January 27, 2023

Sitrep for January 25-26 (as of 3:00 p.m.)

The situation on the frontline

Heavy fighting continues in the Svatove and Kreminna directions, but there have been no changes on the frontline yet.

About two weeks after the capture of Soledar in the Bakhmut direction, a representative of the eastern group of the AFU Serhiy Cherevaty announced the withdrawal of Ukrainian forces from Soledar to pre-fortified positions in order to save the lives of soldiers.

There are more and more reports by the 155th Guards Naval Infantry Brigade of the Pacific Fleet on Vuhledar. According to some sources, Russian forces are already operating practically on the outskirts of Vuhledar, in the southern area of suburban settlements (away from the town), and are trying to gain a foothold in the northern one located just outside Vuhledar. Ukrainian servicemen post videos of fighting.

On the Zaporizhzhia axis, fighting is going on for the settlement of Kamianske. RIA Novosti [Russian state-owned news agency] has published a video in order to prove that Kamianske is already under the control of Russian forces. The video allegedly shows abandoned Ukrainian positions. However, neither Russian servicemen nor Russian military vehicles were shown. Therefore, the video provides no unequivocal evidence that Kamianske has been captured. Moreover, based on the terrain, it can be assumed that it is more convenient to hold this settlement than many others, since it is located on the banks of the Dnipro with only one main road leading to it.

On Jan. 25, there were Russian strikes on the Kherson region:

  • in Beryslav, a grocery store was hit, two people were killed, and three more were injured;
  • in Kherson, a maternity hospital was attacked, which had already been shelled, and in view of the recent repeated strike the previous one does not look like an accident anymore;
  • in the port of Kherson, the Turkish-owned Tuzla ship was hit. The ship was blocked in the port after the start of the Russian full-scale invasion; no one was injured.

On the evening of Jan. 25, an air raid alert was announced in many regions of Ukraine. In Dnipro, Kherson, and Kyiv, as well as in the Zaporizhzhia, Mykolaiv and Cherkasy regions loitering munitions were seen. The Ukrainian Air Force reports that all 24 Shahed-136 or Shahed-131 drones were shot down. However, the Head of the Administration of the Dnipropetrovsk region stated that a drone had hit an industrial plant.

Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Andriy Yermak said that Russian forces were trying to overload the Ukrainian air defense system with kamikaze drones’ attacks and reveal the location of air defense systems preparing for a subsequent missile attack.

The missile attack began on the morning of Jan. 26: Tupolev Tu-22M3 long-range strategic and maritime strike bombers carried out a number of missile launches in the airspace of the Kursk region.

It is too early to talk about the aftermath of the attack, but there have already been reports that the air defense was active in Kyiv. The fragments of a downed missile reportedly fell in the Holosiivskyi district of the capital, and one person was killed and two people were injured as a result. There were also explosions in the Dniprovskyi district of Kyiv. The Ukrainian Air Force reports that all missiles over Kyiv were shot down.

In Odesa, Russian missile strikes on two energy facilities caused problems with the electricity supply.

Pro-Russian “war correspondent” Romanov reported in his Telegram channel about the "debut of Iranian missiles" even before the start of the missile attack (on the night of Jan. 25-26).

It is impossible to confirm this report based on the videos available.

In the Zaporizhzhia region, a Russian military facility was hit in the settlement of Chornozemne. Judging by the photographs, it was a Russian APE-5 automated mobile unit of the Mobile Field Command Post.

The Security Policy Commission of the Swiss National Council approved an initiative to change the country's legislation to allow the re-export of Swiss weapons from third countries to Ukraine. Now there is a ban on the supply of weapons to countries in a state of armed conflict.

First of all, Ukraine is interested in the re-export of rounds for the Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft gun.

Andrey Rudenko, a propagandist of the Russian state-owned RIA-Novosti news agency, posted a video showing Russian Lancet loitering munitions attacking M777 howitzers and an AHS Krab self-propelled gun-howitzer. Apparently, the AHS Krab was spotted after it had been firing on multiple occasions from the same position leaving clearly distinguishable caterpillar tread marks. This problem is relevant for both sides.

Military columnist H. I. Sutton visualized the data on the supply of tanks to Ukraine. The following deliveries are confirmed:

  • the UK (14 Challenger 2 tanks);
  • the US (31 Abrams tanks), but not earlier than in a year;
  • Germany (14 Leopard 2 tanks), not earlier than in 3-4 months; at the same time, there are rumors that 2 battalions (28 tanks) will be sent;
  • Poland (14 tanks);
  • Portugal (4 tanks).

