February 8, 2023

Sitrep for February 7-8 (as of 3:00 p.m.) 

Some time ago, in response to numerous publications in the Russian media describing the biographies of former convicts recruited by the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin [Russian oligarch, the confidant of Vladimir Putin and owner of the Wagner Group] turned to Chairman of the State Duma [lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia] Vyacheslav Volodin with a request to amend the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, prohibiting the discrediting of mercenaries. Today it became known that the State Duma had prepared amendments on additional grounds for liability for discrediting all participants in combat activities, including volunteer fighters (i.e., Wagner Group mercenaries as well).

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived in London and met with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. As a result of this meeting, it was announced that the UK would expand its military support to Ukraine: it would provide the AFU with longer-range capabilities (it was not specified what weapons or munitions were meant) and begin a training program for Ukrainian fighter jet pilots. It does not mean that a decision on the supply of Western fighter jets to Ukraine will be made in the coming months since the program is aimed at bringing the AFU and, in particular, the Ukrainian Air Force to NATO standards. It is possible that they will not train active pilots but students of military academies. However, it should be noted that F-16 fighter aircraft are not in service with the UK, therefore, apparently, Ukrainian pilots will be trained to fly either Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft or F-16 aircraft supplied by another country.

Let us recall that Ukrainian pilots of Sea King helicopters delivered to the AFU some time ago have already been training in the UK for some time.

The German government approved sending 178 Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine; however, only 20–25 of them will come before summer, with approximately 80 more expected to arrive by year’s end. The rest of the tanks will only arrive next year. These tanks are pretty old and, having been in storage for a while, would need to be serviced and repaired (including through “cannibalization”) prior to their transfer to Ukraine; hence, the long lead times.

Also, the modernization of T-72M1 tanks destined for Ukraine continues at a plant owned by the Excalibur Army company in the Czech Republic. Looking at the footage, one can see why it proceeds so slowly.

The information has emerged of the death of Igor Mangushev (callsign Bereg), characterized by many as an overt nazi and a sadist who bragged about torturing and executing prisoners of war. There are suspicions that his death — caused by a gunshot to the head — did not result from a successful operation by the adversary. The mysterious death of [Kherson occupation government official] Kyrylo Stremousov comes to mind.

The situation at the frontline

North of Bakhmut, Russian forces were able to advance slightly southward from the Sіl railroad station towards the village of Zaliznyanske. Currently, this is the only change to the frontline.

In its Feb. 7 sitrep, the General Staff of the UAF claimed that over 1,000 Russian soldiers were killed during the preceding 24 hours. Many visual proofs of bloody fighting near Vuhledar are emerging: the Russian side is suffering heavy losses of military vehicles as well as personnel.

The 1231st regiment from Tatarstan [Russia’s constituent republic] published a video taken near the frontline. In this video, mobilized men say that they were assigned to a “DPR” unit and that they were told by the commanders that they were the fourth reinforcement. It was not specified, however, where the previous three had gone. The men call for help from their commanders and relatives because, according to them, the “DPR” commanders fight to the last soldier and send unprepared people with assault rifles without any reinforcements, support, or supplies into assault attacks on fortified Ukrainian positions. They also say that they saw entire fields covered with dead bodies, which no one collected. According to the mobilized men, their wives applied to the prosecutor's office of Tatarstan, which refused to help, saying that they could only redirect the appeal to the prosecutor's office of the "DPR". Over the past day, several such videos have appeared. They can be found in our mobilization summary.

We get the impression that the large-scale offensive expected by everyone has already begun with the intensified fighting near Vuhledar. Additional units of paratroopers arrived in the Svatove and Kreminna area, and the paratroopers began an attack on Bakhmut. Now its intensity is gradually increasing. If we do not observe a sudden offensive on Kharkiv, for example, or the mobilization of a million people, it does not mean that the offensive is not taking place.

The launch of a missile from the Belgorod region was made public on video footage on the evening of Feb. 7. Various witnesses claim to have seen six or ten missiles. Photos of hits on the Kharkiv Aviation Plant were published on the morning of Feb. 8. Missiles hit Central Park and an industrial facility in the Kyivskyi district of the city of Kharkiv, according to the mayor of the city Ihor Terekhov. There is no information about the victims yet.

The obituary of the head of the Radiation, Chemical, and Biological (NCB) protection Forces of the 35th Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade, Major Vladimir Nesterov, who was killed in Kyrylivka on Jan. 27, has been published. The date of his death differs from the estimated date of the strike on the school in Kyrylivka (Jan. 28). Either the attack occurred on the night of Jan. 27-28, and the information became known only on the 28th, or Nesterov's death was not related to this attack. We will follow up with further information.

Also, an obituary was published for Junior Sergeant of the Airborne Forces, Andrey Zaitsev. He was killed during a strike at a hospital in Novoaidar. We published materials collected by our volunteers before. They prove the hospital was used by the Russian military. We remind the Geneva Convention prohibits strikes against medical facilities even if they are used by the military.

The Russian Defense Ministry proposes to allow all military personnel, including conscripts, to participate in peacekeeping operations. We think the Ministry is looking for the possibility to replace contract soldiers with conscripts in Nagorno-Karabakh and Transnistria and send contract soldiers to fight in Ukraine.

Director of the Russia Studies Program at the Center for Naval Analyses Michael Kofman, speaking on the War on the Rocks podcast, formulated several important theses. Firstly, since there are no tank battles, it is now more important for Ukraine to receive not tanks but infantry fighting vehicles. Therefore, the pledged hundreds of Bradley IFVs, Marder IFVs, and Stryker APCs are more relevant than the announced deliveries of Leopard 2, Challenger 2, and M1 Abrams tanks.

Apparently, Western armored military vehicles will begin to arrive in Ukraine in any significant quantities only by the end of spring. However, the already approved supplies allow Ukrainian generals to plan current combat actions without fearing losses in armor because they will be replenished.

Moreover, Russia was unlucky in that the winter in Ukraine and other countries in Europe was warmer than usual, so the demand for electricity and gas was lower, and it was not possible to create political pressure on Zelenskyy and Europe. The tactic of massive missile strikes did not work because Ukrainian services quickly restored the damaged infrastructure.

The number of missiles that Russia is firing during strikes is gradually decreasing to approximately the level of missile production.