January 8

Sitrep for Jan. 5-8, 2024 (as of 8:45 a.m. UTC+3)

Ukrainian and Russian Strikes

On Jan. 4 and Jan. 6, Ukrainian forces attacked Russian military targets in Crimea. Up until now, details of these attacks have been primarily conveyed through textual descriptions. The strike on the Saky air base in the village of Novofedorivka, initially reported by Ukraine's Air Force Commander Mykola Oleshchuk, was later visually confirmed through two published videos. These videos captured the sounds of explosions and showed flashes of fire in the night sky around the airfield. Subsequently, low-quality radar images emerged, allegedly showing damaged airfield infrastructure as a result of the strike. Oleshchuk claimed that the command post was the intended target.

The Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine published a satellite image depicting the aftermath of the Jan. 4 strike on the village of Hryshyne. The image suggests that an ammunition storage facility was targeted, although the photo only shows traces of strikes without confirming secondary detonations. Nevertheless, it is acknowledged that a military vehicle warehouse may have been genuinely hit in the strike.

Additionally, on Jan. 4, the command post of the 31st Air Defense Division of the Russian Aerospace Forces in Sevastopol and the radar unit of this division located in the village of Uiutne near Yevpatoriya were hit. Data on the aftermath of the strikes differ significantly: the Astra Telegram channel reports two injured servicemen in Uiutne, while the Dos'ye Shpiona [Spy Dossier] Telegram channel, citing its sources, reports three wounded conscripts, along with approximately 12 killed and 9 wounded servicemen in the strike on the command post. Among the reported casualties are an unnamed general and the commander of the 3rd Radio Engineering Regiment of the Russian Aerospace Forces. This information may be confirmed by obituaries that could emerge later, as the death of high-ranking military personnel is typically difficult to conceal.

In these attacks on Crimea, Ukrainian forces may have used Storm Shadow missiles and attack UAVs. However, the Russian Ministry of Defense reported the interception of a Neptune anti-ship missile. Additionally, Dos’ye Shpiona reports the use of “decoy missiles” designed to distract Russian air defenses.

According to Petro Andryushchenko, Advisor to the Ukrainian mayor of Mariupol, the railway bridge under construction near the village of Hranitne was destroyed on Jan. 6. As we reported earlier, this bridge was intended to be part of an alternative supply route to the occupied part of southern Ukraine in the event of the existing land corridor being severed. Andryushchenko also claims that they have successfully identified Russian air defense positions in the area.

On Jan. 6, the Kharkiv prosecutor's office reported that the fragments found after the Jan. 2 attack on the city of Kharkiv belong to a missile that had not been previously used in Ukraine. They added that the missile had probably been produced in the DPRK. Previously, the only evidence of the use of such missiles came from the US. Researchers at the James Martin Center, who studied photographs of these fragments, came to similar conclusions. For example, when comparing them with the fragments of a 9K720 Iskander short-range ballistic missile, the researcher noted differences in the number of bolts in the nose plug of the solid fuel engine housing. Since the KN-23 and KN-24 missiles are very similar, it is not yet possible to determine which one was used.

Very little is known about the stockpiles of North Korean ballistic missiles and their production capabilities; however, it is believed that these reserves are not significant. Moreover, there is scant information about the accuracy of North Korean missiles. For instance, during the strike on Kharkiv, one of these missiles hit a residential area, but it remains unclear whether it was targeted at a military object and deviated significantly from its intended trajectory, or was launched towards Kharkiv without a specific target. According to US intelligence, the range of such missiles is estimated to be 900 km.

Western Assistance

Citing sources in the White House and the Pentagon, The New York Times reports that the United States will not be able to keep supplying Ukraine with interceptor missiles for Patriot systems at the same pace as in 2023. Each interceptor missile costs between 2 and 4 million dollars. These systems are among the few capable of intercepting Russian hypersonic missiles, specifically the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal hypersonic air launched missiles derived from the 9K720 Iskander ballistic missiles.

On Jan. 7, Yurii Ihnat, spokesman for the AFU Air Force Command, announced that since the start of Russia's full-scale invasion, 63 Kh-47M2 Kinzhal hypersonic missiles had been launched, with 25 of them successfully intercepted by the AFU Air Force. On the morning of Jan. 8, reports indicated that additional Kinzhal missiles had been launched against Ukraine.

As Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa arrived in Kyiv, she announced a $37 million aid package to Ukraine, earmarked for the acquisition of drone detection systems. In addition, Japan has supplied Ukraine with 5 mobile gas turbine generators and 7 transformers as part of the aid.

Some media have reported delays in the delivery of F-16 fighter aircraft to Ukraine of up to 6 months. However, as noted by Ihnat, these are so far just rumors, with no official statements or confirmations of any delivery delays. Furthermore, many have deduced from a statement made by Pentagon spokesman Patrick Ryder, claiming that Ukrainian pilots will complete their F-16 training by the end of 2024, that it is reasonable to expect the arrival of the first pilots trained on Western fighter jets in Ukraine at that time. However, even in September 2023, it was reported that the retraining periods would differ depending on the initial level of pilot preparation. Amidst all these reports, there is no new information about the delivery dates of F-16 fighter aircraft to Ukraine.

The Wall Street Journal compared the number of artillery shells used per day by the AFU and the Russian Armed Forces during different periods. While the exact source of the data used in the analysis is unknown, it is reported that in the summer of 2023, Ukraine fired approximately 7,000 artillery shells daily, to Russia’s 5,000. Currently, however, the ratio has changed, with Ukraine using 2,000 shells each day, while Russia uses 10,000. Although different sources provide varying data, they all acknowledge that Russia fires more artillery shells than Ukraine.