The following deliveries are not confirmed:

  • Spain (the number varies from 20 to 53);
  • Norway (8);
  • Netherlands (18);
  • Finland (5);
  • it was also reported that Canada may deliver tanks.

In some cases, neither the delivery dates nor the exact number of tanks being shipped is known.

In fact, information about deliveries from Portugal is also unconfirmed. After the news was released, the Portuguese Foreign Minister had to explain that a decision to ship tanks had not yet been made.

French Minister of the Armed Forces SĂ©bastien Lecornu stated that the first AMX-10RC armored fighting vehicles (so-called light tanks) will be delivered to Ukraine in February.

Ukrainian columnist Kostiantyn Mashovets believes that a Ukrainian Leopard 2 tank brigade will undergo full-fledged combat cohesion and will reach maximum combat capabilities no earlier than by the end of March.

Ukrainian journalist Yuriy Butusov explained in his post why the delivery of Leopard 2, Challenger 2 and Abrams tanks is so significant for Ukraine and what it can change:

1. The key point is 120mm guns. Ammunition for these guns is widely available.

We fully agree with this, but there is still the problem of bringing ammunition from warehouses and factories around the world to Ukraine's front line.

2. Ukraine will receive the advanced Leopard 2A6 modification equipped with a modern fire control system, a thermal imaging system, a secure communications system, and an auxiliary power unit that ensures the operation of systems without starting a loud main engine and thereby revealing the tank's position. This Leopard 2 modification is the most advanced and surpasses the latest Russian T-90M tank. The remaining modifications of the Leopard 2 (for example, 2A4), which are also planned to be delivered to Ukraine, can be upgraded.

We are not sure that the Leopard 2's thermal imaging system is superior to the one installed on modern Russian tanks; the communication and fire control systems of both the Leopard 2 and the Abrams tanks are more advanced, but the auxiliary power unit is also available for the T-80U and the T-90M tanks.

Because tanks are necessary at the front, they rarely receive upgrades during wartime. A tank can be repaired and upgraded simultaneously if it was severely damaged, while fully operational ones are usually sent to the front lines.

3. The acquisition of these tanks by Ukraine will change its tactics of tank attacks. NATO tanks are much heavier than Soviet ones (on average they weigh 60-70 tons, as opposed to 45) and are not designed for high-speed "breakthroughs". Soviet-style blitzkrieg tank attacks with these vehicles are bound to fail, because without detailed prior reconnaissance of the terrain and movement routes, the tanks will simply get stuck in the Donbas black soil. NATO tanks are meant to destroy enemies in the most dangerous sectors of the front and are optimized for modern "hunter-killer" tactics: the crew searches for a target and engages it with a high-precision gun. A NATO tank can stay on mission for a long time, since its interior provides the crew with comfortable conditions and the highest possible protection.

We believe the heavy weight of these tanks may pose problems with crossing, for example, bridges. And the chance of getting stuck in the soil is not affected by weight on its own, but by the coefficient of unit pressure on the ground. Such coefficient for Leopard tanks is comparable to that of modern Russian tanks, so they are unlikely to get stuck more often than T-64 or T-72 tanks. However, it will be much more difficult to "pull out" or tow such tanks, if they do get stuck.

As for blitzkriegs, any modern main battle tank is designed for both breakthroughs and enemy destruction in a static front line, so here we do not entirely agree. Unlike the issue of crew comfort, on which we couldn’t agree more.

4. The delivery of these tanks requires a change in maintenance and repair infrastructure, which is a weakness of the Ukrainian Army. NATO tanks require professionals and poorly trained operators cannot be trusted with them. If operating guidelines aren’t followed, qualified crews and repairmen aren’t trained, spare parts aren’t ready at hand, low quality fuel and oil is used, the tanks will quickly break down and get stuck in the field. And it is extremely difficult to evacuate such a colossus, since the Ukrainian Army has few vehicles capable of pulling it out.

We fully agree: proper crew training and thorough maintenance are crucial. A smooth transition is only possible if those requirements are met.

5. NATO tanks are better optimized for modern network-centric warfare, for which the Russian Army is not ready. Combined with effective tactical reconnaissance and drones, provided with high-quality control and communication, Leopard crews will be able to quickly find and hit any target on the battlefield at a direct fire range. A certain level of situational awareness of operators is essential for this type of combat activities.

