January 3, 2023

Sitrep for January 2–3 (as of 11:00 a.m.)

The situation on the front line

Late in the evening of Jan. 2, Russian forces carried out a strike on Druzhkivka (south of Kramatorsk). It is reported that the Altair ice arena has been destroyed. Pro-Russian Telegram channels (for example, Voenkor_Kotenok_Z) write that allegedly AFU soldiers were based there, hinting that this was a retaliatory strike for Makiivka. No information about the killed and injured is available as of yet.

On the same evening of Jan. 2, the Russian Ministry of Defense issued an official report on the incident in Makiivka: 63 soldiers were killed, most of them were mobilized residents of the Samara and Saratov regions. Governor of the Samara region Dmitry Azarov confirmed that Samara residents were among the killed. A theory is actively promoted on the Internet that suggests that the mobilized are themselves to blame, because they used their cell phones during the New Year celebration probably to send greetings to their families. However, there is also unconfirmed information that there were boxes of ammunition next to the building that detonated when hit. If that is true, then the blame for the incident lies entirely with the command that chose to house people next to ammunition storage. Also, some pro-Russian sources write that this is by no means the first such incident.

According to the weather forecast, frosts are expected in the Kreminna area down to -7 during the day and -12 at night. The soil will freeze and, as a result, the military activity may intensify.

Ukrainian forces advanced in the area of the villages of Pidkuichansk and Kolomyichykha (northwest of Svatove). The weather also promises the possibility of further advances.

The Soledar area, where the fighting is now mainly done by Wagner mercenaries, is the most important part of the front from the Russian command perspective. According to unconfirmed information, 4-5 battalions of airborne troops were deployed there as operational reinforcements and reserves.

Recall that paratroopers in the Russian Army usually play the role of assault infantry, that is, they are the first to enter settlements, secure them, and only then heavy armored vehicles may proceed. But perhaps it happened due to the fact that (according to official statements) all the efforts of Russian forces are concentrated in the Donetsk region. Therefore, paratroopers might have been deployed in this direction for reinforcement.

A video has been released showing Ukrainian soldiers raising the flag on the Velykyi Potomkin island, in the lower reaches of the Dnipro south of Kherson.

In addition, photos appeared showing Russian mobilized servicemen allegedly patrolling the mouth of the Dnipro. We believe that the area between the right and left banks of the mouth of the Dnipro is contested and is likely to be subject to constant attacks.

The Kherson region has been shelled 79 times, and Kherson itself – 32 times over the past 24 hours. Two people were killed and nine others were injured.

Another exchange of prisoners of war took place on Dec. 31: 82 military personnel were returned to the Russian side, 140 people and one service dog were returned to the Ukrainian side.

It is possible that another 58 returned Russian prisoners of war are the Wagner Group mercenaries, which explains the difference in official numbers.

The RIA FAN [Internet news agency linked to Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin] published several reports with Yevgeny Prigozhin, who congratulated his mercenaries on the front line, and also visited Ukrainian prisoners of war, handed them tangerines and said that they were Slavs like him, so they should be treated well in the future and returned to the Ukrainian side by exchange.

This video indirectly confirms that the Wagner Group has its own prisoner exchange fund. Also, Prigozhin had been reported by RIA Novosti to say that quite a lot of Ukrainian soldiers were captured by the Wagner Group in the Bakhmut direction.

Considering that the Wagner Group is an illegal armed group, its mercenaries do not have the immunity of combatants (as Russian soldiers do), so they can be convicted for the mere fact of participating in the war and for participating in an illegal armed group. As we assume, being non-combatants, they do not have the right to take anyone prisoner, and respectively, their actions should be qualified as illegal imprisonment and kidnapping.

From Dec. 21 to Dec. 22, six armed convicts, citizens of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus and Russia, escaped from the Wagner Group’s training center in the Krasnodon district of the Luhansk region.

In January, Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights [Ombudsman] Dmytro Lubinets is meeting with Tatyana Moskalkova, Commissioner for Human Rights under the President of the Russian Federation. They are going to discuss the release of civilians.

The General Staff of the AFU stated that on Dec. 31, Ukrainian forces hit Chulakivka; about 500 Russian servicemen were reported killed or injured. We are waiting for the obituaries to prove the attack.

There was unverified information that a printing house in the Krasnodar region had received an order to print 5,000 draft notices for mobilization in 2023. We remind you that Ukraine’s Minister of Defense Oleksiy Reznikov, in his New Year's address to the Russian citizens, stated that from Jan. 5, the borders would be closed in Russia and the second wave of mobilization would begin.