Sitrep for November 17–18 (as of 15:00)
The situation on the frontline
On the Svatove axis, Ukrainian forces managed to repulse the Russian attack in the direction of Stel'makhivka.
There have also been reports that Ukrainian forces are trying to attack in the direction of Kreminna. For example, the pro-Russian Telegram channel “WarGonzo” reported about that, but later posted a refutation.
Russian forces are attacking in the directions of Verkhn'okam'yans'ke, Bilohorivka (Luhansk region) and Soledar.
Analyst Def Mon believes that those attacks were aimed at diverting Ukrainian forces from their advance on Kreminna so that they would have to defend positions a little further south.
As for the part of the Russian troops that withdrew from the right bank of the Dnipro, Def Mon assumes that they will be sent to the Zaporizhzhia axis.
The first snow was witnessed in the forests on the eastern front. It means the muddy season is gradually coming to an end, which may result in increased hostilities.
It became known about the first documented artillery shelling of the left bank of the Dnipro by Ukrainian forces. A Russian armored personnel carrier in Oleshky was hit, presumably, with an M982 Excalibur 155 mm extended-range guided artillery shell.
The second (during the current invasion) destruction of a BM-30 (9K58) Smerch MLRS was also confirmed (this is important since a BM-30 Smerch MLRS, having a 70-120 km firing range, is supposed to be located deep in the rear). A destroyed BM-27 Uragan MLRS can also be seen in the photo. They are reported to have been hit with a M777 howitzer.
But this success has a downside: according to the Oryx project, during the current invasion, Ukraine has already lost 18 of the 152 M777 howitzers that were delivered to the country.
The liberation of the right bank of the Dnipro has enabled Ukrainian forces to shell those areas that could not be hit before even with HIMARS MLRS rockets. The following settlements: Skadovs'k, Kalanchak, Chaplynka, Armiansk were reported to be under fire; but there is no objective data yet.
On November 17, another series of massive strikes of Ukrainian cities took place:
- explosions were recorded in the Odesa region, 3 people were injured;
- in the Lviv region;
- in Dnipro, strikes were aimed at the PA Pivdenmash (formerly, PA Yuzhmash) state factory (according to the Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal), as a result, an industrial enterprise and residential buildings were damaged, 14 people were reported injured;
- 4 cruise missiles and 5 Shahed-136 drones were shot down over Kyiv;
- as a result of strikes on the Kyiv region, emergency blackouts began;
- in Chasiv Yar, Donetsk region, 3 people were injured as a result of strikes;
- as a result of strikes on critical infrastructure in the Iziums’kyi district of the Kharkiv region, 3 people were injured;
- in the Vil'nyans'kyi district of the Zaporizhzhia region, missiles hit a two-story residential building where three families lived. At least 9 people were killed.
Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal said that Russian missile strikes on November 17 were aimed at gas production sites. "Naftogaz of Ukraine" national joint stock company confirmed strikes on gas production infrastructure. A hit was recorded on the object of JSC "Ukrgazvydobuvannya" in eastern Ukraine, the rescuers quickly extinguished the fire caused by the strike.
Due to missile attacks, Ukrainian cardiac surgeons sometimes have to perform operations without proper lighting. Such damage to medical facilities is a war crime.
Ukraine’s national energy company NPC Ukrenerho published a photo of an electric transformer that was hit by a Russian missile - it used to provide electricity to 400,000 consumers.
Commenting on the missile attack, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said, “If we survive this winter, and we will definitely survive it, we will definitely win this war. Believe me, the strikes on the energy infrastructure are the most powerful weapon that Russia has left to it.”
Most likely, one of the goals of the latest attack was to destroy the substations connecting the Ukrainian power grid with the European one.
Zelenskyy also said that after the shelling, they have already managed to restore electricity and water supply in the Mykolaiv region, as well as to establish communications and the Internet connection in the city of Kherson and the liberated part of the Kherson region.
Russian President’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the lack of light and heat in the homes of Ukrainians the result of the fact that the authorities “do not want to solve the problem” and negotiate. At the same time, he said that Russia attacked only the objects related “to the military capabilities of Ukraine.”
