February 20, 2023

Sitrep for February 18-20 (as of 11:00 a.m.) 

In the previous sitrep, we wrote about a cruise missile attack on the town of Khmelnytskyi. Volodymyr Zelenskyy published photos of the aftermath of the attack. After geolocating them with the help of satellite imagery from 2021, we found that the site was previously home to Tupolev Tu-141 Strizh reconnaissance drones, which were used to carry out strikes deep in Russia.

This site was already attacked by Russian forces on Dec. 31. Then, as a result of the attack, eight people were injured, one of whom later died in hospital. We still have no information about the victims of the latest strike.

On Feb. 19, the Ministry of Defense of Russia stated, "High-precision long-range sea-based missiles hit a deployment point of the 383rd Separate UAV Regiment of the Armed Forces of Ukraine near the town of Khmelnytskyi."

We assume that after the first strike on this site, all drones were relocated, however, it's possible that old or dismantled UAVs were left behind, which on satellite images could appear to be operational, or the Russian Armed Forces could have carried out the strike for the sake of accountability.

The situation on the frontline

In the Bakhmut direction, pro-Russian forces are trying to move towards Zaliznianske. However, they are hindered by Ukrainian artillery, which receives fire directions from aerial reconnaissance. There are also attempts to advance towards Rozdolivka.

The report by the Ukrainian Center for Defense Strategies [security think tank] that the AFU are allegedly leaving a single-family residential neighborhood of Bakhmut for the left bank of the Bakhmutka River has not yet been confirmed. Moreover, there was a video of ongoing urban fighting on the right bank.

The map of the frontline around Bakhmut by pro-Russian forces is currently up-to-date, with the exception of the section in the area of Ivanivske, near the Bakhmut — Kostiantynivka highway, where, judging by one of the videos, Ukrainian forces pushed the RuAF back towards Kurdiumivka.

In the Ivanivske direction (on the western bank of the Siverskyi DonetsDonbas Сanal), Ukrainian tanks are pushing back Wagner Group mercenaries, who have been attempting to advance along the canal.

There are some changes in the frontline in Bakhmut itself. A video has been published showing a Ukrainian BMP-2 IFV firing towards Opytne in the southern part of the town; it can be inferred that in the south of Bakhmut, the Armed Forces of Ukraine may have succeeded in pushing pro-Russian forces back towards Opytne.

According to the videos emerging from the Vuhledar direction, the AFU have pushed the Russian forces away from the suburban settlements in the south towards Mykilske. This "urban fighting" was filmed in the eastern part of the southern suburban settlements.

The current war is not always fought with artillery. A new video (parts 1, 2, 3) shows two Ukrainian soldiers successfully holding back a wave of advancing Russian forces in a gunfight.

On Feb. 18, Russian forces hit the Kupiansk and Chuhuiv districts of the Kharkiv region. One person was killed, and two more were injured.

John Kirby, Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the United States National Security Council, said he estimated that since December, the Wagner Group had suffered more than 30,000 casualties, including approximately 9,000 killed in action (more than 90% of those killed were convicts). We do not calculate Wagner Group casualties, so we can't confirm or deny this statement, yet it sounds quite plausible.

UK Secretary of State for Defense Ben Wallace said in an interview with Der Spiegel that now that the political decision to transfer Western tanks to Ukraine has been made, many Western countries are discovering their armies do not have a stock of combat-ready tanks suitable for transfer. On paper, each of these countries has enough tanks both for their own armies and in reserve; however, in reality, only a few of them turned out to be combat-ready. Even the 14 Challenger 2 tanks that were transferred by the UK to Ukraine had to be taken off combat duty because there were no tanks suitable for transfer found in reserve.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that London would be the first to deliver "long-range weapons" to Kyiv. We may conclude that his words were not about Brimstone missiles since they have already been transferred, but the details are still unclear.

A video has emerged from Germany showing Mars-II MLRS (two of the five previously supplied by Germany) on their way back for repairs and maintenance. In theory, this could have been done in Slovakia, but we see that the work on such arrangements is not going well.

The Minister of the Armed Forces of France, Sebastian Lecornu, said that AMX-10RC armored fighting vehicles will have arrived in Ukraine by the end of February.

A guard of the British Embassy in Germany who had been copying documents and passing information to the Russian embassy, and had been caught red-handed, was accused of espionage and sentenced to 13 years and two months in prison.