions were heard in Kyiv and in the Kyiv region, in the Odesa, Zhytomyr, Poltava, Sumy and Lviv regions, in Kharkiv and Ivano-Frankivsk. The missiles targeted critical infrastructure facilities again.
As a result of the attack, the Kharkiv subway suspended its work. In the Darnytskyi district of Kyiv, a single-family house and a car parked nearby were damaged, and three people, including a 14-year-old girl, were injured.
A video of a cruise missile being shot down with a man-portable air defense system has been published.
The Russian Armed Forces struck on Kupiansk on Dec. 28. A missile has fallen near a cafe and left a huge crater. Pro-Russian Telegram channels claim that Ukrainian soldiers were stationed there. A camo-painted minivan (quite possibly, it belongs to theTerritorial Defense Forces) confirms what they claim. No KIAs or injured have been reported.
The goal of the attack on Kupiansk is to hinder the formation of a Ukrainian bridgehead necessary for the offensive on Svatove. Kupiansk has a high logistical significance, as there is a crossing over the Oskil River.
A strike was carried out on a Ukrainian ammunition depot in Konstiantynivka (west of Bakhmut). Sounds of a multiple secondary detonation are heard in the video.
Russia’s air defense system has reportedly shot down Ukrainian drones in the Belgorod region and the Klintsovsky district of the Bryansk region.
A Pro-Russian military correspondent who runs the Bryusselsky Svyaznoy [Brussels liaison] Telegram channel has published a photo of a Wagner Group’s tank crew working on the newest T-90M Proryv tank (he is the only one with an open face in the photo).
It is noteworthy that two of the three crew members are dressed in standard All Weather Protective Combat Uniforms (VKPO) and standard army combat boots.
Those boots are notorious for their poor quality and are only worn by those who have no other options. It suggests that these two soldiers, unlike the third member of the crew, are not part of the Wagner Group who are well funded and source their own uniforms. This indirectly confirms our hypothesis that we proposed back in the fall: the newest Russian tanks along with the drivers and possibly gunners were sent to reinforce the Wagner Group near Bakhmut.
On the night of Dec.17, Federal Security Service officers detained two guys in Yekaterinburg, who were accused of planning an arson at the Panelnaya electric substation. According to the Federal Security Service, they purchased gasoline, prepared bottles, fabrics and other ingredients that were all stashed in one of the apartments. The entire time they were in contact with unidentified persons from Ukraine. A criminal case has been opened against them on the preparation of an act of terror.
The Insider [independent Russian investigative media outlet] has commented on the post of the Public Relations Center of the Federal Security Service of Russia on the elimination of a Ukrainian sabotage group of four people: according to journalists, the people in the photos could have died as a result of a mine detonation. We believe that it is not possible to determine the nature of injuries based on photos of bodies in clothing. The assumption about the staged nature of the photos (clean shoes on the bodies) also seems unconvincing: precipitation, snow and dew in the forest could have cleaned the shoes.
In addition, journalists pointed out that the weapons in the photos were civilian (hunting). However, those weapons (SIG Sauer MPX submachine guns) that can be seen are produced in both civilian and military (fully automatic) versions. Weapons specialists, whom we consulted, claim that the quality of the video and photos does not allow us to determine the presence or absence of an automatic fire switch, which is the only external difference between these versions.
Most likely, this sabotage group did not include Ukrainian soldiers from the Special Operations Forces or other Special Forces units, but volunteer fighters from a battalion formed on the basis of Dmytro Korchynsky’s Bratstvo [Brotherhood] organization. Apparently, the act was aimed at breaking the supply of Russian troops on one of the axes.
The Ukrainian side did not refute the Federal Security Service's statement with the names of the saboteurs.
Meanwhile, the Federal Security Service’s operation did not seem very effective since, despite having information about where and when the sabotage-reconnaissance group was going to break through, no one was apprehended: all members of the group were killed.
Angola's President João Laurence has claimed that his country wants to cooperate with the U.S. on a program of transitioning its army to NATO standards. Angola was an ally of the Soviet Union and received a lot of Soviet weapons. According to the Military Balance handbook, that is what Angola now has that is useful for Ukraine:
- 2S1 Gvozdika 122mm self-propelled howitzers, 2S3 Akatsiya 152mm self-propelled guns, and 2S7 Pion 203mm self-propelled cannons;
- D-20, D-30, and M-46 howitzers;
- BTR-60 and BTR-80 armored personnel carriers;
- BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles;
- T-62 and T-72 tanks.
The question remains open as to what Western countries are ready to offer Angola in return and how quickly an exchange can be made.
After a lengthy discussion at the briefing session, our team's opinions on the potential "shell hunger" of the Russian troops were divided. Some supported Ruslan Leviev's position that the only problem is logistics: because of the HIMARS MLRS, ammunition depots had to be moved more than 100 km away from the frontline, and now munitions are not being delivered in time. Others assume that there may also be a lack of shot components (for example, fuzes for them), which have a much shorter shelf life than the rest of the part.
On the night of Dec. 28, in Novocherkassk, Russia, the barracks of the 150th Motorized Rifle Division, which also takes part in the fighting in Ukraine, burned to the ground. The cause of the fire has not been reported.
Ukrainian forces carried out an FPV (first-person view, guided via 3D goggles) drone strike on an ammunition truck on the left bank of the Dnipro. The impact site was geolocated at a distance of 7.5 km from the right bank and Ukrainian positions there. Such a long-range strike (for this type of drone) was possible due to the sparse settlement of the area and the higher elevation of the right bank.
Chief of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine Kyrylo Budanov visited Bakhmut. Some of the photos were geolocated as close as 700 meters to the Russian positions.
The UK Ministry of Defence showed the process of training Ukrainian crews to operate Sea King helicopters. It is reported that 10 crews have already been trained.
On Dec. 28, Minister of the Armed Forces of France Sébastien Lecornu came to Kyiv, where he met with President Zelenskyy and Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov. They discussed the possibility of increasing France's military support for Ukraine. Additionally to providing CAESAR self-propelled howitzers, France has created a fund of 200 million euros enabling Ukraine to purchase everything it needs directly from French manufacturers.
The USA will provide Ukraine with automated fire control systems for 18 HIMARS MLRS. By collecting all the combat data from multiple sources, these network-centric systems increase the efficiency of the MLRS.
Member of the State Duma [the lower house of Russia's Federal Assembly] Oleg Golikov proposed a bill limiting the rights of those Russians who were to be drafted but left the country during the "partial" mobilization to serve in government agencies.