February 16, 2023

Sitrep for February 15-16 (as of 01:30 p.m.)

On the night of Feb. 16, another massive Russian missile attack on Ukraine began. Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Andriy Yermak reported that some missiles hit targets in the north and west of Ukraine, as well as infrastructure facilities in the Dnipropetrovsk and Kirovohrad regions.

This attack differs from the previous ones by a large number of false targets, which diverted some of the air defense missiles. The day before, the RuAF used drones and balloons equipped with corner reflectors both for aerial reconnaissance and revealing air defense positions. Such balloons have been spotted in the sky over Ukraine over the past two days. One of these reflectors was shown by Defense Minister of Ukraine Oleksii Reznikov.

In Pavlohrad, Dnipropetrovsk region, 7 residential buildings were destroyed, 30 more were damaged as a result of the strike. Two people were injured, and one woman was killed.

On the afternoon of Feb. 16, an air raid alert was announced in Ukraine again.

Reportedly, 6 out of 8 Russian 3M-54 Kalibr cruise missiles were shot down.

Ukrainian forces hit a railway depot in Ilovaisk; the video shows destroyed railroad tracks. Let us recall that the railway station in Ilovaisk is an important logistics hub for Russian forces.

There have still been practically no changes on the frontline. In recent days, there have been fewer and fewer videos showing fighting in the northeast of Bakhmut. We previously predicted that if the pace of the Russian offensive started at the end of January continues; the AFU might have to abandon Bakhmut by the end of February. However, now, given the slowdown, we believe that Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut will be able to hold the town until at least the end of February.

Yevgeny Prigozhin [Russian oligarch, confidant of Vladimir Putin, and owner of the Wagner Group] declared that, according to his assessment, Bakhmut will be encircled by Russian forces by March or April. Prigozhin upbraided the Russian Ministry of Defense for the lack of effectiveness and emphasized the importance of the encirclement of Bakhmut for the further course of the war.

Following the results of the second day of the Ramstein Format meeting, it became known that the U.S. Army had announced that it had awarded $522M contracts to manufacture 155mm artillery shells for Ukraine. According to the US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, France, and Australia had also reached an agreement on the joint increase of artillery munitions production for Ukraine. One of the key points of the meeting was the high rate of munition consumption. It was considered that most of the ammunition depots in Europe had already been thinned out while the production increase is a slow-moving process.

On Feb. 15, several media sources (the German daily newspaper Die Welt being the first one) reported that Denmark and the Netherlands will not supply Leopard-2 tanks to Ukraine. In response to this, both countries have stated that this matter had not been decided upon. We wish to remind you that no outright promises were made; the Netherlands and Denmark only communicated about the intentions. Moreover, the Netherlands do not own any Leopard-2 tanks, which were supposed to be leased from Germany.

So far, it is known that Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada will supply tanks to Ukraine (four Canadian tanks have already arrived in Poland).

The Netherlands will supply Ukraine with 20,000 rounds of ammunition for Leopard 2 tanks.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv and, after the meeting, announced that Sweden would supply Ukraine with 50 CV90 infantry fighting vehicles, several Archer self-propelled artillery systems, and anti-tank weapons. At the moment, Ukraine is in dire need of additional IFVs on the frontline.

Following the Ramstein meeting, Lloyd Austin said that so far, there were no signs of preparations for a new large-scale Russian offensive, as well as accumulations of aircraft on the Russia-Ukraine border, which the Financial Times had reported, citing anonymous U.S. intelligence sources.

Chief of the Main Directorate of Intelligence of Ukraine Kyrylo Budanov has again said that the second wave of mobilization in Russia will start around Feb. 27. We should note that if the second wave had started in Jan., as previously predicted by the Ukrainian intelligence, Russian forces would have the advantage on the frontline in the near future. And if it starts by spring, it doesn’t mean that the training of mobilized soldiers will be completed before significant numbers of military vehicles arrive in Ukraine.

BBC News Russian published a story about new graves found near Luhansk, which could belong to the Wagner Group. From the epitaphs and the photographs on grave crosses, journalists found references to 37 men in open sources with matching data. On the courts’ websites, sentences were found mentioning 20 of them, that is, we are talking about former convicts. Nine names were listed as missing. Thus, we see that not all former convicts from the Wagner Group who were killed in Luhansk are returned home. Some of them are buried near the place of death without notifying relatives.

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, answering questions from BBC journalists, said that “97% of the Russian Army is now committed to Ukraine”. At the same time, the Russian Federation suffers serious losses. Its combat effectiveness was depleted by 40%, as well as about 2/3 of its tanks were destroyed or damaged.

We cannot calculate the percentages, but we believe that everyone who is supposed to take part in the war by their rank (excluding the strategic nuclear forces, for example), participates in it. Therefore, the replenishment of losses is carried out at the expense of specialties that are not intended for this. For example, the sailors who served in the Navy are assigned to the marines and sent to the frontline. Russia’s Air Force is less involved since Ukrainian air defense successfully counteracts it.
It is worth mentioning that a Su-24 aircraft, on which Prigozhin allegedly had previously flown, was shot down near Bakhmut by a conscript with the help of MANPADS, from which it is practically impossible to safeguard Russian aircraft.

As for the combat potential, the most combat-ready units, as a rule, were among the first to go into battle and suffer heavy losses last year. We have repeatedly heard that various “elite” units (paratroopers, marines, and special forces) have no officers left or that everyone who had been a professional soldier prior to the full-scale invasion was killed or wounded. Therefore, we assume that the combat readiness of the Russian Army could have fallen by more than 40%.

The exact number of tanks lost is unknown, but we believe that about half of the pre-invasion combat-ready tanks have already been lost or destroyed. Russia owns mostly old stock vehicles (which need to be retrieved, restored, modernized, and only then put into combat), as well as those newly manufactured.

It should be noted that at the beginning of the invasion, we observed large-scale forced marches of the Russian Army and the destruction of entire military convoys. Now, due to the changed tactics and reduced frontline, losses are lower.