November 24, 2023

Sitrep for Nov. 22-24, 2023 (as of 9 a.m. UTC+3)

Frontline Situation Update

The pro-Kremlin LostArmour portal user Wayne Howell has shared his insights into the personnel challenges faced by the Russian Armed Forces. In line with the views expressed by an individual named Aleksey Kolesnikov, Howell argues that the recent recruitment of contract soldiers from underprivileged social groups pales in comparison to the caliber of professionals and enthusiasts enlisted at the beginning of the full-scale invasion. Excessive drinking, widespread among new recruits, regularly leads to their deaths and serious injuries. Examples include a fatal incident where a Ural off-road vehicle was driven off a cliff, a soldier falling from a tank and being crushed beneath the tracks of an infantry fighting vehicle or a recruit sustaining a severed arm while playing with an RPG rocket-propelled grenade.

Howell asserts that the majority of these newly recruited contract soldiers prove to be ineffective on the battlefield. Apart from the pervasive issue of drunkenness, two additional formidable challenges include a lack of discipline and a dearth of command control, contributing to a significant number of fatal accidents and murders, including that of civilians.

To manage such soldiers, commanders resort to physical punishment, violence and threats of execution. Despite the inappropriate nature of such measures, they are often the only means that help achieve at least a semblance of discipline within these units. However, the complete lack of motivation among such contract soldiers prevents them from achieving noticeable results on the frontline.

In our opinion, alcoholism and lack of discipline, among other factors, are preventing the RuAF from eliminating the Ukrainian foothold on the Kherson axis, despite continuous airstrikes for two weeks and the deployment of additional naval infantry units. The Ukrainian Armed Forces are approaching the M-14 belt highway, crucial for Russian supply to Nova Kakhovka. Ukrainian forces seem to control it, but have not physically cut it off.

Similarly, Russian forces face challenges in the Avdiivka direction, even after entering the industrial zone. According to Ukrainian sources, the RuAF initiated a third wave of assaults on Avdiivka, resulting in significant military equipment losses, without yielding substantial gains.

The quality of the personnel can be judged by the stories of pardoned murderers and rapists regularly surfacing. A recent revelation highlights the case of Nikolay Ogolobyak, a convicted satanist involved in the ritual murders of four teenagers in 2010, who was pardoned after only six months at the frontline. Denis Gorin, previously sentenced to 22 years for murder and cannibalism, has also been recruited for the war and is currently hospitalized with injuries, likely to be released upon recovery.

The long-awaited podcast featuring Western military analysts Michael Kofman, Rob Lee, Konrad Muzyka and Franz-Stefan Gady, who recently visited Ukraine, has been released. They emphasized that FPV drones are now having the greatest impact on combat operations. In contrast to commercial drones, such as DJI Mavic civilian aerial reconnaissance drones, which use GPS and GLONASS satellites for navigation, FPV drones are controlled exclusively through video communication, rendering them more resilient to electronic warfare. However, their operational convenience is compromised by the fact that they are designed for continuous forward flight and lack the ability to hover in one spot. Initially, about a year ago, the AFU held an advantage in the use of such drones, partially compensating for the shortage of artillery ammunition by frequently deploying homemade drones. However, Russia has since increased its production of FPV drones, taking the initiative and maintaining an edge in artillery capabilities.

Our team can neither confirm nor refute this assertion. Based on our observations, both sides appear to employ FPV drones at approximately the same rate.

One notable challenge arising from the widespread use of FPV drones is the potential for interference among quadcopters tuned to the same frequency, causing the frequency to become congested with a multitude of signals.

Additionally, the military analysts have observed a significant slowdown in the pace of combat operations, with advances now measured in hundreds of meters at best, and contested territories, like Spirne, regularly changing hands. Fighting primarily occurs at the platoon and assault group levels, involving only a few soldiers, rather than entire battalions. Soldiers mostly remain in trenches. Achieving any substantial gains with such small groups of men is virtually impossible.

The offensive potential of the AFU is largely depleted, and Ukraine will now need to somehow address its resource constraints to conduct further operations.

According to Kofman, another problem is that both sides are recruiting predominantly men between the ages of 30 and 50, who often lack the strength and endurance of men in their twenties. Since armored vehicles tend to avoid getting too close to the front line, due to the risk of drone and artillery strikes, soldiers often have to cover distances of 5 to 6 kilometers on foot, posing a challenge to those in poor physical form.

Kofman concurs with the conclusions of General Valerii Zaluzhnyi’s essay, asserting that the war has reached a positional stalemate, and that, overall, the conflict is becoming increasingly static, diminishing the likelihood of significant breakthroughs.

A video has emerged showing a Ukrainian FPV drone destroying an armored vehicle-launched bridge stuck in a deep puddle—this a yet another illustration of how easily drones can spot and destroy military vehicles stuck in mud.

Western Assistance

Canada is planning to provide over CAD$1 billion in military aid to Ukraine from 2023 to 2026. Long-term agreements make operational planning much easier.

On Nov. 22, the 17th Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting (Ramstein) announced the establishment of a new ground-based air defense coalition.

In addition to Luxembourg's €10 million commitment, Estonia is providing $500,000 in funding for IT coalition activities.

Within the framework of the so-called maritime coalition, the UK and Norway are going to look for ways to strengthen security in the Black Sea.

The Netherlands has earmarked a €2 billion military aid package for Ukraine. Meanwhile, early elections put the right-wing populist Party for Freedom in first place. During Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s visit to parliament, the party’s leader, Geert Wilders, refused to attend. It is not clear how this electoral result will affect further support for Ukraine. The Netherlands is one of the few countries that has promised to transfer its F-16 fighter aircraft to Ukraine.

Lithuania sent another package of military aid to Ukraine, which includes:

  • 3 million rounds of small arms ammunition;
  • Remote detonation systems;
  • Winter equipment.

Germany has announced two new military aid packages to Ukraine. The first package includes:

  • 20 Marder infantry fighting vehicles;
  • 2,380 155mm artillery rounds;
  • One Wisent 1 mine-clearing vehicle;
  • 2 8x8 HX81 truck tractor trains and 2 semi-trailers;
  • 9 other vehicles;
  • 5 Warthog all terrain tracked ambulances;
  • 2 ambulances;
  • 2,428 encrypted phones.

The second package, worth $1.4 billion and scheduled to be delivered by mid-December, includes, in addition to the previously announced items, another Patriot air defense system (the exact components of the delivery are unknown) and additional 155mm artillery projectiles.

The Bulgarian Parliament approved the transfer of 100 BTR-60 armored personnel carriers to Ukraine. Manufactured in the 1960s and 70s, these vehicles belonged to the Bulgarian Ministry of Internal Affairs but, as claimed, were never used.

The Russian manufacturer of civilian Plastun tracked all-terrain vehicles has developed a special Plastun-SN modification for Russia’s Ministry of Defense. It is not equipped with weapons and is designed to evacuate the wounded and to transport personnel. This modification surpasses any military wheeled vehicle in off-road capability. In October 2023, the first batch of these vehicles rolled off the assembly line, and in November they were seen on the frontline.

On Nov. 22, Boris Maksudov, a journalist from the Rossiya-24 [Russia-24] government-owned federal TV channel, was injured by a drone strike and later died in hospital. The video of his evacuation and Maksudov's final video clearly show that he, like many other pro-Russian journalists, neglected safety protocols and dressed like a combatant. Pro-Russian Telegram channels were outraged by the fact that the Russian MoD initially downplayed the severity of Maksudov’s injuries as well as by the fact that a large group of journalists was assembled on the orders of the military command, which inevitably attracted the attention of AFU drones.