February 14

Sitrep for Feb. 12-14, 2024 (as of 9 a.m. UTC+3) 

Frontline Situation Update

Russian forces have advanced north of Avdiivka faster than expected, effectively cutting off one of the two remaining supply routes, Industrialnyi Prospekt. Given the current rate of advance, we conclude that the Ukrainian side is unlikely to be able to hold the town. Ukrainian sources also report the impossibility of holding it with the forces available. In our assessment, it is already necessary to organize a rearguard action and the withdrawal of the Armed Forces of Ukraine from Avdiivka.

On 11 Feb., Forbes reported that Ukraine was deploying the 3rd Separate Assault Brigade in the Avdiivka direction, a conclusion based on the fact that the brigade had been withdrawn to the reserve and was located near Avdiivka. This information was later corroborated by an announcement regarding fundraising for the 3rd Brigade, "which will be sent on a mission in Avdiivka." There were also videos published by a soldier of the same brigade showing a Ukrainian military officer firing an MRAP MaxxPro at Russian positions near the DNK gas station (the shooting location was geolocated north of the gas station and Industrialnyi Prospekt).

The situation is complicated by the periods of the muddy season. The air temperature fluctuates around zero degrees Celsius and regular rains make the roads impassable, while frosts periodically allow for more freedom of movement, although sometimes vehicles freeze to the ground.

We hope that even if the Ukrainian leadership officially denies the rumors of withdrawal from Avdiivka, it will serve as an informational operation concurrent with the actual troop withdrawal, while the priority for command, as stated earlier, remains the preservation of soldiers' lives. The 3rd Separate Assault Brigade is one of the most prepared AFU brigades, well-suited for rearguard operations. However, if the goal of its redeployment is to attempt to hold Avdiivka for as long as possible, it may lead to significant losses of experienced fighters.

Should there be further attempts to hold Avdiivka, Ukrainian soldiers defending it risk being trapped. After cutting off the AFU's northern supply route, the Russian Armed Forces will likely focus on blocking the southern route, a dirt road. Consequently, resupply or retreat will only be possible across fields, which become problematic during the muddy season, or through enemy-occupied territory amid active combat. Given the current shortages of ammunition and personnel, accomplishing this is extremely difficult. Unlike in Mariupol, helicopters will not be able to freely operate in the area due to Russian air defense activities, further restricting supply delivery and evacuation of the wounded.

Military-political observer Oleksandr Kovalenko from the Information Resistance group, also known by the nickname Zloy Odessit [Angry Odessite], reported that in the first third of February, Russian military-tactical air forces launched more than 460 air-dropped bombs equipped with a Universal Gliding and Correction Module (UMPK). According to Kovalenko, the Russian military-industrial complex is capable of producing more than 50 air-dropped bombs per day, amounting to over 1,500 per month.

As previously noted, judging by the information about the constant strikes on Avdiivka, civilians are still present in the town.

It is also worth noting that at the end of December, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the former Commander-in-Chief of the AFU, estimated during a briefing that Avdiivka would likely be almost completely destroyed in about 2-3 months, making its defense pointless. In our opinion, after capturing the town, the next objective of the RuAF will be to advance towards the towns of Kostiantynivka and Chasiv Yar, followed by the cities of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk. Even at the current pace, the implementation of this plan could take about two years.

Russian forces have been storming Avdiivka for about four months, benefiting from a large logistics hub in the nearby city of Donetsk. This proximity has allowed them to swiftly supply the forces attacking Avdiivka.

A few days before being appointed as the Commander-in-Chief of the AFU, General Oleksandr Syrskyi spoke in an interview with the German ZDF TV channel about the complex situation on the frontline and the shift from offensive to defensive operations. In this interview, he also emphasized the importance of preserving the maximum number of Ukrainian soldiers’ lives.

Increasingly, Russian forces are causing serious damage to Ukrainian energy infrastructure. During a recent strike with loitering munitions on Dnipro, a CHP station was damaged and halted, resulting in disruptions to electricity, heating and water supply. Mayor Borys Filatov stated that due to the disruption of heating, it would be necessary to drain water from the heating systems, evacuate one hospital and close schools.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies has released the Military Balance 2024, a new edition of its annual report, which provides an assessment of the military forces, personnel numbers, equipment inventories and defense economics of over 170 countries. According to the authors, Russia’s current reserves allow it to withstand about three more years of heavy losses and replenish the decline in tanks from old stockpiles, albeit at a lower technical level. Currently, they have counted 1,750 variants of medium and main battle tanks in Russia, from the oldest T-54 to the modern T-90, with around 4,000 more tanks in storage.

