January 17, 2023

Sitrep for January 13-16 (as of 4:00 p.m.)

The strike on a multi-storey residential building in the city of Dnipro

By midday on Jan. 16, 40 civilians are reported to be killed: dead bodies of 37 people (including three children) were removed from the rubble, and fragments of three more bodies were found and sent for examination. 75 people were injured, including 14 children; 39 people were rescued, including six children. 30 more people are reported missing.

The story of Anastasia Shvets, a young woman found on one of the upper floors of the ruined building, became the most famous one among those of survivors. She managed to survive the strike and escape, but the fate of her parents, who were in the same apartment, still remains unknown (after the team briefing they were found dead — CIT). Just a few months earlier, Anastasia's beloved man, a Ukrainian serviceman, was killed in the war.

The attack on the railway station in Kramatorsk, where 57 people were killed, is still considered to be the deadliest strike during the full-scale invasion. Our team remembers this strike because then, according to our theory of "tailmetry" [based on an assumption that the position of a missile tail on the ground indicates where the missile was launched from] we tried to prove that the missile had been launched from the area controlled by Russian forces. However, later it turned out that the theory was wrong. Based on other data we have, we cannot say with confidence which side was responsible for the strike.

To date, two days after the strike on the city of Dnipro, 30 people are still missing; taking into account the sub-zero temperature, there is almost no chance to find them alive. So, it is this strike that might become one that caused the most civilian casualties.

Nowadays, several versions of what has happened are being discussed. According to one of them, let's call it "Arestovych’s version" [after Oleksiy Arestovych, advisor to the head of the President’s Office of Ukraine, who mentioned it], the missile was shot down by a Ukrainian air defense system. However, according to the Ukrainian Air Force, the Kh-22 missile was not shot down but hit the building directly.

Our team has discussed both of these versions and looked into each of them with reasoned criticism. However, Oleksiy Arestovych is undoubtedly right about one thing: in any case, the responsibility for this incident lies entirely with Russia.

On the one hand, Arestovych’s version is supported by the fact that there have already been similar cases before when Russian air defense shot down two missiles, but they did not explode in the air. One of them just fell down, but the other one detonated, hitting a residential building. On the other hand, Arestovych refers to a source from the air defense, who reported that he had heard two pops near the explosion site. In urban areas, it could well be a reflected echo, a sound of a supersonic missile passing by, air defense firing at a different target, or something else. So, we wouldn't take it as serious evidence.

The Ukrainian Air Force stated that a Kh-22 missile struck a building and that Ukraine has no means to intercept such missiles. Firstly, so far, fragments of the missile have not been found, and its type is known only from Ukrainian officials' words. Secondly, it is difficult to agree with the latter statement because Buk and S-300P surface-to-air missile systems are capable of intercepting high-speed missiles (a Kh-22 reaches a speed of 4000 km/h). These systems can intercept a missile flying at 1200 m/s (4300 km/h) on its oncoming flight path, although it is a tough challenge: a crew must be able to quickly detect the target, aim it and fire at it in a very short time. The situation is even worse when the missile is not flying on an oncoming path. The effectiveness of an air defense system depends not only on the speed of the target but also on the angle (the angle between the trajectory of an air defense missile and an enemy missile).

In response to earlier statements that Ukrainian Air Defense Forces shot down Kh-22 missiles, Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ignat objected that some servicemen who had found fragments of these missiles in the field claimed that they had successfully intercepted them.

Yuriy Ignat's statement on the impossibility of intercepting Kh-22 missiles also serves a political purpose — to encourage allies to send Ukraine more air defense systems and missiles to them. This statement also contains a mistake: a Kh-22 missile is not a ballistic missile but a supersonic cruise missile.

We recall that when a missile fell on Polish territory, the Ukrainian Air Force rapidly claimed it was a Russian missile and apparently reported it even to the president. But when pictures of the wreckage appeared, they unambiguously showed it was a Ukrainian missile from an S-300 system.

In available videos, no interception is seen or heard, and only one explosion is heard — when the missile hits the building. Assuming that an air defense missile did not change the trajectory of the Kh-22 missile, another question arises: what was the target of this missile? Our team did not find any considerable military or energy objects within a radius of several hundred meters (possible deviation value of a serviceable missile). There is a district boiler house almost 1 km away, but to us, it seems too small a target for a cruise missile. In a similar case of Kh-22 missile usage (in Kremenchuk), a plant that was the target was located across a fence from a shopping center that was hit by the missile.

In this case, the nearest significant target was the Prydniprovska TPS. It is located 4 km away from the residential building, which was struck. It is quite possible that the missile was defective and that is why it has deviated from the set trajectory so extremely.

A version that the missile was initially aimed at the coordinates of the building is not very likely. During the current invasion, there were cases when outdated coordinates were used (e.g., it was a military facility in this place before but now it is a residential development) but, in our opinion, there were no cases when such a missile was aimed to strike a residential building. So, the most convincing version is the significant deviation of the missile from the specified coordinates because of a defect.

Kyiv was also attacked on Jan.14. An important detail is that a missile struck before the air raid was announced. Previously, we assumed that the Russian Armed Forces tried to find weak spots in Ukrainian air defense. It is quite possible that they could direct the missile bypassing radars along a trajectory where air defense systems were absent, and the missile reached the city unnoticed.

