February 12

Sitrep for Feb. 9-12, 2024 (as of 9 a.m. UTC+3)

Frontline Situation Update

The most strategically important direction remains Avdiivka. Brigadier General Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, the commander of the Tavria operational-strategic group, has stated that the Russian Armed Forces are concentrating on severing supply routes to the Armed Forces of Ukraine in Avdiivka. He mentioned that the AFU are deploying fresh reserve forces and are holding back Russian attacks. Dmytro Riumshyn, the commander of the 47th Separate Mechanized Brigade, observed that the Russian forces have decreased their use of “meat assaults” tactics and are now relying mainly on the Air Force and occasionally on attacks by small sabotage groups, which are incurring heavy losses. Based on these observations, it could be inferred that the situation in the Avdiivka area has stabilized. However, objective data on Russian advancements, collected by the DeepState Ukrainian project, contradicts such a conclusion: the RuAF has crossed the railway, advanced into a residential neighborhood beyond it, and is moving towards the DNK gas station, not the Brevno [Log] fortified area as was widely anticipated. They are now positioned near Industrialnyi Prospekt, which is one of Avdiivka's two remaining supply routes. The other is on the southern flank, also close to Russian positions.

Videos from the frontline indicate that the full muddy season has not yet started, but vehicles are periodically getting stuck in the mud.

CNN has published an article stating that the new Commander-in-Chief of the AFU, General Oleksandr Syrskyi, is currently under significant political pressure as he is required to present a new plan to prevent stagnation at the frontline while avoiding mass mobilization. How to satisfy both of these demands simultaneously is unclear to us.

David Arakhamia, head of the ruling Servant of the People party in Ukraine's parliament, said that in his opinion, within two months, the United States will agree to allocate assistance, and until that moment, Ukraine has enough resources to sustain itself without Western support. "We have enough resources for two months, so we feel safe," Arakhamia remarked.

DeepState has identified on satellite images a 30-kilometer-long barrier, dubbed the “tsar train” (comprising more than 2,000 cars), extending from the village of Olenivka to the town of Volnovakha in the occupied Donetsk region. It is presumed to be used as a type of fortification structure, although its effectiveness has not yet been evaluated.

Ukrainian and Russian Strikes

On Feb. 10, Russia attacked an oil depot in the city of Kharkiv with three loitering munitions. According to the Ukrainian side, the strike hit fuel tanks, leading to a large-scale fire. To make matters worse, the burning fuel leaking from these tanks reached residential buildings and caused a fire. As a result, 15 houses were destroyed, and seven people perished in the fire, including a family with three children.

Despite international conventions stipulating that targets must be directly linked to military infrastructure, oil depots are only indirectly associated with such. Typically, strikes on these facilities are not perceived as war crimes. Furthermore, they are generally safer for civilians, as the construction of oil storage, refineries and similar installations is regulated to comply with safety standards. We have referred to Russian standards, which should be similar to Ukrainian and international ones. These regulations often include the construction of bunds—earthen, concrete or masonry barriers to prevent the spillage of flammable liquids or the spread of fire.

Judging by satellite imagery and footage of fire suppression, such barriers were in place at the Kharkiv oil depot.

Aerial footage of the aftermath shows intact houses situated between the elevated depot and the destroyed residential buildings. Mapping the area reveals that fuel leaked from the depot and flowed through city streets for some time before igniting. The exact cause of this leak is unclear, but it may point to negligence. The barriers, constructed according to regulations, should prevent the free flow of fuel, and the warhead of a Shahed loitering munition is too small to destroy such defenses. Therefore, it seems unlikely that the strike on the Kharkiv oil depot could have been expected to lead to such devastating consequences.

Ukrainian soldiers claim that the RuAF are increasingly using Starlink terminals in occupied territories. As early as the beginning of 2023, there were reports of the use of terminals captured by Russian forces from the AFU during combat. Currently, it is reported that terminals with activated accounts are being extensively supplied to Russia through Dubai. The Main Directorate of Intelligence of Ukraine confirms their usage in occupied territories.

Elon Musk commented on the news, "A number of false news reports claim that SpaceX is selling Starlink terminals to Russia. This is categorically false. To the best of our knowledge, no Starlinks have been sold directly or indirectly to Russia."

