January 12

Sitrep for Jan. 10-12, 2024 (as of 8 a.m. UTC+3)

Following Ukrainian cruise missile strikes on air defense facilities and a command post in occupied Crimea on Jan. 4, Colonel Vadim Ismagilov, the commander of the 3rd Radio Technical Regiment based on the peninsula, was reported killed. This information was also corroborated two days after the strike by the Dos’ye Shpiona [Spy Dossier] Telegram channel.

In the European Union, discussions persist regarding the transfer of frozen Russian assets to Ukraine. Many still fear that such a transfer would signal to other investors that European financial markets are not secure enough.

During his Baltic tour aimed at promoting aid to Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met with his Lithuanian counterpart, Gitanas Nausėda on Jan. 10. The leaders reached an agreement for the joint production of anti-drone equipment and a new military aid package of €200 million for Ukraine. According to Nausėda, in January, ammunition, generators and detonation systems would be sent to Ukraine, followed by M577 armored personnel carriers in February.

On Jan. 11, Zelenskyy met with Estonia’s President Alar Karis, who, during a joint press conference, announced a commitment to allocate €1.2 billion in military aid to Ukraine over three years.

Zelenskyy is emphasizing to allied leaders, in these and many other meetings, the urgent need to halt Putin's military aggression, as there is a high likelihood he will not stop at Ukraine. Should he attack NATO countries, the US and EU would need to allocate significantly more resources for combat operations than supporting Ukraine in resisting Russia.

A similar sentiment was expressed by US Republican Party presidential candidate Nikki Haley, who highlighted the failure of the West to take action against terrorists and dictators even though they had openly declared their intentions in past years.

At the same time, Bloomberg, citing its sources, reported that at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s National Security Advisor, may allegedly approach Volodymyr Zelenskyy in private to obtain a more detailed plan from the Armed Forces of Ukraine on continuing the war with Russia. We find the demand for such a plan from the leadership of Ukraine untimely, as Kyiv faces difficulties in formulating specific plans without knowledge of the aid it can rely upon from allies, along with uncertainties about the timely arrival of promised aid. Moreover, predicting Russia's potential firepower even in the next six months is challenging, considering potential agreements Putin may reach with his allies and the measures he may take to strengthen the army.

New details have emerged about the construction by Russian forces of a new supply route linking the occupied territories in southern Ukraine with Russia proper. Analysts from the Frontelligence Insight team, founded by Ukrainian military analyst Tatarigami, have examined satellite images of the railway being built towards the city of Mariupol. Speculating on the current construction pace, they estimate that Russia could complete the section between the villages of Burne and Malovodne in 2024. Initially, the plan was to restore the railway section near Volnovakha, but this would require pushing the frontline further away, which has not been achieved thus far. Analysts have identified a vulnerable point in this section—a bridge over the Kalmius River. Striking the bridge could disrupt railway operations, but completely destroying it would likely be challenging.

Mark Krutov, editor of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty news service, has reported that, based on new data, Russia is reconstructing the Taganrog-Mariupol gas pipeline, which ceased operating in 2009, instead of building a highway connecting Taganrog, Mariupol and Melitopol, as previously believed.

The photo of a FAB-1500M-54 air-dropped bomb equipped with a Universal Gliding and Correction Module (UMPK) has been published, confirming earlier reports by the pro-Russian Telegram channel Fighterbomber [associated with the Russian Air and Space Force] in September 2023. Judging by the photo, the ballistic ring on the bomb’s nose, designed to stabilize its flight, features a nose cone to prevent the bomb from slowing down during gliding. Convincing data on the actual use of such bombs is still unavailable, as distinguishing between half-ton bombs and one and a half-ton bombs in videos remains a challenge. The estimated range of a FAB-500 bomb equipped with UMPK is around 50-60 km. However, determining the range of the new modification, the FAB-1500M-54 with UMPK, is difficult until verified data on its use becomes available.

The Prosecutor General's Office of Ukraine has announced that evidence of the use of North Korean missiles during the attack on Kharkiv on Jan. 2 has been collected. Analysis of the debris is ongoing; however, the exact modification of the missile has not yet been determined.

