February 9, 2023

Sitrep for February 8-9 (as of 2:00 p.m.) 

The situation on the frontline

On the Svatove sector of the front, the RuAF pursued offensive attempts in the Kupiansk direction. OSINT analyst Def Mon assumes that Russian forces could have driven the AFU out of the village of Synkivka (northeast of Kupiansk) but emphasizes that there has been no visual evidence of this yet.

Heavy fighting continues to the northwest of Svatove near the settlements of Novoselivka and Kuzemivka, but there is little progress there.

In the Kreminna direction, the RuAF increased the concentration of forces and pursue offensives in the areas of Dibrova and Chervonopopivka in order to break through toward Lyman which was liberated by the AFU a few months ago, because the capture of this town will enable Russian forces to advance further toward Sloviansk. Reportedly, engineering units of the RuAF are demining the area south of Kreminna and near Yampolivka.

A video showing the destruction of a Russian BMPT [Terminator] tank support fighting vehicle appeared in a number of Ukrainian sources. Reportedly, it is the first confirmed loss of such a vehicle.

The situation in the Bakhmut direction is becoming more and more dangerous for the Ukrainian Armed Forces every day. Russian troops are striving to cut off the two remaining supply lines for Bakhmut, which are under their fire control: the road to Sloviansk (combat actions are taking place in the area of Zaliznyanske) and to Kostiantynivka (combat actions are taking place near Ivanivske, capturing which will allow the RuAFto cut off the route).

On Feb. 8, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, visiting European countries, expressed his intention not to surrender Bakhmut. According to him, the Ukrainian soldiers need to hold out until Western aid arrives.

However, according to Def Mon, the order to withdraw from Bakhmut and, as a result, its capture by Russian forces is a matter of days, not weeks.

Note that what is happening in the Svatove — Kreminna direction is strategically more important for Ukraine than the retention of Bakhmut.

The pace of Western aid is very accurately described by the political scientist Vladimir Pastukhov. He says that it comes "in driblets, three times a month", that is, in quantities insufficient to change the situation.

Heavy fighting continues in the Vuhledar direction. Based on the emerging evidence, we can conclude that in this direction, the tactics of the Russian Army have not changed since the bloody battles for Pavlivka. A video has been published showing one convoy of Russian military vehicles being destroyed, with a second convoy approaching (instead of taking a different route) and Ukrainian artillery then opening fire on the concentration of military vehicles. The actions of the command in the Vuhledar area have received a stream of criticism in pro-Russian Telegram channels.

It is reported that about 30 people have been killed by the "Alga" volunteer battalion. The Ukrainian military managed to capture several marines of the Russian Pacific Fleet's 155th Marine Brigade, including a serviceman born in 2003.

The Head of the Chernihiv region reported two air strikes using air-to-surface missiles near the town of Semenivka. Аn industrial building was damaged; no information about casualties is available. It is also reported that this was the first such air attack in the Chernihiv region in a long time.

Another video of mobilized soldiers has been published. Servicemen from the 640th Howitzer Battalion, during the 3 months since their mobilization in September, have been training in reconnaissance, conducting and correcting artillery fire, and have arrived at the active zone of the “special military operation” in January. For a month, they waited for the howitzers and equipment that was promised, but eventually, they were assigned to the units of the so-called DPR as assault infantry. We’ll note that in the middle of January, Aleksandr Kots, a pro-Russian Komsomolskaya Pravda correspondent, reported on the situation in the 640th and 641st Howitzer Battalions.

Yevgeny Prigozhin [Russian oligarch, confidant of Vladimir Putin, and owner of the Wagner Group] stated that the Wagner Group is halting the recruitment of inmates and that obligations to those already on board are being fulfilled.

Olga Romanova, Executive Director of the Rus’ Sidyashchaya [Russia Behind Bars] civil rights movement, gave an account that for the last 2 or 3 weeks, the convicts have been recruited by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. According to Romanova, on Feb. 8, 26 convicts were sent away from a penal colony located in the Volgograd region. The rest of the recruited, 160 convicts, will be taken later. On Feb. 5, 56 people were taken from a penal colony located in Yurga, Kemerovo region.

Two weeks before the visit of a Defense Ministry official, the Federal Penitentiary Service employees survey the convicts and choose the most suitable candidates. In contrast to Yevgeny Prigozhin’s visits, communications are not being jammed during a Defense Ministry officials’ visit. While talking about the service conditions, recruiters promise that after six months of service, the convicts will be granted a pardon, and their monthly salary will be 200,000 rubles (around 2,750 dollars). The recruiters especially emphasize that the recruits will be subordinate to the Ministry of Defense, not the Wagner Group, and they shouldn’t have fears of arbitrary execution. In addition, the recruiters claim that now they are only taking the willing ones, but later they will come after the rest.

We now have photos that show the loading of the Spanish M113 armored personnel carriers for shipment to Ukraine. Recall that earlier, Spain stated that it would not be able to supply a single tank but would transfer 20 M113 armored personnel carriers.

In response to Zelenskyy's request in his speech to the British Parliament, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak instructed the Ministry of Defense to find out which aircraft the UK could potentially transfer to Ukraine.

In addition, he announced that Challenger 2 tanks would arrive in Ukraine in March. Interestingly, these will be assigned to the 25th Airborne Brigade (although it is impossible to parachute such tanks).

Germany is concerned that EU partners might not supply sufficient quantities of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine and is urging them to make a concrete decision by the end of the week.

Photos appeared showing Ukrainian artillerymen firing 2S3 Akatsia self-propelled guns with 3OF39 Krasnopol high-precision guided shells (Russian analog to Excalibur). The shells were obtained as spoils during the 2022 Kharkiv counteroffensive. Ukrainian servicemen have two ways of firing them: as a conventional unguided artillery munition or as a laser-corrected munition, provided that laser wavelength can be adjusted.

On Feb. 8, the Joint Investigation Team held a press conference at which it announced the suspension of the investigation into the 2014 downing of Flight MH17 over Donbas. According to the Deputy Chief Prosecutor of the Netherlands, Digna van Boetzelaer, at the moment, the capacity for collecting additional evidence and bringing new accused to trial has been exhausted. Should new witnesses or additional evidence appear, the case will resume. Also, at this press conference, prosecutors assumed that Vladimir Putin might have personally negotiated the shipment of air defense systems, such as a Buk surface-to-air missile system, to the separatists. Our team has no doubt that it was indeed the case.

An audio recording of Putin’s 2017 conversation with the former head of the “LPR”, Ihor Plotnitskiy, was published. It is not the content that is interesting, but the fact of the conversation, which confirms the direct relationship between Putin and Plotnitskiy.

Note that our team was not directly involved in the investigation into the downing of the Malaysian Boeing but helped the Bellingcat team with the collection of photographs of the Russian Buk SAM systems. On the eighth anniversary of the downing, Daniel Romein, one of the participants in the investigation, published photographs of probable members of the crew of the Buk SAM unit. However, the investigation team did not find the provided evidence sufficient for an indictment.