December 11, 2023

Sitrep for Dec. 8-11, 2023 (as of 8:30 a.m. UTC+3)

Frontline Situation Update

Fighting continues on the left bank of the Dnipro River. Numerous videos, including one captured by Ukrainian officer Robert "Madyar" Brovdi, have been circulated in recent days, depicting destroyed Russian armored vehicles around the village of Krynky. In an attempt to eliminate the Ukrainian bridgehead in this area, the command of the Group of Troops "Dnepr," led by Colonel General Mikhail Teplinsky, appears to be deploying additional reserves from among the Russian Airborne Troops along the Kherson axis. However, these efforts have not resulted in significant changes on the frontline. The objective may be to eliminate the Ukrainian bridgehead at any cost.

DeepState reports a change in Russian tactics around Krynky: Russian forces allegedly transport troops in armored vehicles behind the positions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. These troops install a smoke screen, often getting killed before they can withdraw. We are unable to verify the DeepState’s report because the available photos and videos are not geolocated at the rear of Ukrainian forces.

On Dec. 10, pro-Russian milblogger Semyon Pegov (a.k.a. Wargonzo) reported that the AFU landed on Velykyi Potomkin Island at the mouth of the Dnipro, suggesting a potential advance towards the town of Hola Prystan. This information has not been confirmed yet.

It is also mentioned that the Ukrainian landing force moved towards the Kinburn Spit, but there are no additional details or confirmation available.

In the Avdiivka direction, the Russian Armed Forces have intensified attacks north of Avdiivka, near the Avdiivka cottages and sewage facilities. There are speculations that this escalation is directly linked to Putin's announcement of running for a new presidential term, allegedly setting a military task to capture Avdiivka before the March 2024 elections. Indirect confirmation might be the reported significant Russian losses, with videos showing fields strewn with bodies and destroyed military equipment. Recently, a video was published showing a Ukrainian tank moving through the cottage area and shelling Russian soldiers in cover.

However, it is worth noting that there are no significant advances on both the Avdiivka and Bakhmut directions from either side at the moment.

Reports indicate that the RuAF achieved tactical success in the South Donetsk direction near Novoprokopivka, successfully reclaiming positions previously captured by the AFU around Robotyne. We anticipate that fighting on this front will continue with varying degrees of success, and Ukrainian forces might regain their former positions.

Russian soldiers have raised another flag in the town of Marinka. This time, at least two soldiers raised a flag over one of the houses on the outskirts of Marinka, slightly north of the initial "flag planting" location. This area remains contested.

On Dec. 9, Ukrainian forces attacked a Russian oil depot in the city of Makiivka, northeast of Donetsk, resulting in a massive fire. The pro-Russian WarGonzo Telegram channel referred to this strike as a hit on "supplies for the RuAF."

During the Ukrainian national telethon, Ukraine's Minister of Defense Rustem Umerov announced certain developments that would allegedly force Russia to leave Crimea permanently next year. At the moment, this appears to be another implausible statement that creates unreasonably high expectations among the audience.

Over the past weekend, the pro-Russian Telegram channel Fighterbomber [associated with the Russian Air and Space Force] published a story about a shooting at a bus stop in Voronezh and the subsequent death in the hospital of a former Russian pilot named Bestuzhev-Ryumin, with the call sign "Bes" [Demon]. After some time, both the authorities of the Voronezh region and pro-government Telegram channels started refuting these claims. Following a brief investigation, it was revealed that the woman who conveyed this story to the author of the Fighterbomber Telegram channel, who took it at face value, had entirely fabricated it. It is worth noting that in 2015, a TV series was released featuring a pilot with the same call sign and surname Bestuzhev.

Analyst Julian Röpcke from Bild claimed that Russian forces captured the villages of Novomaiorske and Urozhaine, citing a geolocated video, but deleted his thread upon realizing that the video was archived. We have consistently stressed the importance of critically assessing sensational headlines, particularly when the author has a history of excessive emotionality and alarmism.

Ukrainian and Russian Strikes

The Police of the Kherson Region Telegram channel has published news about an elderly woman injured in the city of Kherson, allegedly as a result of tank shelling. The details of the incident remain unknown. RuAF tanks would probably have to fire directly from the coastal part of the left bank of the Dnipro to hit the city of Kherson.

The AFU continues to use drones to drop munitions in Donetsk, reportedly wounding six people over the weekend.

A video captured with a thermal camera mounted on a Ukrainian drone has surfaced, revealing a Russian soldier covered with a heat-resistant blanket designed to conceal him from such drones. While the blanket effectively conceals the heat signature of a human body, its temperature is lower than the ambient surroundings. As a result, the soldier is exposed not only by the protruding legs and head but also by a darker spot created by the cape itself. Consequently, these "invisibility cloaks" do not effectively prevent a soldier from being detected by a thermal imager.