In the liberated Kherson, more and more evidence of Russian war crimes continues to be revealed – this time another “torture room” has been discovered.
Ukrainian inventors have demonstrated heavy drones that can drop several 82mm mines.
Russian forces continue to actively use Lancet loitering munitions. The pro-Russian project “LostArmor” published a map with recorded cases of (successful) use of Lancet drones on the Vuhledar axis. The targets were the Caesar self-propelled guns, M777 howitzers, Grad MLRS (BM-21), tanks, armored personnel carriers, and infantry fighting vehicles.
The monitoring group “Belarusian Hajun” summed up that the Lukashenka regime supplied Russia with 211 units of military vehicles in October:
- 98 T-72A tanks;
- 40 BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles;
- 20 BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles without turrets (most likely sent for modernization);
- 53 Ural trucks.
Foreign Policy published an article about the Western defense industry, which is in no hurry to increase production capacity, fearing that the war will end and the orders will end and they will end up with these expanded factories that don’t have any orders to fill them. The Pentagon has been trying to push military-industrial complex companies to expand production, but so far without success, because these companies need guarantees that the US will finance expanded production for several years ahead. In continental Europe, where countries donate significantly less aid than the US, leaders are reluctant to mobilize the military-industrial complex.
But, on the other hand, the situation is much better with certain types of weapons. The American army signed a contract with Lockheed Martin to increase the production of HIMARS, because it showed high efficiency and it became clear that all countries would want HIMARS for themselves after this war.
Finland has handed over a €55 million military aid package to Ukraine, and has provided €160 million worth of aid since the start of the invasion.
In Russia, after military production mobilization, enterprises cannot refuse to sign contracts with the Ministry of Defense according to the new laws. In addition, the Coordination Council for Material Support of the Russian Federation Armed Forces can now run things in manual mode.
The Motovilikha plants reported that they produced and sent to the troops a batch of Tornado-G and Tornado-S MLRS.
The Novosibirsk Aviation Plant produced, tested and delivered to the troops a new batch of Su-34 fighter-bombers.
The Uraltransmash plant shows how the Msta-S self-propelled guns are assembled and tested.
Despite the mobilization of the military-industrial complex, Russia is facing difficulties due to sanctions – there are problems with the supply of necessary components and spare parts.
Russian tabloid newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda published a report from the Zaporizhzhia direction, with photos showing the mobilized wearing Iranian-made helmets and body armor.
Judging by the court decision in Alexander Leshkov’s case, who spoke on behalf of the mobilized in Patriot Park and pushed an officer, the mobilization is not over. The court considered the commission of a crime during the period of mobilization an aggravating circumstance.
A sister of Mikhail Neretin, a volunteer fighter from the Moscow region, reports (by her brother’s account) that the mobilized are treated poorly in Patriot Park and there is no training conducted. During the Russian Federation Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu’s visit to the Patriot Park, all mobilized soldiers were herded into a hangar, and fake “mobilized” who did not complain were filmed. The riot in which Alexander Leshkov took part occurred after this.
Refuseniks who, after having reached the front line refuse to participate in warfare asking to be transferred to the rear, continue to be detained in basements. Reportedly there are about 300 mobilized being held in one of these places in the village of Zaitseve in the Lugansk region.
There is a news about detention of a conscript who was convicted of his ex-wife’s murder. Vadim Terekhov received a 16 years sentence and was supposed to be released in 2035, however he got out of prison somehow and ended up at the front line where he was detained for drug distribution. Based on the fact that the incident took place among the military, and not among the Wagner group mercenaries, the Ministry of Defense also has a mechanism that allows them to recruit convicts into a “special” regiment.
The Important Stories media outlet has published a report with a collection of evidence that those who participated in the “special operation” receive more lenient sentences for the crimes committed after returning from the front.
A video of Russian servicemen getting under friendly fire while retreating from the right bank of the Dnipro river has emerged.
