Sitrep for February 17-18 (as of 02:30 p.m.)
On the morning of Feb. 18, the RuAF launched cruise missiles targeting the town of Khmelnytskyi in central Ukraine. According to the Ukrainian Air Force, two out of four 3M-54 Kalibr cruise missiles were shot down. As a result of this attack, two people were injured and civilian infrastructure was significantly damaged; the exact target of the strike is still unknown.
The Russian Ministry of Defense announced the complete capture of the village of Hryanykivka in the Kharkiv region (in the Kupiansk direction), however, there has been no visual confirmation yet.
The Wagner Group announced the complete capture of Paraskoviivka just south of Krasna Hora. The photo taken by mercenaries was geolocated near the local hospital. Paraskoviivka is a village with a population of 2,800 people as of 2001.
Commenting on the statement of French President Emmanuel Macron that the Wagner Group is a part of the Russian Armed Forces (it is not known whether such a statement was actually made), Yevgeny Prigozhin [Russian oligarch, the confidant of Vladimir Putin and owner of the Wagner Group] said, “The Wagner PMC has never had anything to do with the Russian Army and so it is to date. The Wagner PMC is a private army that has been operating around the world and will continue to do so in the future.”
At the same time, Wagner mercenaries recorded another video message, apparently from a place where KIAs are temporarily kept (about 20 bodies were captured on video). They claim that there were hundreds of killed fighters in the building, but there would have been half of them if the Wagner Group had been supplied with weapons and ammunition in time.
The Dossier Center [Russian investigative organization] released the first of a series of articles revealing the activities of the Wagner Group based on internal documents that have recently become available to a number of European media outlets. In particular, this article was about a battle near Hsham in Syria in February 2018, in which more than 80 mercenaries were killed in a U.S. air strike.
Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said that big Russian business could support social and infrastructure budget expenditures with its contribution; the sum discussed is about 300 billion rubles.
Russian President’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov commented on the statement, underscoring that the contribution will be voluntary, but that the businesses must recognize the realities of the needs of the country.
Photos have been published showing Ukrainian soldiers undergoing training using Patriot SAM systems in Germany.
France sent Akeron anti-tank guided missile systems to Ukraine. Their main advantage is a self-guided warhead: after launch, the operator does not need to guide the missile and can leave the launch position.
In addition, France plans to sell Ukraine 25 AMX-10P infantry fighting vehicles (the AMX-10RC armored fighting vehicle “inherited” the engine and some other components from it), which were taken out of active service by the French Army in 2015.
Several photos were published showing technical maintenance and testing of M2 Bradley armored fighting vehicles by US military personnel in the German city of Mannheim, from where they will be sent to Ukraine.
The Scranton Army Ammunition Plant, Pennsylvania, which manufactures artillery shell casings, plans to increase production from 15 thousand to 70 thousand a month. Besides that, there’re plans to build a new plant for manufacturing artillery shells in Garland, Texas.
The United States will welcome the decision of other countries to hand over fighter jets to Ukraine, but Washington itself has not yet made any promises about the supply of aircraft.
UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said that Ukraine would receive modern fighter jets, such as Eurofighter Typhoon air superiority fighters, but only after the end of the war.
Sweden has handed over six boats to Ukraine to be used as pontoon crossings. At the moment, they are being used by workers who are repairing roads in the liberated territories.
Over the past week and a half, the rhetoric of European politicians regarding the war has changed. Olaf Scholz stated that weapon supplies do not prolong the war but accelerate the withdrawal of occupiers from Ukraine, and the earlier President Putin realizes that he will not achieve his imperialistic goal, the more likely the war will soon end. He also called on allies to provide as many tanks as possible to Ukraine.
Emmanuel Macron stated that Ukraine’s counter-offensive could secure the possibility of credible peace negotiations conducted by Ukraine, its officials, and citizens, and now is not the time to negotiate with Russia.
Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of NATO, has pointed out that some worry that NATO’s weapon support to Ukraine brings the risks of triggering direct armed confrontation with Russia, but in this situation there are no risk-free options, and the biggest risk of all is if Putin wins.
Josep Borrell, Vice-President of the European Commission, believes that diplomacy in joint with weapon transfers is a good way to achieve peace, but neither of these options excludes the other: it is important to both aid with weapons and act in the diplomatic realm.
A repair plant for Panzerhaubitze self-propelled howitzers, MARS MRLS and Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft guns was built by a German manufacturer in Slovakia, not far from the Ukrainian border, but Slovakia does not allow the weapons from Ukraine to pass through, pleading the necessity of signing the documents and paying the import fees. Eduard Heger, Prime Minister of Slovakia, assured Olaf Scholz that he will make an effort to resolve the issue as soon as possible. Over the past few weeks, 15 lowboy trailers with deficient weapons have accumulated at the border; some of those will be transferred to Slovakia through Poland.
Draftees from Omsk recorded a video message, in which they asked Putin for help. They say that they were trained as artillerymen in Omsk and that after arriving in the “special military operation” zone, they were transferred to the “DNR army”. They were told that the artillerymen were not needed, because their 504th Tank Regiment was disbanded. The draftees began retraining as infantrymen and were demanded to pay for gasoline for the combat vehicles used in training. Those who refused to pay were offered to put a mark in their documents indicating that the training was not required, and to go to the frontline immediately.