Pro-Russian military correspondent Romanov published a photo of an RG-VO gas grenade that the RuAF drop from their UAVs. According to him, this tactic "helps to quickly force the enemy out of cover." It is worth noting that such use of gas grenades is a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Bloomberg published an investigation into Russia's ways of circumventing sanctions on oil sales. Journalists studied the routes of Russian tankers and found that most of them sail to the Gulf of Laconia in southern Greece, where they transfer oil to other tankers bound for India or China. At the same time, one of these tankers, filmed by journalists from a boat while pumping oil, changed its transmitted GPS coordinates as if it were several nautical miles away from the Russian tanker. After processing, Russian oil becomes Indian gasoline and is subsequently delivered to the European market. Reportedly, oil traders acting as intermediaries in this shadow scheme of selling oil between Russia and the final buyer earn $10-15 million for each delivery.

Western Assistance

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has indicated that Germany may increase its support for Ukraine if other countries reduce their assistance. Scholz emphasizes the importance of not sending signals to Putin that he can prevail.

MBDA Germany has announced that it has the capacity to quickly launch the production and upgrading of Taurus KEPD 350 cruise missiles. Earlier rumors suggested that most of Taurus missiles in Germany were out of service and could not be supplied to Ukraine.

A US-Ukraine defense industry conference has agreed on the joint production of so-called FrankenSAM air defense systems. These modifications will make it possible to launch Western-made missiles from Soviet-era air defense systems available in Ukraine. Ukraine has been provided with technical information needed for local adaptation.

In his interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, Bundeswehr Inspector General Carsten Broejer stated that in 2024, Germany will be able to supply about 200,000 artillery rounds to Ukraine.

Germany has announced another military aid package to Ukraine. It includes:

  • 250 rounds of 155mm ammunition (considering the limited quantity, there is a possibility they could be precision-guided munitions like Excalibur artillery shells);
  • A LUNA NG reconnaissance system;
  • 10 Vector reconnaissance drones;
  • 6 border protection vehicle;
  • 8 Mercedes-Benz Zetros trucks;
  • 100,000 first aid kits and medicines;
  • 30 GMG grenade launchers.

Blogger DanielR successfully identified, through photos taken inside the production facilities, that Russian plywood drones with corner reflectors, used as decoy targets for Ukrainian air defense, are manufactured in the Rudnevo industrial park near Moscow. This facility was recently opened by Putin and Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin.

Yan Petrovsky, one of the leaders of the Sabotage Assault Reconnaissance Group Rusich [an openly neo-Nazi Russian volunteer unit], was arrested in Finland in July. In August, Ukraine requested his extradition, accusing him of acts of terror and war crimes. On Dec. 8, the Supreme Court of Finland decided to deny extradition and release Petrovsky due to concerns about the possibility of torture against him in a Ukrainian prison. After his release, he was detained again by Finnish border guards to prepare for deportation to Russia. However, he was arrested again and sent to pre-trial detention center because the Finnish police and prosecutor's office initiated a preliminary investigation into Petrovsky's suspected involvement in war crimes and acts of terror on Ukrainian territory. Finnish laws permit the consideration of terrorist cases involving foreign citizens even when the crime is committed outside the country if the case hearings serve "the interests of the investigation and the administration of justice." It is worth noting that following Petrovsky's arrest, the Rusich Group announced the suspension of its participation in the war until his return to Russia.

An awkward incident unfolded last week in Armenia involving a Russian deserter, Dmitry Setrakov. Mobilized in September 2022, he fled from his military unit in April 2023 and hid in Russia for six months. In early October, he surrendered to the military police and was subsequently sent to a secure facility in Rostov-on-Don. However, on Nov. 30, activists from the Idite Lesom! [Flee through the woods/Get lost you all] Telegram channel helped him escape to Yerevan. Subsequently, he faced criminal charges for going AWOL.

Recently, for unknown reasons, Setrakov arrived in Gyumri, where he was unlawfully detained, effectively abducted, by Russian military police and taken to a RuAF base in Gyumri. His wife received calls from an Armenian phone number claiming to be the Armenian military police, allowing her to speak to her husband on loudspeaker. Additionally, she received calls from a Russian phone number previously used by Vadim Shevchenko, who graduated from the Moscow Border Institute of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and served as a detachment commander in military unit No. 24390 at a training range near the village of Kuzminka in the Rostov region from 2020 to 2021, where the 381st Guards Artillery Regiment is based.

In our recent sitrep, we presented images of a GAZ-66 Shishiga truck equipped with Kontakt-1 explosive reactive armor. Subsequently, new pictures from August 2023 have emerged, featuring a UAZ Bukhanka van with explosive reactive armor installed, including on the windshield.