January 28, 2023

Sitrep for January 26-27 (as of 2:00 p.m.)

The situation on the frontline

The heaviest fighting is still going on in the Svatove and Kreminna directions, but there is still no progress there.

State Duma [lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia] member Dmitry Sablin has published videos of the alleged destruction of two Ukrainian S-300PS air defense system launchers. These videos were geolocated to the west of Svatove across the Oskil River, but we are not sure if they are actually recent ones.

There are no significant changes in the Bakhmut direction either. The main efforts of pro-Russian forces are now concentrated south of Bakhmut, where they are trying to reach the Bakhmut — Kostiantynivka highway.

In the Vuhledar direction, the 40th and 155th Naval Infantry Brigades of the RuAF are gaining a foothold in the suburban settlements south of Vuhledar, trying to cut off the supply lines of the town in order to make Ukrainian forces retreat. And the 72nd Separate Mechanized Brigade of the AFU repels Russian attacks. Some pro-Russian sources report about the significant successes of Russian forces and the coming capture of Vuhledar.

It’s important for the Russian Armed Forces to capture Vuhledar as in this case the railway line from Volnovakha to southern Ukraine will be out of range of Ukrainian tube artillery, which is about 15 km. Part of this line is still dismantled, but its restoration shouldn't take too long. The entire southern part of Russian forces (Melitopol, Berdiansk) is supplied both by roads and by rail through Crimea. The peninsula is connected to the mainland by two railway bridges: across the Isthmus of Perekop (within HIMARS MLRS range of fire) and Chonhar (which is out of range of Ukrainian fire until the West supplies long-range missiles). Thus, pushing the AFU back from Vuhledar guarantees Russia a stable supply of the southern part of the occupied territories.

According to a press officer of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine, at least 11 people were killed as a result of the Russian missile attack on Jan. 26.

According to spokesman of the Air Force Command of the AFU Yuriy Ignat, Russian Tupolev Tu-95 [Bear] strategic bombers flew from the Murmansk region to launch the missiles, apparently from the Olenya air base on the Kola Peninsula. This is a direct consequence of the Ukrainian strikes on air bases in the Saratov and Ryazan regions, and it gave the Ukrainian Air Force a little more time to prepare for a missile strike.

General Valerii Zaluzhnyi [Commander-in-Chief of the AFU] reported that Russia launched 55 missiles against Ukraine on Jan. 26 and that 47 of them were intercepted. According to him, the attack was carried out using Kh-101 and Kh-555 cruise missiles, Kh-47M2 Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, and 3M-54 Kalibr and Kh-59 cruise missiles. The list does not contain any Iranian missile contradicting earlier reports by pro-Russian military correspondent Romanov. The Jan. 27 morning brief by the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine adjusted the total number of missiles launched to 70.

Photographs of debris from a Kh-55 cruise missile near a lake in the Kyiv region have surfaced. It is unclear if the missile has been intercepted or not.

Financial Times is reporting that Lockheed Martin intends to increase production of the F-16 aircraft to be able to backfill the needs of any country which may decide to send its own fighter jets to Ukraine.

It is unclear why they would need to increase production when the United States Air Force currently has 1015 F-16 fighter jets in storage (according to the F-16.net website), which could be brought back into service, possibly modernized, and sent to Ukraine.

Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, addressing Turkey, made a statement that the US Congress would be more likely to consider the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey if Turkey allowed Finland and Sweden to join NATO. Earlier, the president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, declared opposition to those two countries joining the alliance after the protest action involving the burning of the Koran near the Turkish consulate in Sweden.

There’re conflicting reports concerning exactly which model of the Abrams tank will be supplied by the United States to Ukraine. The CNBC cable news channel reported (article) that the M1A1 version would be delivered, while the Politico publication reported an upgraded M1A2 version.

Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh has stated (briefing) that currently the US does not have any excess Abrams M1A2 tanks to send to Ukraine and that this process will take several months because they will need to be procured from the manufacturer.

There are different opinions about whether the tanks transferred to Ukraine will be produced from scratch or whether the tanks in storage are supposed to be modernized. Some journalists suggest that Abrams tanks have not been produced in the USA for a long time. However, Politico reports that Abrams tanks are assembled in one place only — a plant in the USA with a production capacity of up to 12 tanks per month, but the line is now busy with new tank orders for Taiwan and Poland.

