January 18, 2023

Sitrep for January 17-18 (as of 8:30 a.m.)

Rescue operations and debris removal at the site of a partially destroyed residential building were completed in Dnipro. President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced that 45 people, including 6 children, were killed as a result of the Russian missile strike on Jan. 14. 79 people received wounds of various degrees of severity, 39 people were rescued, including 6 children. 15 dead bodies have not been identified yet. Up to 20 people are still reported missing.

Those tenants who were registered in the destroyed apartments might be considered missing as they have not been heard from yet, but some bodies might also be almost completely destroyed due to the high explosion power.

The situation on the frontline

On the Svatove axis, the AFU liberated the village of Novoselivske. If they manage to hold position there, they will be able to take fire control of the road to Kuzemivka and Kryvoshyivka (since Novoselivske is on the high ground) and advance towards these settlements. If they manage to gain a foothold on the high ground where Sosnove is located in the future, it will enable them to take fire control of all the roads to Svatove.

The liberation of Novoselivske, Kuzemivka and Kryvoshyivka will create a buffer zone between the line of action of Russian forces and the R-07 motorway in order to supply this part of the Ukrainian group more effectively using the road from Kupiansk.

However, the AFU can fully use Kupiansk as a logistics hub only if it is out of the range of Russian tube artillery fire which, in turn, can only be done by pushing Russian forces back from the settlements of Lyman Pershyi and Vilshana.

Ukrainian forces continue to advance towards Kreminna from the southwest and are already close to its outskirts. Russian troops are trying to distract them from this attack, striking from the flanks: in Bilohorivka, Luhansk region, Verkhnokamianske, and Spirne.

A video has surfaced showing a RuAF strike on Kherson with thermite incendiary munitions. It is impossible to geolocate the video, so we cannot confirm whether incendiary munitions fell within or outside residential areas of the city.

Mobilization news

Yesterday we reported that conscripts from seven constituent entities of the Russian Federation had arrived in the Belgorod region and assumed that we could expect new deaths in the border areas. Last night, as a result of another attack on Shebekino, an administrative building was hit, five conscripts were killed, and two more servicemen were injured. Since the border areas are not considered a combat zone, the wounded and the families of the killed are unlikely to receive compensation.

On Jan. 14, in the village of Tonenkoye near Belgorod, an incident occurred, which was initially reported as a fire without casualties. Later, it became known that there was an explosion in the former Community Center; the alleged culprit was a sergeant who picked up a grenade to "gain authority" among the soldiers during the celebration of the Old New Year. So far, 7 people have been reported killed and 16 injured. Another 4 are being searched for.

The Mediazona media outlet, together with the BBC’s Russian service, confirmed the death of 11,600 people fighting on the side of Russia in Ukraine. There are 1600 officers, 644 mobilized soldiers and about 300 recruited convicts among them. Over the past 16 days, 942 names have been added to the list, including 49 who were killed on New Year's Eve in Makiivka (the Ministry of Defense recognized the death of 89 people, but refused to publish a list of names). The sharp increase in this list of the killed from the Krasnodar region is explained by the fact that the volunteers visited the cemetery in the village of Bakinskaya where the mercenaries of the Wagner Group were buried; probably most of them were from other regions of Russia.

Vyacheslav Volodin [Chairman of the State Duma — lower house of Russia’s Federal Assembly] proposed introducing an obligatory requirement of a military specialty and army experience for those who are going to occupy positions within public service, the judicial system or prosecutor's offices, or participate in the State Duma elections. We should remind that neither Volodin, nor Putin, nor Shoigu [Russian Minister of Defense] served in the army.

Apparently, databases of military commissariats and the traffic police are successfully merged. Therefore, it is likely that many people receive military specialties without knowing it: for example, those who have a driver's license have at least the military specialty of "driver" (we are referring to the news from Novosibirsk, where the military commissariat changed a military specialty for a local resident in the reserve — CIT).

The Belarusian Hajun monitoring group has repeatedly noted that mobilized soldiers who were trained in Belarus are being sent to the Voronezh region. There is news that new batches of mobilized people, for example, from the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous region, who were trained in Omsk, are being sent to Belarus for the second stage of training.

As we see it, the number of Russian aircraft has not increased noticeably on the territory of Belarus; it looks more like an ordinary rotation. In addition, since the aircraft do not have to fly far to the border from bases located in Russia, their moving or staying in place does not say anything about preparations for war.

We have seen reports that additional vehicles have arrived in Belarus: cars, trucks, and a small number of tanks; but their number is insignificant, and they are intended for training the mobilized. We don't see other signs of preparations for a future new invasion (the arrival of extra air defense systems or heavy military vehicles).

RIA FAN [Internet news agency linked to Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin] published a video of the discharge of a new batch of Wagner Group mercenaries recruited from convicts.

In Yekaterinburg, a court hearing over Vasiliy Gavrilishin accused of arson of a military commissariat in Nizhnevartovsk was held. He was allegedly contacted by a man related to the AFU; that man gave him an assignment to set fire to the military commissariat, promised him 1 to 3 million rubles, and even transferred 700 thousand rubles to a crypto wallet. Gavrilishin threw Molotov cocktails at the military enlistment office. At first, he was charged with Part 2 of Art. 167 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (destruction or damage to property), but due to his cooperation with the investigation, the charge was reclassified to Part 2 of Art. 205 (commission of an act of terror).

M109 155mm self-propelled howitzers delivered from Belgium through the UK have been spotted at the front for the first time (the delivery of 20 units was reported earlier). We note a large number of shell cappers in these photos — firing so many shells from one position indicates poor counterbattery work of Russian forces.

The Netherlands decided to join the initiative to transfer Patriot surface-to-air missile systems to Ukraine. As it is known, the Netherlands has an account to settle with Russia in this war. In July 2014, in the sky over Donbas, a Russian Buk anti-air missile launcher shot down a Malaysian Boeing, which was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. As a result, 298 people were killed, 193 of whom were citizens of the Netherlands.

Yesterday, the pro-Russian Telegram channel Zapiski Veterana [Veteran’s Notes] claimed that “the special military operation will officially end tomorrow,” hinting that Putin will officially declare war on Ukraine, impose martial law, close the borders, and carry out a general mobilization. Dmitry Peskov, Russian President’s Spokesman, had to make excuses and say that these were all rumors and nothing of the kind was planned. We do not have a forecast of a specific date for the start of [the 2nd wave of] mobilization, but we believe that it is necessary from the RuAF’s point of view. If the spring [regular biannual] conscription is not postponed (as it was in the fall), then the mobilization should begin no later than mid-February in order to carry out the second wave in a month and a half, allocate mobilized soldiers to military units and vacate draft offices for the spring conscription by Apr. 1.

Formally, there were no reasons why conscripts could not be sent to the "special operation", but a political decision was made that only contracted soldiers would be sent. If they send conscripts who were recruited during the last spring conscription and are now trained to the front, then this will be a good increase in troops (90,000 soldiers, which is a little more than half of all soldiers mobilized in September and October), which will allow them to hold the front and, probably, help to slightly strengthen the offensive in the Donetsk region, however not to conduct a large-scale counterattack or to start an offensive in a new direction.

Therefore, we see only two options so far: either send all conscripts to the war, or announce a second wave of mobilization.