Video footage capturing two war crimes has been released. The first video shows the perfidy committed by a Russian soldier who, during a surrender, started shooting at Ukrainian servicemen, which is a war crime.
Also there is a video of the aftermath showing the bodies of 12 Russian soldiers. Apparently an extrajudicial execution was carried out by the Ukrainian servicemen, which is also a war crime.
We hope that Ukrainian military authorities will investigate this situation and bring the perpetrators to justice.
A video of a correct (during wartime) response to perfidy was published earlier on. Here, Ukrainian soldiers kill a Russian serviceman who was trying to throw a grenade during a surrender, while others were taken as prisoners.
The Grain Deal between Ukraine, the UN and Turkey has been extended for another 120 days. The status of the agreement between Russia and Turkey is unknown.
On November 17, the District Court of the Hague announced a verdict in the MH17 case. The passenger plane was shot down in eastern Ukraine in 2014 by a Buk missile.
Igor Strelkov-Girkin, Sergei "Khmury" [eng: gloomy] Dubinsky, Oleg "Gyurza" [eng: viper] Pulatov and Leonid "Krot" [eng: mole] Kharchenko were accused of being accomplices to a crime under two articles of the Dutch Criminal Code. In translation, these articles sound like "causing a plane to crash" and 298 counts of "Murder/manslaughter". Everyone except Kharchenko are Russian citizens, all were members of the “DPR” (the court does not consider “DPR” to be a state, rather an organization or an armed group).
The trial lasted that long due to the high complexity of the case and due to the fact that Pulatov's defense was slowing the process down (perhaps intentionally).
Relatives of the victims spoke at the trial. Despite the fact that the whole story is associated with separatists, there were a lot of accusations against the Russian Federation made by the relatives.
The defendants were charged with commanding the "DPR" militants, including requesting an air defense system, receiving a Buk missile system from Russia, escorting it through the "DPR"-controlled territory, placing it at an operational site, and then evacuating it back to Russia.
During the trial, the court examined the evidence provided by the prosecution, including eyewitnesses' testimony, satellite images, verified photos and videos, as well as wiretaps by the Security Service of Ukraine, with which all necessary investigative actions were carried out.
Based on the data, the route of the Buk system was identified. The launch site was found and verified, using not only a well-known photo from Torez, but also a photo from Snizhne shot from a different angle and published during the trial.
At the intersection of these two perspectives lies a field near Pervomaiske, from where, according to witnesses' testimony, the missile was launched. Journalists visiting the site saw a burnt-out field and traces left by a tracked vehicle.
Therefore, the court agreed with the findings of independent investigators that the Buk came from Russia, launched a missile (targeting a civilian aircraft probably by mistake) and then returned to Russia.
The court denied the defendants combatant immunity because they did not belong to a regular army. Despite the fact that the court recognized the armed conflict as international (at least since May 2014, Ukraine has been involved in the armed conflict with the "DPR", which was fully controlled by Russia), its participants denied their allegiance to the Russian Federation, and Russia also refused to acknowledge that they were Russian servicemen. The defendants were, therefore, members of an illegal armed group, and any attempt by them to destroy an aircraft (even a military one) was illegal. The court sentenced three of the defendants to life imprisonment in absentia.
Pulatov, the only defendant represented by attorneys, was acquitted. The reason is not only that there were lawyers, but also that the court studied his case carefully and concluded that he had not directly been involved in deploying, escorting or guarding the Buk.
After the judgment was announced, the head of the investigation team stated that at the beginning of next year they would reveal information about the Buk's crew. Most likely, it were Russian soldiers from the 53rd Anti-aircraft Missile Brigade.
For us, as investigators, two points of the court’s final decision are the most important:
- MH17 was shot down by a Buk missile launched from the village of Pervomaiske, which at that time was controlled by the "DPR";
- there has been an international armed conflict in the Donbas, not a civil war. Ukraine was fighting the "DPR" organization, which was controlled by the Russian Federation, and it was Russia who exercised control over the conduct of military operations in the Donbas at least since May 2014.
Now that Russia is openly waging war against Ukraine, it is another phase of that same war that began in 2014.