February 11, 2023

Sitrep for February 10-11 (as of 10:00 a.m.) 

Results of the week

Heavy fighting has continued near Vuhledar and in the area of Kreminna throughout the week. More and more angry posts and appeals appear on the Internet about the wrong actions of the Russian command in the Vuhledar direction, which have already resulted in heavy losses of military vehicles and personnel. Based on satellite images as of Feb. 10, one can judge the intensity of combat activities following the traces of artillery shelling on the ground. The photos show that, after being pushed back from a suburban settlement south of Vuhledar, Russian forces attempted to bypass the town from the east (advancing from Mykilske) in order to advance from the northeast. However, the Ukrainian forces manage to destroy the advancing columns over and over again with the help of artillery.

The RuAF has managed to advance, in a rather modest way, though, mainly in the area of Bakhmut, which Russian forces are still trying to cut off from its supply routes.

To the north of Bakhmut, the offensive took place from Soledar and Krasna Hora towards Zaliznianske. Meanwhile, south of Bakhmut, Russian troops advanced towards Ivanivske in order to capture it and thus cut off the road to Kostiantynivka. This small progress also came at a great cost to the Russian Army, that sustained heavy losses in personnel and military vehicles.

According to the summary of the General Staff of the AFU on the morning of Feb. 11, during the massive strikes on Feb. 10, 32 S-300 air defense system guided missiles and 74 cruise missiles (3M-54 Kalibr, Kh-555, and others) were fired at the territory of Ukraine; 61 cruise missiles were shot down by Ukrainian air defense. The RuAF also carried out 59 airstrikes, 28 of them with Shahed-136 loitering munitions; 22 (or, according to the Ukrainian Air Force, 20) kamikaze drones were shot down. Some of the drones used in the evening attack managed to hit energy infrastructure facilities in the Dnipropetrovsk region; the extent of the damage is still unknown. It should be noted that, unlike previous cases, this evening drone attack was not followed by a morning missile attack.

Conflict Armament Research analysts (who identify and track conventional weapons and ammunition in contemporary armed conflicts) documented Iranian Shahed-131 (Geran-1) single-use UAVs and found that they used a new type of warhead, consisting of 18 smaller shaped charges (oval elements on the photo) around the circumference of the warhead to generate a secondary radial anti-armor effect. Such warheads are more effective than high-explosive fragmentation warheads (fragments scatter to the sides but quickly lose energy in the air) or conventional shaped charges (like those of the Shahed-136), which can only penetrate armor in the direction of a strike. In the case of this new type of warhead used, platter charges scatter in different directions for dozens of meters. In addition, the CAR investigators noted that there were two pre-serrated fragmentation matrixes, each made of 11 layers of fragmentation cubes, around the forward and rear sections of the warhead to add a fragmentation effect. The investigators concluded that the warhead of the Shahed-131 drone had been designed specifically for attacks against large targets like energy infrastructure.

One of the captured marines from the Russian 155th Guards Naval Infantry Brigade stated that he had used to serve on a large landing craft and he was going to get transferred to naval patrol, but he was sent to the frontline as part of a marine unit. After this video had been published, lots of evidence of people from the non-fighting units (e.g., engineers, navy) being transferred to the infantry units showed up on social media. This fact explicitly shows the severe shortage of personnel.

Not only the 155th and the 40th Naval Infantry Brigades take part in combat activities near Vuhledar, but also the 14th Separate Guards Special Forces Brigade and other non-“elite” units. The proof of the 14th Special Forces Brigade commander Sergey Plyakov’s death during the night of Feb. 2-3 near Vuhledar has appeared.

The death of another draftee, captain of the reserve Alexey Mikharyov, has become known. He was an alumnus of the Yaroslavl Higher Military School of Anti-Aircraft Warfare, which implies that air defense was his specialty, but during the “special military operation,” he was appointed a motorized rifle regiment company commander who is very different from his expertise.

On Feb. 10, it’s been 40 days since the incident in Makiivka, and therefore new obituaries were published. There are 107 names of servicemen killed in the strike on the building of vocational school No. 19 on the CIT list.

It becomes increasingly known about cases when local residents resent solemn funerals of former convicts killed as Wagner Group mercenaries. For example, authorities of Zhireken village near Chita [administrative center of the Zabaikalsky region] refused to provide the local community center for a funeral ceremony. The locals remember well that the deceased convict  killed his neighbor with extreme cruelty, and they are outraged by the funeral of the killer “as a hero” at the expense of the local budget.

On the evening of Feb. 10, multiple explosions were recorded in the area of the Melitopol airfield. Pro-Russian Telegram channels write about HIMARS strikes and declare lots of killed (including civilians) and damaged vehicles, but we haven't seen confirmations yet.

Also, on the evening of Feb. 10, a video was published. In the video, a surface drone is attacking a bridge over the Dniester Estuary in Zatoka village, Odesa region, which is far from any combat areas. At the moment, it is unknown how badly the bridge support has been damaged. There are assumptions that the bridge was attacked by a Russian surface naval drone, but if it’s true, the purpose of the strike is still unclear (a small drone is unable to cause extensive damage to a capital facility).

In one of the previous sitreps, we reported that some pro-Russian Telegram channels were spreading rumors that the Ukrainian military allegedly cut off the heads and hands of dead foreign volunteers in order to complicate their identification and hide the number of losses. On Feb. 10, the head of the Investigative Committee of Russia, Aleksandr Bastrykin, announced that the Ukrainian military was cutting off the hands and heads of the killed Polish mercenaries in order to hide the losses.

The well-known American journalist Seymour Hersh, who received the Pulitzer Prize for reporting on American war crimes in the Vietnam War, usually takes an anti-American stance. He published an article in which, citing only one anonymous source and without offering any other evidence, he claimed that the blowing up of the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 gas pipelines was organized by the US authorities and carried out with the help of the Norwegian Navy. Journalist Alexey Kovalev, who is also known for the Lapshesnumalochnaya [Noodleremover] project focused on debunking fake news, published a detailed analysis of this article in Meduza [independent news outlet].

Here are the most important things we've learned this week. First, no one doubts anymore that Russia's announced large-scale offensive is already underway. This is indirectly confirmed by Mediazona [an independent Russian media outlet] and BBC News Russian, which, together with a team of volunteers, are using obituaries to count Russian losses. They note that since mid-January, the rate of losses began to grow and is now maintained at a fairly high level.

Secondly, we do not see any signs of the imminent start of the second wave of mobilization. Perhaps, Putin understands the announcement of mobilization as a politically dangerous step. An attempt to postpone mobilization is made by recruiting people from anywhere. For example, convicts are now being recruited not by the Wagner Group but by the Russian Ministry of Defense. Sailors are taken to the service as marines. As a reminder, Ukrainian intelligence suggested that the deadline for the start of the second wave of mobilization could be the end of February.

Thirdly, as we can see, Russian troops continue with their attempts to attack Vuhledar in the directions to Kreminna and Svatove and around Bakhmut. Most likely, these areas will remain the flashpoints next week.

There is an interesting video of a conversation between Yevgeny Prigozhin [Russian oligarch, confidant of Vladimir Putin, and the owner of the Wagner Group] and Semyon Pegov [head of pro-Russian project WarGonzo]. There Prigozhin says literally the following about the duration of the "special military operation" “If we need to reach the Dnipro, then it will take us  three years, and if we need to close the DPR-LPR, then we need to work at least another one year and a half or two years." Thus, it is an ongoing preparation of supporters of the war for the fact that the war will continue for a long time.