February 7, 2023

Sitrep for February 6-7 (as of 02:00 p.m.) 

The situation on the frontline

On the evening of Feb. 6, the Ukrainian Armed Forces successfully repelled a Russian attack in the Vuhledar direction.

It's stated that a lot of military vehicles were destroyed, but there is no visual proof yet.

In the Bakhmut direction, tough fighting continues in the eastern part of the town. A commander of one of the Ukrainian units, Denys Yaroslavskiy, interviewed by Nastoyasсheye Vremya [Current Time, an independent Russian media outlet] said that the RuAF had already managed to capture the eastern part of Bakhmut (including the industrial areas and single-family residential neighborhoods), up to the Bakhmutka River, that is, more than a third of the town. For now, the presence of the RuAF can be visually confirmed in the northeastern part of Bakhmut only. In addition, according to him, it is not Wagner Group mercenaries who take part in the combat activities there, but regular military personnel and a certain number of mobilized soldiers. They speak a "professional military language", systematically use reconnaissance drones and appear to be a very dangerous enemy able to learn and improve through combat.

To date, it is the only statement about the advancement of Russian forces, although nothing has been confirmed yet. There have been no other changes on the rest of the frontline.

Michael Kofman, Director of the Russia Studies Program at the Center for Naval Analyses, commented on the current situation and suggested how it would develop in the near future. In his opinion, the large-scale Russian offensive assumed by many experts will most likely be focused on the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions — Russia does not have enough forces for a new offensive against Kharkiv, Kyiv, or Sumy (the situation may change if up to a million people are recruited during mobilization in Russia, but we have not seen any preparations for this so far). An offensive should be expected in the Svatove and Kreminna directions (toward Lyman), and in the south of the Donetsk region — in the Vuhledar direction.

Summarizing the current events, Michael Kofman believes that the attacks on Vuhledar and along the entire eastern part of the front line indicate that the offensive that many are talking about has already begun.

Michael Kofman thinks that the mobilization has helped Russia to stabilize the front line. The retreat to the left bank of the Dnipro allowed reducing front line length, while the increase of the military personnel helped "saturate" the frontline zone with the Russian military.

Ukraine doesn't have an advantage in manpower anymore. The Ukrainian side estimates the size of the Russian grouping at the front at 320,000 people. Michael Kofman suspects this estimate is too high. In his opinion, the number of the Russian military is about 250 thousand. Also, Russia likely has up to 150,000 mobilized soldiers in reserve, but the level of their training is unknown. They are possibly suitable for the defense of the occupied territories but not for replenishing the elite units that are conducting offensive operations.

The capture of Bakhmut carries little significance for Russian forces, as the Ukrainian Army has very strong lines of defense in the areas surrounding Sloviansk and Kramatorsk. Russian forces will be unable to support an advance on Sloviansk and Kramatorsk from the north or the south because that requires control over Izium and Lyman, which have been liberated by the Ukrainian Army, and there have been no recent advances to the south of Donetsk.

For the Ukrainian Armed Forces, the capture of Kreminna will open a gateway to Rubizhne and Starobilsk, which is an important logistical hub for the Russian forces.

On the night of Feb. 7, a presumed ammunition depot was hit in Nova Kakhovka. The footage shows a large-scale fire, but it is hard to establish whether there were secondary detonations.

On Feb. 6, near Kaluga, Russia, a drone crashed carrying an OFAB-100-120 air bomb and arrow-shaped ready-made submunitions (flashettes). It is assumed to be flying at a very low altitude to avoid detection by air defense systems and touch treetops (a similar event had previously taken place in mid-January in the Voronezh region). We agree with this version, since there are no holes on the wreckage from the SAM warhead. It is difficult to determine the drone’s target as the Moscow region hosts multiple military units and various military facilities. A warhead of this size could deal an image blow, showing how unprotected Russia is.

A few hours later, reports appeared on the second Tu-141 Strizh drone, which was allegedly shot down by “friendly fire” over Ukraine in the Sumy region. There aren’t any visible signs of air defense hit on this wreckage either.

A group of Ukrainian soldiers has arrived in the UK to train on AS90 self-propelled howitzers.

Photos of firing from the Panzerhaubitze 2000 self-propelled gun with rocket-assisted projectiles have been published.

Recently, a video (warning: graphic content!) from the village of Krasna Hora (north of Bakhmut, just south of Soledar) has surfaced. It shows the bodies of killed Ukrainian soldiers. A lot of commenters suggest that this is the result of the execution of prisoners of war by shots in the back of the head. We do not agree with this interpretation. Firstly, there is no evidence that they were shot in the head (neither entry nor exit holes are visible on any of the bodies). Secondly, the room looked like a temporary location of Ukrainian soldiers and not the place where prisoners of war were kept (there were a loaded Browning heavy machine gun, assault rifles against the wall, and many boxes with small arms cartridges). We assume that, most likely, a Russian sabotage group infiltrated the temporary location, caught the Ukrainian soldiers off guard, and killed them.

Videos appeared in one of which Wagner Group mercenaries allegedly carry an injured fellow fighter, and in another one finish him off with sledgehammers. The angle of the shooting in the second video does not allow us to reliably comprehend what is really happening. It could be just wood chopping, for example. Therefore, we consider such claims unfounded and suitable only for tabloids but not as evidence for a court.