On the Zaporizhzhia axis, near the village of Robotyne, the AFU lost a helicopter with its crew. The video quality does not allow us to determine its exact variant. An obituary for one of the pilots has already been published. It is worth noting that the obituary was published by a pro-Russian Telegram channel without citing any source. Typically, the toss bombing maneuver is employed to protect aircraft. However, it is unclear why the Ukrainian aircraft, in this case, was only 3-4 km away from Russian positions, which are covered by most MANPADS.

The Prosecutor General's Office of Russia has demanded the nationalization of three metallurgical plants: the Serov Ferroalloy Plant, the Chelyabinsk Electrometallurgical Plant and the Kuznetsk Ferroalloy Plant. The request is based on the allegation of their illegal privatization in the 1990s. These plants produce metals and alloying additives applicable to both defense and civilian industries. The Prosecutor General's Office claims that products from these plants, intended for the production of weapons and ammunition, are being exported to the United States, France and the United Kingdom at reduced prices, allegedly "to the detriment of national interests."

In January 2023, screenshots of correspondence from a Telegram account registered to a Ukrainian phone number were published. An unknown individual wrote and called the wife and mother of Aleksey Motuz, a missing Russian prisoner of war, attempting to extort intimate photos and possibly money in exchange for the soldier’s life. Initially, the family received a photo of Aleksey with a gunshot wound of his thigh, followed by another photo purportedly showing his hand with fingers cut off (later revealed to be taken from a Ukrainian news website). Finally, a photo of his body with a gunshot wound to the head was sent. The authenticity of the images of Motuz and his body, along with the entire set of evidence, appear highly credible, suggesting that he was indeed captured and subsequently murdered, which constitutes a war crime.

Recently, the Krasnodar region increased the amount of the one-time sign-up bonus from 200,000 rubles [$2,190] to 300,000 rubles [$3,290]. However, on Jan. 12, the governor issued a new order raising the amount to 500,000 rubles [$5,480] as of Feb. 1. We have previously reported about regions competing for contract soldiers and a proposed bill to raise the upper age limit for contract and mobilized soldiers, which was later removed from the portal of statutory legislation. These developments indicate a shortage of personnel in the RuAF.

In 2019, Ilya Metlitsky, a resident of Murino, Leningrad region, was sentenced to 16 years in a penal colony for a brutal murder, alongside charges of fraud and theft. In December 2022, he was recruited into the Wagner Group, leading to his pardon and release in spring 2023. After his release, he met Ekaterina, a Saint Petersburg resident. Upon discovering his criminal past, she ceased communication with him. Metlitsky responded by threatening her, including sending messages while under house arrest, stalking her, causing a car accident involving her vehicle, and shattering the windshield. The next day after the car accident, he attempted to inject her with a syringe containing a red liquid. During sentencing for the windshield incident, the court considered Metlitsky's state awards as mitigating factors and fined him 25,000 rubles [$270]. According to the protocols on leaving the scene of the accident on the night of the crime, Metlitsky was assigned administrative arrests and transferred to a pre-trial detention center. Although Ekaterina's initial report about the syringe attack was rejected, the Prosecutor General's Office later intervened, reversing the decision and initiating a case under murder threat charges. However, Metlitsky has signed a new contract with the MoD and will return to the frontline.

Earlier, we reported about the detention of a neo-Nazi, Yan Petrovsky, in Finland for breaching Schengen Zone regulations. He has been sentenced to 40 days in prison and fined €80. Finnish authorities are ongoing with their investigation into his military crimes.

It is reported that on the morning of Feb. 14, the Caesar Kunikov landing ship, part of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, was rammed and subsequently sank. Videos of the burning ship and smoke rising from water have been made public. The General Staff of the AFU confirmed the reports of the attack. Additionally, the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine published videos of the attack by naval drones, and BBC News Russian reported on the evacuation of the crew, citing sources.