February 7, 2023

Sitrep for February 4-6 (as of 3:00 p.m.)

In the previous sitrep, while talking about the strike on the residential building in Kramatorsk, we questioned the presence of any military facilities nearby. After that, attentive viewers and readers sent a large number of messages to our feedback bot about the locations of military targets in Kramatorsk (the so-called Cunningham’s Law states, “The best way to get the right answer on the internet is not to ask a question; it's to post the wrong answer”). We do not consider it appropriate to include such information in our sitrep, however, we assume that the Russian missile could have targeted a rather important military facility.

The situation on the frontline

OSINT analyst Def Mon assumes that in the Svatove direction, Russian forces are trying to surround Makiivka (located just south of Svatove and just north of Kreminna), attacking it from the north and south. In addition, the intensity of artillery shelling in the Kreminna direction has increased sharply. Besides, Russian forces pursued offensive attempts targeting the settlements of Dibrova and Verkhnokamianske.

A new article by the Financial Times reports that "an adviser to the Ukrainian military" has obtained “very solid intelligence of intent” from Russia to launch the large-scale attack within the next 10 days.

It should be clarified that the term "large-scale attack" can mean different things to a military expert and a journalist. From the experts' point of view, it may not be a sudden offensive in a new direction at all but a redeployment of forces and resources from other sectors of the front to a direction, followed by an intensification of offensive activities there.

Journalist Julian Röpke geolocated a recent video in the southern part of Bakhmut and concluded that Russian forces had advanced by 600 meters from the Opytne side in the Bakhmut direction.

Pro-Russian forces have made some progress in the northern part of Bakhmut as well. Their advance at the northeastern part of the town is marked on a map of geolocated videos compiled by experts.

Although Russian forces did not advance in the Vuhledar direction, the marines suffered substantial losses there. Ukrainian forces managed to hold off Russian attacks thanks, among other things, to advanced Western military vehicles, such as a French Caesar self-propelled howitzer. The video of its work has recently been published.

Ukrainian forces discovered an educational institution in Kyrylivka that housed a concentration of Russian troops and attacked it on Jan. 28, according to Ukrainian journalist Tsaplienko. Over 100 people were allegedly killed as a result of this strike.

A photo has been published in which a Russian military man was posing against the background of a skeleton model. One of the comments to a repost of this publication by anonymous Ukrainian researcher Necro Mancer has stated that the Ukrainian military was able to identify the educational institution using the photo of this skeleton. That helped them to land a successful hit there.

On Jan. 6, the Ukrainian service member who manages the Tatarigami_UA twitter account published satellite images of the aftermath of the strike on the educational center in Kyrylivka where Russian soldiers allegedly had been housed. He writes that the buildings sustained severe damage and that, according to the data he has, 30 to 200 Russian military personnel were killed in the strike.

We have not yet seen any related obituaries and cannot confirm the losses at this time. This incident, however, has the potential of becoming “a second Makiivka” with a large number of troops killed simultaneously.

On Feb. 5, the Russian forces shelled Kharkiv yet again. Missiles — likely launched by an S-300 long-range surface-to-air missile system — hit a building belonging to the Beketov National University of Urban Economy in Kharkiv (a security guard was wounded) as well as an apartment building in the city center (four people were injured).

During the night of Feb. 5, another use of thermite incendiary munitions was witnessed in the Kherson area. The poor image quality makes it impossible to tell whether the weapons were used within the city limits or on the nearby peninsula where both Russian and Ukrainian militaries are sometimes active.

News on tank deliveries

The situation with military aid coming from Portugal is unclear. Initially, the Sol newspaper reported, quoting its source in the country’s defense ministry, that Portugal would not transfer Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine because the tanks it had were out of service and needed repairs, and the ammunition for the tanks was expensive. There are also concerns that the tanks could get captured by the Russian military. Later, another Portuguese news outlet published a statement by the Prime Minister of Portugal, António Costa, who said that the tanks would be delivered by the end of March. However, he did not say how many.

Canada has not made big promises regarding the supply of tanks but has already sent four Leopard 2 to Ukraine. The tanks have arrived in Poland, and the Ukrainian soldiers will soon begin training to use them.

Der Spiegel writes that no EU country has been able to provide the exact number of German Leopard tanks that they are ready to send to Ukraine.

Photos of Ukrainian soldiers training on a Challenger 2 Driver Training Tank in the UK have been published.

Based on the new photos, experts have determined that the Kh-101 cruise missile that fell in the Vinnytsia region on Jan. 26 was a new modification. It was equipped with a countermeasures dispenser (probably to penetrate Ukrainian air defense more effectively), as well as an Otblesk-U optical trajectory correction system based on satellite images.

The Wall Street Journal, citing its sources, writes that Moscow and Tehran are moving ahead with plans to build a new factory in Russia that could produce Iranian-designed drones. It is reported that it is supposed to be constructed in Yelabuga, Tatarstan [Russia’s constituent Republic], Iranian officials allegedly went there to inspect a potential site for the future factory; the construction period is not specified. It is also stated that it is planned to produce about 6,000 Iranian drones at the factory, but it is not specified in what period of time. In addition, it is reported that Russia wants to develop a faster kamikaze drone in order to more effectively overcome air defense systems. In our opinion, this prospect is doubtful since increasing the speed to make interception noticeably harder will lead to an unacceptable price increase.

Igor Mangushev, with the callsign “Bereg” [shore], notorious for his performance with a human skull (according to him, the skull of a Ukrainian soldier from Azovstal Iron and Steel Works), received a bullet wound in the head under unclear circumstances. Our attention in the posts related to him was drawn to the fact that in the official reference data, he was listed as the captain of the 4th Brigade of the 2nd Army Corps of the 8th Army of the Russian Armed Forces (the 2nd Army Corps is the “LPR” Army). Thus, we get confirmation that the 1st and 2nd Separatist Army Corps are now part of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. From this, we conclude that Putin's recent decrees on volunteer units, which can now sign contracts with the Russian Ministry of Defense, don’t mean the separatist army (since it is already part of the Russian Armed Forces).

Olga Romanova, Executive Director of the Rus’ Sidyashchaya [Russia Behind Bars] civil rights movement, reports that according to the Ukrainian General Staff, 50 convicted women were sent from a penal colony in the “DPR” for military training in Russia. She also brings news from a penal colony in the Volgograd region where convicted citizens from the Central Asian republics were given lists of necessary documents and application forms for accelerated deportation to their homeland. This is probably needed to exclude them from the list of convicts and then enlist them in the Russian Army. They say that a high-ranking representative of the Ministry of Defense came to the penal colony and offered the convicts to become volunteer fighters, emphasizing several times that the offer was made not by the Wagner Group but by government officials and stating that "everyone would go to fight, only later." Last year, a draft law was being prepared that allowed convicts to replace the term of imprisonment imposed with military service in the “special operation” zone, but we have not heard that it has already been adopted.

Vladimir Putin has signed into law a mandatory collection of genomic information from those convicted and suspected of crimes. We do not exclude that this may be related to the previous news since, at war, it can be difficult to declare somebody dead based on body fragments found, and DNA testing is necessary to establish an identity.

In Tatarstan, the Molodaya Gvardiya [Young Guard, a pro-government youth organization active in the 2000s and early 2010s] has been reanimated. It was decided to send medical students to the occupied territories to work as volunteer paramedics.