We constantly wonder why the number of Soviet tanks supplied to Ukraine is so limited, and why circular exchange schemes of Leopard tanks for T-72 or T-80 tanks don't work. We believe there are four possible reasons:

  1. Soviet tanks in a relatively combat-ready state in Europe are running out.
  2. It may be difficult to organize the delivery of the remaining Soviet tanks from Europe and large batches of these tanks from the Third World countries, both from the political point of view and in terms of finding a replacement.
  3. It is possible that the recovery and modernization capacity of these tanks to an acceptable level in Europe is no more than a couple of dozen tanks per month.
  4. It is also possible that the speed of recovery of non-combat-ready Soviet-made tanks is limited by the shortage of spare parts for them.

As a result of all of the above, it may not be possible to meet the needs of Ukraine in tanks with T-72 tanks, and therefore one has to think about massive deliveries of modern Western tanks, but they will arrive in Ukraine only in a few months. We have already mentioned that Cyprus has about 80 T-80U tanks, which they are ready to give to Ukraine if they receive Leopards in return. It is not clear why circular exchange schemes can’t be arranged.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has published an extensive article about tanks based on the conversation with the CIT team. It discusses the pros and cons of the Leopard, Leclerc, Abrams, and Challenger tanks, as well as compares them with Soviet and Russian tanks.

Head of the Ukrainian Presidential Office Andriy Yermak reports that Poland will supply 60 PT-91 Twardy tanks (an upgraded version of the Soviet T-72 tank).

In July 2022, Yermak already reported the supply of more than 200 such tanks by Poland (we informed about this in a sitrep for the 143rd day of the war). Moreover, a video was published where these tanks were already moving across Poland towards the eastern borders, allegedly for transfer to Ukraine. But over the past six months, we have not seen a single such tank either at the front or in the rear. This is probably connected with the delay in deliveries of Abrams tanks to Poland.

The UK intends to deliver the Challenger 2 tanks at the end of March, and the training in their maintenance for the Ukrainian military will begin next week.

Ukraine’s Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov announced that the Ukrainian 22S2 Bohdana 155mm wheeled self-propelled howitzer has been tested on the battlefield and its serial production has begun. The photo he has published shows a new howitzer of this type on a new chassis.

Ukraine has received Belgian M113A1-B armored personnel carriers, which were purchased by the United Kingdom for Ukraine from a private Belgian company. Previously, Belgian Minister of Defense Ludivine Dedonder stated that the country did not have any operational tanks for Ukraine, because all such military vehicles had been decommissioned many years ago. Currently, these tanks are in the custody of similar private companies that had previously purchased the decommissioned military vehicles for a fraction of the cost, and are now willing to sell them back to the Ministry of Defense for €500,000 per unit.

The first group of Ukrainian soldiers have arrived in Germany for training in operating the Marder infantry fighting vehicle. It was previously reported that Germany plans to transfer 40 of these vehicles to Ukraine and the training will take about eight weeks. In addition, soldiers of the Ukrainian Armed Forces will also be trained in operating the Bradley infantry fighting vehicle.

A representative of IAEA reports that on Jan. 25 and 26, powerful explosions occurred near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, indicating fighting nearby. Rosatom [Russian State Nuclear Energy Corporation] denies the explosions near the power plant.

The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces assumes that the new date of the start of the second wave of mobilization in Russia will be at the end of February. We believe that, in this case, a timeframe for the spring [regular biannual] conscription campaign could be shifted by at least a month.

Bloomberg reports, citing sources, that Putin is planning a new offensive in Ukraine in February or March. According to the agency, Putin considers this war existential, still believes that a large number of troops and willingness to bear losses will lead to victory, and wants to show that after months of failure, Russian troops are capable of seizing the initiative.

The Vot Tak [Like This] media outlet writes that a military commissariat [enlistment office] in the Bryansk region is handing out draft notices demanding to report to the military commissariat "to verify the military registration documents and get a сonscription registration certificate." The distribution of such notices is basically normal and takes place every year, but this year they may be used in the second wave of mobilization. According to employees of the draft board, such draft notices are sent "ahead of time" in case martial law is declared.

British intelligence reports that the training of Russian mobilized soldiers from the 2nd Guards Motorized Rifle Taman Division in Belarus has been completed. We wrote about two weeks ago that the Belarusian Hajun monitoring group repeatedly noted the departure of trainloads with mobilized servicemen to the Voronezh region.

A saboteur who set fire to a relay cabinet at Surazh railway station was caught in the Bryansk region. Unlike most similar cases classified as acts of terror, he was sentenced to only 10 days of administrative arrest, although it is unclear whether he will be released after that.

Russian President’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov officially confirmed that the convicts who fight as members of the Wagner Group have been pardoned and that the decrees on their pardon are classified.