January 11, 2023

Sitrep for January 10-11 (as of 9:00 a.m.)

The situation on the frontline

Heavy fighting is going on all along the frontline from Kreminna (Dibrova and Kuzmine), where Ukrainian forces are operating, and Bilohorivka, where Russian forces are trying to advance, to Soledar, Bakhmut, Donetsk and Marinka, where there are also intensive combat activities. Both sides sustain heavy losses in every sector of the front but with no noticeable progress.

On the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson axes strikes are carried out but there is no large-scale fighting.

On Jan. 10, a photo of Yevgeny Prigozhin [Russian oligarch, the confidant of Vladimir Putin and owner of the Wagner Group] next to a tank, surrounded by Wagner Group mercenaries was published. This photograph was allegedly taken at a salt mine in Soledar. It seems unlikely that Prigozhin has arrived in Soledar, which is still a contested flashpoint area; perhaps the mine in the photo is located in a different place.

Prigozhin emphasized again that the Wagner Group was the only unit fighting in Soledar, which contradicts the statement of Denys Pushylin, acting head of the so-called DPR. According to him, “DPR” servicemen are the ones who control the center of the town.

Prigozhin also claims that the Wagner Group fighters allegedly have completely surrounded Soledar, trapping the AFU servicemen in a pocket. He stated that the number of Ukrainian WIAs and KIAs would be announced in the near future.

We have not seen any objective confirmation of his words yet. According to recent reports, urban fighting continues in Soledar, and it is always very difficult to follow them.

Note that Prigozhin adopted the same methods, which he had previously criticized General Aleksandr Lapin [recently appointed as Chief of Staff of the Russian Armed Forces] for: PR trips close to the frontline and regular photoshoots with fighters to demonstrate that he is always in the center of the action.

As predicted, frosty weather has finally settled in the area of Kreminna and the soil has frozen, which is proven with a recent pro-Russian video report showing tanks driving on solid ground.

The Radio Liberty media outlet published an investigation into the Ukrainian HIMARS MLRS strike on the occupied Lantrativka, Luhansk region on Dec. 16. Russian workers hired to dig trenches were killed there. According to official information, 11 people were killed, according to unofficial data [a surviving worker] their number was as many as 84.

Most of the workers were stationed in Valuyki, Belgorod region, and were brought daily to their place of work by buses. Some of them, however, resided in the building that was hit. Judging by the available data (including a video that was published by Ukrainian pro-Russian blogger Anatolyi Sharii), there were no service members there, only workers.

On Jan. 10, Kherson was allegedly attacked with S-300 missiles. Following the strike, a crater quickly filled with water likely due to a disruption in the water supply.

Russian authorities reported that the town of Shebekino, Belgorod region, was attacked on Jan. 10. 5 people were reportedly injured.

In the Rostov region, a booster of an S-300 missile was found. As it turns out, Russia's air defense was trying to hit a Ukrainian drone, and part of the missile fell in a field.

The US Department of Defense announced that 90-100 Ukrainian soldiers will begin training to use Patriot SAM systems next week in Oklahoma. Mykhailo Podoliak, the advisor to the Head of the Office of President Zelenskyy, stated that these air defense systems will, most likely, arrive in Ukraine at the end of spring.

A newly announced package of security assistance for Ukraine contains quite a lot of Western systems that are unfamiliar to Ukrainian service members. The training process will take a lot of time. Despite being one of the largest, this package is still not sufficient enough to enable the AFU to conduct a large-scale counteroffensive.

With regard to the latest security package from the USA, Ukrainian troops have begun training to use Patriot SAM systems and Bradley IFVs (500 soldiers per month). Our team did not come to a consensus as to whether these 500 people include infantry squads who do not need any special training on Bradley (this type of IFV holds a crew of three: a commander, a gunner, and a driver, and it can also carry up to seven infantrymen). Since this is a monthly training program, we are likely to see another 50 Bradleys delivered within a month, and in three months Ukraine may have 150 of them.

Modernized T-72 tanks provided by the Czech Republic don’t require special training, since Ukrainian operators already have the necessary skills.

Many experts point out that large shipments of Western tanks, such as Leopard or Challenger-2 are unlikely until the capacity of supplying Soviet-era tanks (T-72, T-62 and others) is exhausted. The latter can still be obtained elsewhere via direct purchase or exchange and shipped to Ukraine. Maintenance and logistics infrastructure for such tanks is already in place; they meet requirements for transportation on trawls, across bridges and via railways.

