January 22

Sitrep for Jan. 19–22, 2024 (as of 8:30 a.m. UTC+3)

Frontline Situation Update

There have been minor changes to the frontline over the past few days. In the Avdiivka direction, Russian forces entered a fortified area of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, commonly referred to as Tsarska Okhota, after a restaurant once located there. They have made slight advancements into a residential neighborhood, specifically along Sportivna, Soborna and Turgenev streets on the southeastern outskirts of Avdiivka, a development confirmed by the Ukrainian military. This part of the city is now a contested zone. Although the overall situation in this direction cannot yet be called critical, it is possible that at some point, the AFU may have to retreat from the town to preserve their troops. It is worth noting that only commanders on the ground, not external observers, can accurately assess the situation.

According to Telegram reports, the Russian side is facing difficulties in evacuating the bodies of soldiers who have been killed in the Avdiivka direction. This difficulty is likely because the frontline has remained largely unchanged, leaving the bodies in the contested zone under enemy fire. Teams engaged in counting losses confirm that over the past few months, few bodies have been evacuated from this direction. As a result, there has been a lack of information and obituaries, with many soldiers being listed as missing in action.

Slightly less significant changes have been noted in the Kupiansk direction, also known in various sources as the Kharkiv or Svatove direction. Russian forces have captured the village of Krokhmalne, which only has a few houses. Located on the road from Kupiansk to Svatove, its capture has not provided the Russian Armed Forces with any significant tactical advantage.

Ukrainian and Russian Strikes

On Jan. 21, the market in the Tekstilshchik neighborhood of Donetsk was hit. According to the latest reports, the strikes resulted in the death of 27 people, with an additional 25 individuals injured, including two teenagers. Footage taken at the impact site confirms the significant number of casualties. Despite representatives of the Joint Center for Control and Coordination of the "DPR" (JCCC DPR) sharing photographs showing the aftermath of the strikes and discovering shell fragments, there is a lack of clarity regarding the type of weapons used in this attack. The attack could have been executed using both tube and rocket artillery, ruling out only the possibility of powerful missiles such as the 9K720 Iskander. The map prepared by our volunteers shows all the impact sites of the Jan. 21 strikes in Donetsk. At the moment, this stands as the largest attack on the city since the beginning of the war, marked by an alarming number of victims. It is undoubtedly a war crime.

On Jan. 19, a Ukrainian drone hit an oil depot in Klintsy, Bryansk region, resulting in a substantial fire that then took approximately two days to extinguish.

During the night of Jan. 21, the Ministry of Defense claimed to have successfully shot down three UAVs in the Smolensk region. Simultaneously, in Tula, the Shcheglovsky Val Plant, which also produces Pantsir-S1 surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery systems, was reportedly struck. However, the extent of the damage remains unknown. The drones flew across Russian territory for at least 300 km, which has become a common occurrence.

On the night of Jan. 21, two drones struck an oil processing terminal owned by Novatek, Russia’s second largest natural gas producer, in the port of Ust-Luga, Leningrad region. The drones are believed to have flown over 850 km [530 mi], igniting a massive fire at the site.

According to the VChK-OGPU Telegram channel, the recent successful UAV attacks in Saint Petersburg and the Leningrad region can be attributed to a shortage of air defense systems capable of detecting and intercepting drones. Existing S-400, S-300 and Buk-M1 SAM systems stationed in the region are ill-suited for intercepting drones, while most Pantsir-S medium-range SAM systems are thought to either be on the frontline or protecting government buildings and Putin’s residences.

The Zapiski Veterana [Notes of a Veteran] Telegram channel has provided its take on recent incidents of friendly-fire. Among other things, it revealed that the Identification Friend or Foe system on some Russian anti-aircraft missile systems is often deactivated because, according to their operators, it tends to interfere with their primary mission objective which is to shoot down anything they see in the sky. Moreover, the system itself is mostly outdated, and in conditions of ultra-low altitude flights, SAM systems do not always receive response signals from aircraft due to radar shadow zones.

In contrast, systems allowing the integration of identification modules into missiles have already been developed. These systems query aircraft to confirm whether they are friend or foe, and self-destruct without the involvement of SAM operators in the event the target is friendly. However, it is said that the MoD has so far shown little interest in these developments, as they do not "meet current requirements," and modifying missiles already in service could entail up to three years of testing and approvals.

Pro-Russian milblogger Kirill Fyodorov has asserted that reports of 11 or 12 people killed in the incident involving the downing of two Russian Aerospace Forces aircraft over the Sea of Azov are exaggerated. He claims that the actual death toll is 10, and he is actively providing financial support to the affected families.

Additionally, an obituary for the commander of the downed Ilyushin Il-22M advanced airborne command post aircraft, Viktor Ivanovich Klimov, has emerged. It states that he succumbed to shrapnel wounds while still in the air. Remarkably, the second pilot, also injured, managed to successfully land the aircraft. We suspect that at least one crew member was in the tail section. Considering the previously presented photos depicting an extensively damaged tail section, it is unlikely the Il-22M aircraft could have made it to Anapa had it also been struck at the front.

Photos of a Beriev A-50 AEW&C aircraft from Sochi airport have surfaced. It is presumably meant to replace the lost aircraft and engage in aerial patrols over the Sea of Azov.

A recent video has been published, reportedly showing the use of FAB-1500 air-dropped bombs equipped with Universal Gliding and Correction Modules (UMPKs). The video is geolocated north of Vuhledar, near Vodyane. While the explosion's power is challenging to objectively assess from the footage, it appears significantly more potent than that of a FAB-500.

A video and photos have emerged depicting the aftermath of an AFU high-explosive fragmentation munition hitting a UAZ Bukhanka van. It is reported that the driver and passenger were killed.

The US and the UK are exploring ways to modify and intensify their campaign against the Houthis in Yemen for greater effectiveness. Among the potential options are suppressing Iranian supplies and launching more intensive strikes. We believe that solutions not involving a ground operation will remain ineffective.

Following the NATO admiral's statement about Russia posing a threat to international security, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius made a similar statement. He stressed the importance of reviving conscription, enlisting individuals without German passports and enhancing the combat readiness of the army, citing the possibility of a war with Russia within the next 5-8 years. General Eirik Johan Kristoffersen, the head of the Norwegian Armed Forces, made similar statements. In his opinion, there is now a small window of opportunity of 2-3 years to modernize armies, replenish arsenals and prepare for a potential new military aggression from Russia, which is actively increasing its military potential, including cooperation with allies such as Iran and North Korea.

Such statements may aim at drawing attention to the importance of strengthening NATO in the face of potential threats.

NBC News reports that, in a private meeting with Congressional leaders, President Biden's National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines expressed the view that unless military aid for Ukraine is authorized in the coming days, Russia could potentially achieve victory in the war within weeks or months. In our opinion, they may be somewhat exaggerating the situation, likely to exert pressure on the Republican Party and force Congress to expedite support for Ukraine. The Russian Army likely does not have the capability to launch a large-scale offensive and invade new territories, and it certainly lacks the resources to maintain control over such territories.