Based on this, many analysts believe that this year, Ukrainian forces cannot afford large-scale strategic offensives, as they require a substantial artillery ammunition reserve. It is suggested that production must first be increased to cover Ukraine's daily use and then to stockpile ammunition for future strategic offensives.

The issue of artillery shell shortages is partially alleviated by the use of drones, which can attack and sometimes destroy armored vehicles, as well as engage infantry. However, drones cannot fully replace artillery.

The 2023 Ukrainian counteroffensive became possible thanks to the reserves of artillery shells achieved through deliveries from South Korea. Currently, Ukraine has no such reserves, and they are unlikely to materialize again before the end of this year. This means that artillery shell production must be expanded for a new offensive to occur. Nevertheless, local tactical offensives are still possible under the current conditions in certain areas of the front.

Many observers have noted that the quality of Russian artillery systems and ammunition is significantly inferior to Ukrainian counterparts. Pro-Russian war correspondent Aleksey Larkin claims that North Korean shells are of poor quality, do not always reach their targets and sometimes fail to detonate on impact. However, while Ukraine has many more modern artillery systems such as the Caesar and Archer self-propelled howitzers, Russia has significantly more artillery systems overall. Additionally, Russia deploys powerful Electronic Warfare systems capable of veering Excalibur artillery shells from their intended course. GLMRS rockets, on the other hand, appear to be less affected by EW as they are launched from greater distances and only use GPS guidance during the high-altitude portion of their flight, where EW is ineffective, with inertial systems taking over for terminal guidance.

We have previously highlighted the divergent opinions among Ukrainian military personnel regarding the ongoing combat operations in the vicinity of the village of Krynky on the left bank of the Dnipro River.

On one hand, in an interview with the Washington Post, two Ukrainian marines describe the river crossing as very challenging, leading to substantial casualties without tangible results. They express confusion about the purpose of the operation and recount instances of their wounded fellow soldiers drowning due to injuries or the weight of their gear.

The challenging nature of the river crossing becomes apparent in new videos showing Russian drone attacks on boats transporting marine infantry and supplies.

On the other hand, The Times interviewed volunteers and military personnel involved in FPV drones’ operations. According to their perspective, the operation in Krynky is highly effective, resulting in the successful destruction of a large number of Russian vehicles. One volunteer even claimed that some drone operators had managed to destroy up to 600 armored vehicles.

We consider the reported number of destroyed (and not merely impacted) vehicles to be highly unlikely and greatly exaggerated. Without corroborating evidence from a second UAV, it is impossible to reliably determine whether a drone strike was successful and whether it led to destruction or only caused damage. For instance, on Jan. 6, the Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine claimed to have struck two Russian Pantsir-S1 surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery systems in the Belgorod region using drones, resulting in their destruction. However, the pro-Russian Telegram channel Zapiski Veterana [Veteran’s Notes] denies their destruction. Based on the video, we cannot confirm nor refute the destruction of these systems or even whether they were hit. Another drone operator published a thread describing a large amount of destroyed equipment.

A former volunteer of the Oryx project, posting on X (formerly Twitter) under the username naalsio, has shared updated counts of destroyed military equipment on different frontline axes. Currently, in the Dnipro River lowlands, Russian forces have lost 152 units of equipment in combat, whereas Ukrainian forces have incurred only 31 losses. It is worth noting that these figures include Ukrainian losses on the right bank of the Dnipro, as no self-propelled howitzers were observed on the left bank.

His calculations for Avdiivka indicate that since the start of the offensive, Russia has lost 441 military vehicles, whereas Ukraine has lost only 33. Russian losses are more than 10 times higher than Ukrainian losses, which can be primarily attributed to a significant portion of equipment being destroyed by minefields in this direction.

In Krynky, equipment is lost in artillery attacks coming from the right bank and from explosive munitions dropped by drones. Russian forces are attempting to eliminate the Ukrainian bridgehead, sending units in successive attacks. Generals overseeing this direction understand the potential consequences if they fail, as evidenced by the former commander of the 1st Guards Tank Army, Lieutenant General Sergey Kisel. Following the successful Ukrainian counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region, he was relieved of command and sent to Syria.

The recently established Polish government has reached an agreement with farmers who were blocking the border with Ukraine at the Medyka border crossing. The Minister of Agriculture has committed to meeting all the protesters' demands, which include introducing subsidies for corn, increasing financing and maintaining the agricultural tax at the 2023 level.

Romania is actively pursuing construction works to widen the highway from Bucharest to the Ukrainian border. This effort aims to facilitate improved access to Romanian ports and establish an alternative route to European countries, bypassing Poland, Hungary and Slovakia.

The Financial Times analyzed customs clearance documents and found that since the start of the full-scale invasion, the volume of shipments of CNC machines from China to Russia has increased tenfold. While in July 2022, China supplied machinery worth $6.5 million, in July 2023, the turnover reached $68 million. With shipments of such machines from EU countries, South Korea and Taiwan decreasing due to sanctions, deliveries from China have correspondingly increased. It is assumed that the United States is currently not imposing sanctions on Chinese companies, possibly with the aim of influencing them in the future.

It is worth noting that CNC machines are not specifically required for the production of artillery rounds but are essential for manufacturing more complex products in various industries, both military and civilian. In a broader context, this shift in supply chains may be a natural consequence of the Russian economy pivoting towards China.