January 18, 2023

Sitrep for January 16-17 (as of 2:30 p.m.)

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

There was information that rescuers had removed the body of another child from under the rubble. Thus, the number of victims increased to 41 people. The rubble is still being cleared, and about 30 people are still missing.

The scandal continues around the statement of Oleksiy Arestovych [former advisor to the head of the President’s Office of Ukraine], who said that, according to his acquaintance, the Russian missile was shot down by an air defense system. In response to criticism, he apologized to the audience and posted a letter of resignation from his position.

We emphasize once again that, regardless of whether the missile was intercepted by an air defense system, the blame for what happened lies entirely with Russia.

There were several videos of the aftermath of the strike on the residential building in Dnipro and a dashcam recording from a car passing nearby at the time of the strike. In the video, at the time of the missile strike, we could find no signs of air defense activity.

In the video taken immediately after the impact, one can see a fire and heavy smoke to the east (to the left on the freeze frame) of the residential building. Bright flashes on the ground are caused by a short circuit of broken wires of the trolleybus line; however, the source of smoke is a little further east among the trees (on the left side of the frame). If it actually was a Kh-22 missile strike, then the smoke cannot be caused by a separated missile part, since the Kh-22 missile does not separate on approach to the target unlike some other missiles (as an example one can take the Kh-22 missile strike on the shopping center in Kremenchuk). There has been speculation that the fire and smoke were caused by a second hit (possibly with an air defense missile), but no evidence of this assumption has been provided so far.

The Security Service of Ukraine has published the names of the persons it considers responsible for the attack on a residential building in Dnipro: the commander of the 52nd Guards Heavy Bomber Aviation Regiment, the commander of the unit, the chief of staff, two navigators and an engineer. The journalists of Vazhnyye istorii [iStories, an independent Russian investigative media outlet] were able to get through to one of them, but they did not manage to get any intelligible answers.

The situation on the frontline

Pro-Russian war correspondent Yarem posted a photo of Wagner Group mercenaries at the railway station of Sil settlement (on the western outskirts of Soledar). Based on this, OSINT analyst Def Mon concludes that, most likely, Soledar was completely captured, and the AFU retreated to the high ground west of Sil near the motorway that connects Bakhmut and Siversk.

South of Bakhmut, pro-Russian forces keep trying to attack Klishchiivka; however, the AFU are still able to hold their positions there.

Ukrainian forces continue to advance on Kreminna and Svatove but are yet to gain much ground. Most of the fighting is near the village of Novoselivske. There are also areas of high military activity near Donetsk: Marinka, Nevelske, Vodyane, Opytne, and the territory near Pisky. On the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson axes, there is currently no ground combat.

In response to the publication by the Defense Express media outlet that pointed out that a S-400 missile could have been launched either from the territory of Belarus or from the Bryansk region, the members of the Belarusian Hajun monitoring group stated that on Jan. 14, they did not receive any reports of missiles being launched from Belarus. The only area where a missile launch could go unnoticed would be the almost uninhabited zone neighboring the Chornobyl nuclear power plant. The Belarusian Hajun also cites reports from residents of districts bordering the Bryansk region who heard explosions that sounded similar to missile launches.

The fact of using new S-400 missiles against ground targets is surprising since these missiles are needed for Russian air defense and depleting their stock lowers Russia’s defense capability.

Ukrainian service members will start training on the Patriot air defense system this week. Most likely, the training would take several months.

The British Minister of Defense Ben Wallace announced that the new package of military aid to Ukraine will contain FV430 Bulldog extra armored personnel carriers (recall that these vehicles differ from infantry fighting vehicles by lacking their own cannon).

The new package of military aid from the UK contains:

  • a squadron (14 units) of Challenger 2 tanks;
  • 8 AS-90 155mm self-propelled guns; 22 additional guns are being prepared to be transferred at a later date;
  • hundreds of armored fighting vehicles, including FV430 Mk3 Bulldog APCs;
  • tens of unmanned aerial vehicles for artillery support;
  • hundreds of “smart missiles” (possibly, Brimstone air-to-surface missiles);
  • spare parts for Ukrainian tanks.