In the coming days we may see shipments of Leopard or Challenger-2 tanks, but most likely in very limited quantities — in order to create a precedent for European countries to start providing Ukraine with heavy armored vehicles and encourage other countries to do the same.

An advisor to the President of Poland said that Poland planned to supply 10 Leopard tanks to Ukraine.

During the recent visit of German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock to Kharkiv, her Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba asked for tank shipments. France is putting pressure on Germany, hoping to get it to provide Ukraine with Leopard tanks. Similar pressure is being exerted by Poland, which aims to form a broad coalition of Western countries supplying Leopard tanks. Ukraine is striving to get Leopards, because there are a lot of these tanks in Europe, as well as spare parts for them, thus, there should be no problems with provisioning.

Canada announced its intention to buy a NASAMS anti-aircraft missile system from the United States and supply it to Ukraine.

On Jan. 20, the next Ramstein congress will take place. There, the United States may announce the provision of Stryker armored vehicles.

US and Ukrainian officials note that the rate of fire of Russian artillery has dropped by 75% over the past month. Numerical estimates vary widely: US officials say that Russian forces would fire about 20,000 rounds per day, and now the number is close to 5,000, while the Ukrainian side claims that up to 60,000 rounds per day used to be the norm, and now it’s up to 20,000.

The reason for this may be in the shell hunger (both Wagner mercenaries and lots of Russian military correspondents in their posts complained about the lack of shells) or in possible upcoming offensive for which shells are saved.

We see a similar situation with missile strikes on Ukraine. The pro-Russian Telegram channel Voennyi Osvedomitel [Military Informant] has published a post explaining why Iskander missiles ran out so quickly. The Russian government planned that the “special military operation” would be short and fired one or even two Iskander missiles at a small military vehicle column in the beginning of the current invasion. But now, not only these expensive and scarce missiles are running out but other types of missiles and rockets so they have to set priorities and take breaks in missile strikes.

The Czech Excalibur Army company modernizing T-72 tanks for Ukraine invested more than 27 million euro in expanding its production. Probably, the pace of tank modernization will increase.

All European countries began to review their risks and spending on weapons, their modernization, and army reforms. The Czech Republic has enshrined in its legislation that defense spending  should be not less than 2% of GDP (as recommended by NATO  — CIT). In Sweden, they talk about returning conscription for military service.

A murder because of a quarrel in a parent chat occurred in Volgograd two years ago. The perpetrators were convicted and sentenced to various terms of imprisonment. One of the convicts was recruited by the Wagner Group, fought in Ukraine, was injured and is in a hospital now. He could have been secretly pardoned and may return home soon. He repeatedly threatened to kill witnesses during court proceedings.

Unfortunately, with any further developments, a large number of people who went through the war will return to Russia, and this will worsen the criminal situation in the country.

We believe that Russian troops will not be able to do without mobilization, because large-scale losses are now observed. Russian military and various political correspondents wrote that many mobilized soldiers and other Russian servicemen had been killed in Pavlivka near Vuhledar. There is a lot of evidence that the fields near Bakhmut are literally strewn with corpses. In addition, the losses include not only the killed, but also wounded and captives, who need to be replaced by someone as well.

200,000 (according to General Valerii Zaluzhnyi [Commander-in-Chief of the AFU]) or 300,000 (according to Sergei Shoigu [Russia’s Minister of Defense]) people drafted as part of “partial” mobilization are only enough to hold the existing small part of the front and advance near Soledar, which is incomparable in scale with the Ukrainian Kharkiv offensive. Accordingly, expecting a large-scale counterattack by Ukraine, any Russian general should understand that much more people will be required and a second wave of mobilization is needed not only to compensate for the current losses, but also to prepare for new attacks by Ukrainian forces and the defense of the occupied territory.

Without mobilization, sections of the front will gradually begin to appear in which Ukrainian forces will counterattack successfully.

The Kharkiv offensive was so successful not only due to the supply of new weapons to Ukraine, but also because a significant part of the Russian forces was transferred to the Kherson direction, and the remaining troops were not enough to defend the captured positions in the Kharkiv region. Accordingly, if the second wave of mobilization is not carried out now, the growing number of the killed, wounded and captives (as well as soldier fatigue) will weaken the Russian defense, and we will see Ukrainian counterattacks and the liberation of the occupied territories.