Sitrep for December 9–10 (as of 1:00 pm)
One of the most discussed news at the moment is an article byThe Times [a British daily national newspaper], which allegedly says that the Pentagon has allowed the AFU to use Western weapons to strike targets deep inside Russia. However, if you look at the original article, you can immediately notice that the headline is slightly different from the way it is presented in other media, “Pentagon gives Ukraine green light for drone strikes inside Russia.” It's quite interesting, as drones with warheads and a flight range sufficient to strike objects deep inside Russia have not been delivered to Ukraine (the Engels-2 and Dyagilevo airfields were allegedly hit by modified Ukrainian Tu-141 Strizh drones).
However, the article states that due to the ongoing massive strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure, the Pentagon expresses tacit approval of the long-range AFU strikes on objects in Russia. Probably, it was these words that made the journalists think that now any Western weapons can be used for such strikes.
According to The Times source in the US Department of Defense, the attitude of Western countries to this war is changing under the influence of the cruelty with which Russia strikes the territory of Ukraine.
The article also cites the words of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who says that the US neither encourages nor enables strikes on targets in Russia. It’s up to Ukraine to decide on these issues. The same thing is said by another source of the newspaper in the US Department of Defense, “It’s up to them [the AFU] how they use their weapons. But when they use the weapons we have supplied, the only thing we insist on is that the Ukrainian military conform to the international laws of war and to the Geneva conventions.” Here, indeed, one can notice some change in rhetoric: earlier, the representatives of the US Department of Defense asked not to use Western weapons on the territory of Russia and Crimea, but now they do not focus on this.
It is noted that Western countries are thoroughly watching for Moscow's reaction to strikes on Russian territory. Washington is now less concerned that long-range strikes against targets deep inside Russia could lead to a dramatic escalation, since until now Moscow has been only responding with conventional missile strikes against civilian targets. Moscow has neither used tactical nuclear weapons nor attacked NATO countries.
Kyiv still hopes to receive long-range ATACMS missiles for HIMARS, but the decision on their provisioning hasn’t yet been made.
Eric Edelman, a former Pentagon policy chief and State Department ambassador to Finland and Turkey, is convinced that delays in the delivery of such weapons systems can no longer be tolerated. He considers the prospect of further escalation illusory and believes that for a Ukrainian victory, it is necessary "to give them ATACMS and Gray Eagles, and also help them to put together a package of main battle tanks."
Nevertheless, we expect that permission to use Western weapons on Russian territory will be given only when all NATO countries cease to be wary of retaliatory strikes on the territory of any member countries.
The situation on the front line
Financial Times correspondent Chris Miller visited Bakhmut (or at least its outskirts) and spoke with Ukrainian soldiers. They say that the ongoing situation is very reminiscent of the trench warfare of World War I.
Ukrainian servicemen in the trenches first wait through Russian artillery or mortar shelling, and then meet charging enemy soldiers (in this case, as a rule, they are Wagner mercenaries or separatists) with machine gun fire. After that, it repeats.
Both sides regularly report high enemy casualties (dozens of people daily). Chris Miller agrees with this. In his opinion, the situation in the area is grave, and Russian forces are advancing very slowly. Moreover, Bakhmut is almost completely destroyed now.
According to Lidia Vasilenko, press officer of the 57th Separate Motorized Infantry Brigade of the AFU, it is extremely difficult for Russian forces to entrench on the eastern outskirts of Bakhmut. It is exceedingly hard to dig trenches in the cold ground, so they often have to retreat under the onslaught of Ukrainian forces.
Geolocated videos of fighting near Bakhmut have appeared, showing that pro-Russian forces sometimes enter the city outskirts, but it seems they can't get a grip there.
Def Mon analyst believes that Russian forces are trying to cut off Bakhmut's supply routes from the north (by attacking Yakovlivka and Soledar and trying to "cut" the route that runs from Blahodatne) and from the south (by attacking Klishchiivka and Ivanivske to "cut" the route from Kostyantynivka).
Chris Miller, in his report, also says that he has seen Russian artillery strikes in the village of Ivanivske, southwest of Bakhmut.
According to the weather forecast, in the direction of Svatove — Kreminna, warm weather is still expected in the next few days, and the freezing temperature will be reached only after December 20. Then the soil would freeze, and it would be easier to use mechanized units.
The use of illuminating munitions was recorded in the fighting near Donetsk.
The BBC, Mediazona [independent Russian media outlet], and a team of volunteers maintain a list of names of Russians killed in Ukraine based on open-source data. As of December 9, it contains more than 10 thousand names. The list is incomplete and, according to correspondents, contains 40-60 percent of the actual number of those killed. Consequently, the losses of the Russian army and the Rosgvardia [the National Guard of Russia] in Ukraine can be more than 20 thousand KIAs, and the total irreplaceable losses (KIAs, missing in action, and seriously wounded) – at least 90 thousand people. We agree with these assessments.
There are 430 mobilized soldiers among the KIAs. This estimate is also incomplete, because since October, death reports from Ukraine usually have not specified a soldier’s status, so it is impossible to tell if he was mobilized, contracted or volunteered for military service.
Volunteers also managed to find out the names of at least 95 killed convicts. According to the Rus’ Sidyashchaya [Russia Behind Bars] Foundation, the number of convicts recruited for the war is more than 20 thousand people.
As of December 2, the “DPR” authorities acknowledged the death of 4001 servicemen. The "LPR" does not report losses, but from open sources we know of more than 1000 killed. If we take into account these data, the total losses of those who fight on the side of Russia will exceed 25 thousand KIAs. Considering the wounded, the total losses of the pro-Russian forces may exceed 110 thousand people.
The situation with the mobilized from Serpukhov is developing as we expected. As we reported earlier, they complained that they were thrown to the front line near Luhansk without training, command and supplies. There, they came under fire and, retreating to the rear, recorded a video message, in which they threatened to return to Russia with weapons and asked, firstly, to send them for training, and secondly, to send them to the second or third line of defense to deal with logistics, convoys or something similar. Some of them were immediately sent back to the front. Others (probably the wounded) were sent to Moscow, but soon they were sent back near Luhansk, "to the same place" where they came under fire again.
We expect to see many similar cases in the future. Regardless of the draftees’ complaints about poor conditions, the commanders will keep dispatching them to the front where they will keep being killed.
Viktor Sobolev, a general in reserve and a delegate to the State Duma [lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia], stated that there would be no need for the second wave of mobilization should soldiers do their job competently.
In other news
The German manufacturer Rheinmetall confirmed it had received an order to produce two Skynex air defense systems for Ukraine by 2024. One of the advantages of this system is that the ammunition it uses is relatively inexpensive.
The UK will transfer additional air defense systems and ground to air missiles to Ukraine.
The contents of the new package of American military aid for Ukraine has been published. The package will include:
- additional ammunition for HIMARS MLRS;
- 80,000 155mm artillery rounds;
- Counter-Unmanned Aerial Systems equipment;
- Air defense equipment;
- HMMWV-based ambulances and medical equipment;
- 150 power generators;
- Other field equipment.
Morocco will supply T-72 tank spare parts to Ukraine.
Bulgaria will send its first official military aid package to Ukraine. Its content has not been made public but according to preliminary data, it mostly includes light weapons and ammunition.
Norway signed an agreement allocating 1 billion Norwegian Kroner (about 100 million USD) to be used to repair Ukrainian infrastructure.