Sitrep for December 29–30 (as of 2:00 p.m.)
The situation on the frontline
The village of Vilshana in the Kupiansk region (northeast of Kupiansk) was hit. The village of Lyman Pershyi is nearby, where an intensification of combat activities has been recently reported (for the first time in several months).
The AFU were able to advance from the northwestern side of Svatove in the area of Kolomyichykha and Pidkuichansk as was reported by several sources at once.
In particular, the Ukrainian Research Center for Defense Strategies reports that the 92nd Separate Mechanized Brigade of the AFU and Belarusian volunteer fighters liberated the village of Pidkuichansk located just 10 km away from Svatove.
The Institute for the Study of War, based on the reports of the pro-Russian Telegram channel Rybar and the General Staff of the AFU about strikes on Kolomyichykha, concludes that the village has been liberated. However, OSINT analyst Def Mon considers this evidence insufficient and marks these two villages as contested.
Def Mon also believes that the situation on the Bakhmut axis is far from critical, and the chances of Russian forces to encircle and capture Bakhmut are rather low, despite the fact that sometimes they manage to achieve some success there.
Further development of the situation for both sides, not only around Bakhmut, but also along the entire frontline, will depend primarily on the provision of ammunition.
The General Staff of the AFU reports on strikes against Russian military facilities in Tokmak, Tytove, Chernihivka, Polohy, and Berdiansk on the Zaporizhzhia axis, which look like another sign of the Ukrainian counter-offensive being prepared on this axis.
We are not yet ready to unequivocally state that the missile that fell on the territory Belarus was launched by a S-300 (SA-10 Grumble) air defense system, but at the moment everything counts in favor of this version. Commenting on this incident, the official representative of the Command of the Air Forces of the AFU, Yuriy Ignat, put the blame entirely on Russia, which launches massive missile attacks on Ukraine. We fully agree with this, especially considering that the fallen missile caused no considerable damage on the territory of Belarus.
Interestingly, some Ukrainian officials believe that Russia could have adjusted the route of one of the missiles in such a way that it would fly from Belarus, so that the Ukrainian air defense anti-aircraft guided missile sent to intercept the Russian missile would fly towards the border of Ukraine and Belarus.
The missile attack on Dec. 29, in our opinion, was aimed not only at destroying the energy infrastructure of Ukraine, but also at revealing air defense deployment sites.
Details of the incident in Ivano-Frankivsk have appeared. Note that pro-Russian telegram channels presented it as an attack on a residential building with a Ukrainian S-300 missile. It turned out that it was a Russian Kh-555 missile without a warhead.
Launching missiles without warheads (we have seen such cases before) can serve two purposes: firstly, the depletion of Ukrainian air defense resources (which can lead to unpleasant consequences for the country), and secondly, identifying air defense deployment sites and hitting them with the help of anti-radar systems.
Photos of Panthera T6 armored vehicles in Ukrainian camouflage on the trawl have appeared, but it is still unknown who delivered them. They are produced in factories in the UAE and Turkey. Judging by the lack of machine guns, these armored vehicles will have to be equipped with weapons before being sent to the front.
The French publication Le Figaro reports that due to the colossal rate of fire, the barrels of the delivered Caesar self-propelled guns wear out extremely quickly, and now they all require maintenance. Therefore, it is necessary to supply Ukraine with new weapons.
Pro-Russian sources publish photos of a homemade drone with an RKG grenade that fell on Russian positions but did not explode. This drone has a minimal set of equipment: a warhead (grenade), a camera and a radio. It doesn't even have a flight controller. This is an example of the cheapest drone possible, which can be quickly collected in sufficient quantities. Although they look unsightly, these drones perform effectively.
The Ukrainian Militarnyi [Military] media outlet citing Bloomberg reports that the United States is considering sending Bradley armored vehicles to Ukraine. There are up to 2000 pieces of the M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle of various modifications in the warehouses of the U.S. Army.
However, the direct transfer of these vehicles won’t strengthen the AFU immediately since Ukrainian service members would have to be trained to operate them. The most effective way, it seems, would be sending the Bradleys to Greece in exchange for BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles for which Ukraine already has trained crews and got sufficient stock of spare parts. Greece itself has preliminarily agreed for such a three-way transfer.