We believe that in theory this is exactly the case, but only time will tell how it will play out in practice.

6. There is no such thing as an ultimate weapon. Should NATO tanks be used against their functionality and operating guidelines, they will be lost in the same way as any other tanks. The combat effectiveness and losses of NATO tanks depend primarily on the quality of command and control at all levels. Contrary to Soviet and Russian weapons, designed as a mass weapon. NATO tanks are weapons of qualitative edge. Granted that they are deployed and operated professionally, such tanks will dominate the battlefield.

The experience of major wars of the 20th century shows that they were won not due to the qualitative advantage of a particular weapon, but due to its skillful use. The USSR in 1941, the Arab coalition in 1963 and Iraq in 1991 had a large number of tanks, but since they weren’t used properly, they proved almost useless. Until the Soviet Army learned operational art and combined arms combat, tanks had been lost bearing minimal results.

Skillful use means interaction with infantry, artillery, reconnaissance, aviation (if any), coherence of actions of crews and units, a well-established supply and repair infrastructure, supply of spare parts, and training of replacement crews. Provided that all these pieces are secured, we will see a turning point in this war.

It is difficult to say for sure whether these tanks will be able to change the course of the war.

Italy will be supplying weapons to Ukraine at least until the end of 2023. The new package will include guided missiles of the Aspide SAM system. It is supposed to supply four complete systems, each of which will be equipped with 18 missiles with a firing range of 20 km. (In the context of air defense, they usually talk about batteries or launchers. We do not quite understand what is meant by a “system”.)

The New York Times has published satellite images of the cemetery in the Krasnodar region known to hold fighters of the Wagner Group. The images were taken in November 2022 and January 2023. In two months, the number of graves in this area has increased by nearly seven times. According to journalists, there are now about 170 burial plots in the cemetery. Only those mercenaries whose bodies were not taken by relatives and friends were buried there.

The journalists also studied a video in which Yevgeny Prigozhin [Russian oligarch, confidant of Vladimir Putin, and the owner of the Wagner Group] visited a chapel near the base of the Wagner Group. Next to the chapel, they counted 21 columbarium walls with 42 niches for ashes each.

CNN writes (citing sources among US officials) that Putin plans to draft another 200,000 people during the next wave of mobilization, but a final decision has not yet been made. This wave of mobilization would be “quieter” because the first one had been very unpopular, the sources said. It is not entirely clear to us how 200,000 people can be mobilized “quietly”. Perhaps it means that the mobilization will be more efficient, because after merging the databases of the traffic police, the Pension Fund and the Tax Service, draft offices are better aware of the location, military specialty and service fitness category of each potential draftee.

In our opinion, given that Russia has now intensified fighting along the entire front line, the need for manpower has increased dramatically, and the second wave of mobilization became necessary.

BBC News Russian together with Mediazona [Russian independent media outlet] and a group of volunteers has determined the names of 92 Russian soldiers killed in the strike on Makiivka, (recall that the Ministry of Defense announced 89 killed in the strike).

Our volunteers, who are dealing with mobilization issues, also established the names of those killed in Makiivka. Our list and the BBC list do not overlap completely, and we will soon publish a separate note on this topic.

According to our estimates, about 100 people were killed in the strike on Makiivka, and there could have been 200-300 wounded.

Member of the State Duma [lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia] Alexander Khinshtein has submitted a request to the Ministry of Defense regarding the 426th military hospital in Samara, where those injured in the strike on Makiivka are also being treated. The hospital is in a terrible condition: there have been no repairs since the building was put into operation, and there is no money in the city budget for major repairs. The request has been submitted to the Deputy Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation Timur Ivanov, known for an investigation of the Anti-Corruption Foundation [non-profit organization established by Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny].

A report of the infantry commander of the 70th Guards Motorized Rifle Regiment of the 42nd Motorized Rifle Division has leaked, in which he reports the impossibility to fulfill the order to advance on a specific section of the front due to the shortage of weapons and the understaffing of the unit. The unit is 20% equipped with ammunition, weapons, and military vehicles, and 15% staffed.

Yevgeny Prigozhin invited former separatist commander and military blogger Igor “Strelkov” Girkin “to come to the 'LPR' to be appointed a commander of one of the assault units in accordance with his competence” in order to take advantage of his combat experience.