According to the coverage map, Starlink currently operates in the south of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, as well as in the north of the Luhansk region. Therefore, there are no obstacles for the Russian side to use them. In discussions held back in October 2022, concerns were raised that access to terminals was not being denied promptly in accordance with changes on the frontline. We believe that if SpaceX wished to, it could well take action against the use of terminals by the Russian side. However, judging by Musk's comment, this is unlikely to happen in the near future.

On Feb. 10, Russia’s Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu visited the Kalashnikov Concern, which produces drones. During the visit, a factory worker informed him that an automatic targeting system for certain loitering munitions is under development. While indisputable evidence of such systems in use has yet to surface, supporting reports have come from Ukrainian volunteers. Additionally, there are claims that the Ukrainian side is also developing a similar system. However, a promotional video released about a month ago suggests that the algorithm's recognition capabilities are not yet fully refined. It is worth noting that high-resolution video is necessary for accurate ground object identification, and both quality cameras and the recognition systems themselves are energy-intensive. Thus, integrating such a system into FPV drones with limited battery capacity and poor cameras seems unfeasible at this point.

Additionally, Shoigu was shown an anti-aircraft missile, which we identified as the 9Đś333 guided anti-air missile for the 9K32 Strela-2 MANPADS. In October 2023, the Rostec State Corporation reported the delivery of these missiles to the troops, and in January, they were used on the frontline for the first time. Interestingly, this missile was developed in the 1980s and was introduced in 1989, but in recent years, it has only been put into serial production.

This is not the only case of presenting them as the latest models; there have been similar reports about the 2S35 Koalitsiya-SV self-propelled howitzers. In late 2023, it was reported that their use on the frontline had begun, and in mid-January, there was video footage of a convoy of these SPHs. On Jan. 31, Shoigu stated that the first six howitzers for the Russian Ministry of Defense would only be received in February.

The Russian MoD stated that on Feb. 9, Ukrainian maritime surface drones attempted to strike a Russian civilian transport vessel in the southwestern part of the Black Sea. However, a Russian Black Sea Fleet patrol boat, present in the area, destroyed one of the drones with artillery fire and neutralized others through electronic warfare. The Ukrainian side has not commented on this incident. The deployment of Black Sea Fleet ships west of Novorossiysk was somewhat unexpected. Notably, Russia has been using civilian vessels, such as the Matros Pozynich dry goods bulk carrier, for transporting military cargo from Novorossiysk to the Syrian port of Tartus, where Russian troops are based.

Recently, the role of the Black Sea Fleet in the war has significantly diminished. This decline is likely due to a depleting stockpile of sea-launched 3M-54 Kalibr cruise missiles, prompting Russia to shift towards air strikes combined with the simultaneous use of loitering munitions, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles.

The Ukrainian UA War Infographics Project has determined that Ukrainian air defense is now intercepting one third fewer Shahed-136 (Geran-2) loitering munitions than previously. This reduction can be attributed to the following factors:

  • Shahed-136 loitering munitions have developed the capability to alter their course if one drone from the group is shot down;
  • Russian forces are conducting additional reconnaissance to identify Ukrainian air defense positions;
  • Introduction of jet engine-powered drones, which exhibit higher flight speeds;
  • Simultaneous deployment of missiles equipped with decoy flares to divert air defense systems;
  • Drones are painted black and coated with carbon fiber to enhance camouflage.

At the moment, we cannot confirm or refute these assumptions.

According to the calculations by volunteers of the Oryx project, the destruction of over 10,000 units of Russian military equipment has been visually confirmed. The total number of lost equipment, including damaged, abandoned and captured vehicles, exceeds 14,000 units.

CNN, citing Bimala Rai Paudyal, a former Nepali Foreign Minister, reported that Russia has recruited up to 15,000 Nepali mercenaries to participate in the war against Ukraine. Undoubtedly, citizens of other countries are involved in combat on the Russian side, but we consider the cited number of Nepali men alone to be extremely exaggerated—there is no evidence of entire Nepali divisions present on the frontline. Mediazona, an independent Russian media outlet, reports that in 2023, 1,039 tourists from Nepal entered Russia (700 of them in the fourth quarter), according to the data from the Federal Security Service (FSB) border control.