The Russian Ministry of Defense produced a draft of a presidential decree on the creation of field military detention facilities. Once signed, the Armed Forces would be able to punish offenders by isolating them inside special facilities under the conditions not inferior to the living conditions of the rest of the soldiers. Using windowless basements and dungeons or facilities without adequate ventilation is expressly forbidden except when necessary in order to preserve lives of the detained service members. That last point, effectively, legalizes using basements to detain those who refuse to fight since the lives of military personnel in close proximity to the frontline are always in peril.
President Putin has allowed the military and security service personnel who participated in the war in Ukraine as well as the bureaucrats dispatched to govern the “freshly-annexed” territories to not declare their income. In addition, Putin suspended the publication of the income and property declarations by government officials while the war continues. Only the Presidential Administration will have access to these declarations.
Also, Putin signed a law that shortens the procedure of announcing court verdicts. From now on, only the introductory part and the court’s conclusion will be read aloud.
Military units are now allowed to use narcotics for medical purposes without a license. While this will ease the suffering of the wounded, it will also open up a big opportunity for illicit speculation.
A law mandating a fine of up to 5 million rubles or up to 5 years imprisonment for desecration of St.George ribbon [a Russian Army symbol] was also signed.
The Netherlands will no longer automatically grant asylum to Russians evading the mobilization because, according to Russia’s Minister of Defence Shoigu, the mobilization-related activities in Russia have ceased. Thus, the Netherlands didn’t even need an official annulment of the decree on mobilization to take away one of the few measures of support for Russians fleeing the war.
OCCRP announced Yevgeny Prigozhin as 2022’s "Person of the Year" in the Organized Crime and Corruption category, “Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch and mercenary leader who this year has become perhaps the most conspicuous avatar of everything that is darkest about his motherland. In his fusion of crooked money and brutal violence, his sneering cynicism, and his impunity in the face of even Russian law, he embodies the malevolence of state-sponsored corruption in a way few can match.” We think he will be proud of such an “award”.
A photo has been published showing what a Ukrainian infantryman looks like after one day of hostilities. In such conditions, the uniform wears out very quickly, so it is necessary to supply Ukrainian fighters with as many kits as possible.
It is not unlikely that on Dec. 30, 2023 the war will continue, and our sitrep will also be released. Supply remains the main problem. None of the parties now have the strength to win, so everyone has to prepare for the war to be protracted.
Moreover, we would like to express our gratitude to all the volunteers who have been helping the CIT team during these past 10 months and have been providing invaluable assistance: with sitreps on developments on the frontline and on mobilization, with translations and with the Arch project.
We decided to air our answers to questions on Jan. 2, and a full-fledged front-line sitrep will be released on Jan. 3, since its preparation is a long process that requires participation of a large number of people.
To describe key differences between the situation at the beginning of the war and now one can divide the past 10 months into two large segments. The first one — from Feb. 24 until the withdrawal of troops from Kyiv, Chernihiv and Sumy directions. Until that moment, apparently, Russia’s leadership believed that this would indeed be, if not “a walk in the park”, then a quick (several months) “special operation”. Then a turning point came when they realized that a long war was ahead, and there were not enough forces, and therefore it was necessary to concentrate on one sector of the front in order to avoid complete defeat.
Going forward, apparently, the intention was to carry out mobilization and to take over the Donetsk and Luhansk regions up to the administrative border, as well as to secure a land corridor to the Crimea, in particular, by occupying the Zaporizhzhia and the Kherson regions and by building a buffer from Ukrainian attacks on the Russian-controlled part of the Mykolaiv region next to Kherson. This plan has failed either.
Under the current circumstances, the outcome of events depends on supplies provided to Ukraine and on the possibilities to receive more weapons and munitions.
At the first stage, Russia suffered severe personnel shortages and compensated them with firepower. Evidence showed that to every two shots fired by Ukrainian forces, Russia, with its colossal advantage over Ukraine in arms warfare, responded with ten shots. After mobilization, the situation took an entirely different turn: Russia has enough manpower to pursue ground operations on the existing battlefields, but its stockpiles of weapons and ammunition are now running low.
Sanctions on oil exports from Russia and on the supply of foreign components into Russia did not have a quick effect, to say the least. Russia found ways to increase production, manufacturing the newest T-90M tanks and modernizing T-72 and T-80 tanks. Moreover, military industries switch to a three-shift working schedule, which means that there is a sufficient stock of imported components.
We cannot rule out a possibility of a revolution or a coup in Russia, but if the situation continues to evolve in the same pattern, the war will be protracted.
It is hard to estimate for how much western countries will ramp up weaponry production next year. Prior to expanding their capacities, private manufacturers want governments to guarantee large orders for several years ahead. This is not always feasible.