The Defense Express media outlet has got the wreckages of the missile with a 48N6DM marking at its disposal. It was a missile from the S-400 surface-to-air missile system of a 230 km range and a 180 kg warhead. It could have been launched from the territory of Belarus or from the Bryansk region which is being systematically attacked by Ukrainian drones (this may be indirect evidence of the presence of Russian military systems, e.g., S-400, there).

Previously, we could see that S-300 missiles were used to hit ground targets but S-400, as we know, was used for this purpose for the first time.

Let's go back to the video of the fighting in which two Ukrainian soldiers were killed. The Grey Zone Telegram channel which is linked to the Wagner Group published some videos of subsequent events. Almost all pro-Russian participants had red bands on their helmets and legs. We consider it unlikely that the attacker was wearing an AFU uniform or a yellow band.

The situation on the front line

Most of the frontline is quiet. To the north of Bakhmut and Soledar, Russian forces are moving further north in the direction of Rozdolivka. There is ongoing fighting for Blahodatne, Krasna Hora, and Pidhorodne, but so far without significant advances.

South of Bakhmut, Russian forces are trying to attack Klishchiivka and advance along the Siverskyi Donets — Donbas Canal in the direction of Predtechyne.

Active fighting continues near Donetsk but without any advances so far.

The General Staff of the AFU continues to report repulsed attacks in the area of the village of Sil on the western outskirts of Soledar.

In light of the available information, it appears that Soledar is already captured.

Journalist Yuriy Butusov states in his social networks that Soledar is a defeat that should be acknowledged and learned from. However, he believes that the Ukrainian leadership does not want to admit the loss of the town, and will try to counterattack, especially after new armor arrives in Ukraine.

It is reported that medals "for the capture of Soledar" are now awarded within the Wagner Group. This may be useful later to identify the Wagner Group mercenaries.

Former commander of one of the Wagner Group units Andrey Medvedev fled Russia to Norway and requested political asylum. He is ready to testify against Yevgeny Prigozhin [Russian oligarch, confidant of Vladimir Putin, the owner of the Wagner Group] and about extrajudicial killings by the Wagner Group.

Mobilization news

The Russian Ministry of Defense reported how mobilized servicemen were trained, among other things, to use updated versions of Msta-SM2 self-propelled howitzers. Earlier some draftees were trained to operate the latest T-90M Proryv tanks.

These new military vehicles are given to mobilized soldiers, not professional tankers, because the latter would have to be removed from the frontline for retraining, which is too costly.

The Guardian reports that Russia is going to mobilize another 500,000 people. We do not make such assumptions, since the number of people who are planned to be mobilized during the second wave [of mobilization] (if it is announced) will be classified and we will not know it, at least in the foreseeable future.

Chairman of the Defense Committee of the State Duma [lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia] Andrey Kartapolov took back his words and said that this year’s spring campaign of regular biannual conscription will be held according to the old rules: people aged 18 to 27 are subject to conscription.

Pro-Russian "military correspondent" Vladlen Tatarsky visited the positions of an artillery regiment composed of mobilized residents of the Primorsky region and reported a critical lack of guns or shells: despite the fact that this is an artillery regiment, it has almost no artillery. Since there is nothing to fire with, the mobilized soldiers, who were trained as artillerymen, are being sent to the frontline as infantrymen. He also mentioned the all-wheel drive GAZelle pickup trucks, which were converted to mount the Utyos machine guns (in December we saw a video of such GAZelles driving across Russia towards the Crimea peninsula).

The Belaruski Hajun monitoring group reports that another batch of mobilized soldiers trained in Belarus left the Brest region on Jan. 11 and arrived in the Voronezh region at the Mitrofanovka station (40 km from the border with the Luhansk region) on Jan. 15. As we can see, the offensive from Belarus is not being prepared. On the contrary, the trained mobilized soldiers are gradually being brought to the frontline through Russia.

Israel will supply Ukraine with a missile and drone alert system (previously, the Ukrainian authorities were not interested in such aid).

The UK has officially announced that it will supply a squadron (14) of Challenger-2 tanks and 30 units of AS-90 self-propelled guns to Ukraine.

Hungary stated that it would not allow NATO weapons to pass through its territory in order to protect the Hungarians in Transcarpathia.

Ukrainian servicemen began training in operating Bradley infantry fighting vehicles.

A photo surfaced showing Ukrainian troops using Grad MLRS rockets manufactured in Iran in 2022. How they were shipped to Ukraine is unknown.

Finland supplied Ukraine with a pontoon park on KrAZ chassis, produced a long time ago in Kremenchuk.

The Pentagon doubts the feasibility of supplying Ukraine with GLSDB [Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb] HIMARS munitions with a target range of up to 150 km, since their deployment is expected to take too long. We do not quite understand the reasons for this (maybe these bombs do not yet physically exist, but only as designs, or are unfinished and not ready for mass production).

Georgia has announced that it will not supply Ukraine with military aid, as it does not want to be dragged into a military conflict.

Additional air defense systems are being deployed in Moscow, including the city itself. In the Losiny Ostrov National Park, deforestation is underway to deploy an S-400 system.

Ukraine is completing the development of its drone with a flight range of up to 1000 km.

Shahriar Heydari, who is a member of the Islamic Republic’s parliamentary commission for national security and foreign policy, said that Su-35 fighter jets purchased by Iran should arrive this spring. It is also expected that the purchased air defense systems, missile systems and helicopters will be shipped in the near future. We are very curious as to where Russia may obtain air defense systems for Iran, since there are not enough of them even for Russia's Armed Forces.