The Rotonda news outlet determined the identities of several more convicts who completed their six-month contract serving at the Wagner Group and were likely let free.

The publication shares the story of 30-year-old Ivan Anurin from St. Petersburg, who was serving a sentence for two robberies. In 2020, having already been convicted of drug offenses, he and his accomplice robbed two girls in a park. A year before that, he beat and robbed a man whom he had ambushed at the entrance to his apartment building.

Pavel Zakharov, 39, who killed the mother of his girlfriend, and Vitaly Gorbunov, 42, who was repeatedly convicted of theft and robbery with violence, are also mentioned.

A photo has surfaced of dog tags that the Wagner Group is giving out to its recruited convicts, the so-called K-shniks, with new six-digit numbers. In 2015-2016, Wagner Group dog tags were marked with the letter “M” and four digits, while in 2022, dog tags with the letter “K” and five digits began to appear on convicts. We do not take this as evidence that more than 100,000 convicts have already been recruited; perhaps, the first or last three digits carry some additional information, for example, the code of a unit.

Conscripts from seven constituent entities of the Russian Federation — cities of Volgograd, Izhevsk, Kirov, Voronezh, the Chuvash Republic, and the Samara and Smolensk regions— arrived in the Belgorod region. The border areas are not considered the “special operation zone”, so conscripts can be sent there despite periodic Ukrainian attacks with shells and drones on military facilities. Therefore, it is quite possible to expect new deaths, including among conscripts sent to the border. We also remind you that (in accordance with the recent reforms in the Russian Army) conscripts can sign a contract soon (approx. in three months — CIT) after the start of military service and be sent directly to the frontline.

In yesterday's sitrep, we mentioned that a representative of the Iranian government confirmed the rumors about the imminent arrival of Su-35 aircraft in Iran, and also spoke about the ordered air defense systems, missile systems and helicopters. The Voyenny Osvedomitel [Military Informant] Telegram channel drew attention to a video from Vladivostok showing a Ka-52 helicopter with the "export" L-418 President-S OES and in camouflage colors that are not typical for the Russian Aerospace Forces. An assumption was made that Russia will transfer Ka-52 helicopters to Iran and we consider this plausible.

From the perspective of the Russian Army, a Ka-52 is considered quite a modern helicopter. Probably, the relationship between Iran and Russia is at such a level that Russia is ready to transfer modern weaponry.

In discussing possible future directions of attacks for both sides, we do not see that Russia is guided by logic when it comes to choosing the direction of its offensive. When Russian troops were withdrawing from Kherson, we (wrongly) assumed that they would try to push back Ukrainian troops further in the Zaporizhzhia direction near Vuhledar and Pavlivka to provide supplies for the southern regions of Ukraine occupied by Russian forces, that is, they would restore a railway line and provide logistics. On the part of Ukrainian forces, it would be logical to advance in the Zaporizhzhia direction, try to break through a corridor to Melitopol or Berdyansk, cut this section of the front into two large pieces, push out Russian troops from the southern part of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions into Crimea, and further liberate Mariupol and other regions in the east.

But there are always a lot of nuances, so making assumptions and trying to estimate possible courses of action is almost meaningless.

About the impact of new supplies on future prospects: at least the UK will definitely deliver tanks, and perhaps Germany will also be encouraged to do so. But, firstly, retraining for any new types of military vehicles will take considerable time, and secondly, with heavy Western tanks, there are many nuances mentioned earlier: bridges, logistics, spare parts, and training of engineers and mechanics.

We should note that looking at the number of supplies, it is less than Valerii Zaluzhnyi [Commander-in-Chief of the AFU] or Oleksii Reznikov [Ukraine’s Minister of Defense] asked for and looks more like a loss replacement; it is still not enough to plan a large-scale counteroffensive. In addition, this quantity looks comparable to the Russian level of loss replacement.

We still believe this is a no-win situation: despite the announcements of new supplies, neither side has any large-scale forces to drastically change the situation on the frontline.