The possibility of supplying such missiles was first reported by the Associated Press on Nov. 2, 2023, with reference to the National Intelligence Service of South Korea. We believe that by that time Russian crews could have already been trained to operate North Korean launchers. It was alleged that, along with the missiles, the DPRK transferred ATGM systems, MANPADS and even some small arms to Russia. Even earlier, on Nov. 1, Bloomberg, citing South Korean intelligence, reported that from August to November 2023, North Korea sent more than a million artillery shells to Russia. However, we have not encountered objective evidence of such a number of shells delivered, as well as data on the number of missiles transferred.

Nearly two years after the start of the full-scale invasion, signs of the war are becoming increasingly evident on the territory of Russia. In Belgorod and the border town of Shebekino, bus stops are now being fortified with concrete blocks and sandbags.

Dmytro Pletenchuk, the spokesman for the Ukrainian Navy, has stated that the volume of grain exports across the Black Sea has returned to early 2022 levels, despite Russia's withdrawal from the "grain deal" and its attempts to disrupt supplies by using loitering munitions to hit the port infrastructure of Odesa. The use of unmanned surface vessels by the AFU has pushed the Black Sea Fleet farther from the shores of Ukraine, with air defense systems protecting the coastline from airstrikes.

The Vyorstka media outlet has found that the state contract market monopoly, once held by Yevgeny Prigozhin [the deceased owner of the Wagner Group] has reverted back to the former co-owner of Shokoladnitsa [a popular chain of coffee shops in Russia]. The RBE Group, serving the Russian Railways [Russian fully state-owned railway company], is set to supply food to the army and Moscow hospitals, as revealed by the arbitration court's lawsuit database. Notably, the Voentorg company [Military Trading, a network of military supply stores] had previously filed numerous lawsuits against Prigozhin's companies related to the improper fulfillment of obligations under food supply contracts. Since December 2023, several lawsuits have been filed against the RBE Group, with the details remaining undisclosed. It is worth noting that until 2013, when most contracts were transferred to Prigozhin, the RBE Group served as the primary food supplier for the Ministry of Defense.

In 2024, the RBE Group won 13 out of 23 auctions for food supplies to Moscow healthcare institutions, totaling 1.488 billion rubles [$62 million].

The Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine has introduced the project "I Want to Find" for families of Russian prisoners of war. Telegram chatbots will be launched to help determine the specific whereabouts of a POW and ascertain if they have survived. Ukrainian authorities hope that this project will facilitate more exchanges of prisoners of war.

A video has emerged showing a UAZ Bukhanka van that remained operational after being struck by an FPV drone, with all crew members surviving. In another video featuring a UAZ Hunter light utility off-road vehicle, all crew members also survived a drone strike on the driver’s side door, with the only noticeable damage being burnt flooring in the driver’s footwell. As we have mentioned before, since shaped charges concentrate explosive energy into a single jet to penetrate armor, they do not always inflict significant damage even to unarmored vehicles. Recently, voices on both sides of the frontline have increasingly argued that it might be time to stop using FPV drones armed with RPG payloads against enemy vehicles, as they often prove ineffective.

In this context, it is worth noting that Javelin anti-tank missiles are effective even against vehicles equipped with slat armor, as, unlike RPG payloads, they feature a tandem-charge warhead with two shaped charges alongside an explosively formed penetrator. You can learn more on this topic in this video provided to us by our volunteers.

On the night of Jan. 12, the US and the UK, with support from the Netherlands, Canada and Bahrain, launched a military operation against Yemen’s Houthi rebels. Strikes targeted various military facilities, including airfields used for launching drones and missiles, weapons depots and radar installations. It remains unclear whether this operation will affect oil prices and whether it could benefit Putin in any way. Similarly, we remain skeptical about the effectiveness of prosecuting an aerial campaign without troops on the ground. Likewise, while the initial Russian operation in Syria primarily involved air-dropping bombs on Assad regime opponents, as the situation evolved, the need for deploying supporting forces capable of engaging the enemy on the ground became evident.

President of Ecuador Daniel Noboa has announced his readiness to transfer a significant portion of existing old Soviet equipment and ammunition to the United States (for Ukraine) within a month. This includes Mil Mi-17 helicopters, BM-21 Grad MLRS, RM-70 Vampire MLRS, ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft twin-barreled autocannons, 9K33 Osa surface-to-air missile systems, 9K38 Igla and 9K32 Strela-2 MANPADS. In exchange, the United States will provide Ecuador with their own equipment worth $200 million. The condition of the equipment kept in Ecuadorian storage is unknown, and its operational viability is questionable, particularly since Noboa himself referred to it as "scrap metal."