November 27, 2023

Sitrep for Nov. 24-27, 2023 (as of 10 a.m. UTC+3)

Frontline Situation Update

Despite a slowdown in the pace of combat operations, active fighting continues in the Avdiivka direction. While reports since Nov. 24 indicate a gradual withdrawal of the Armed Forces of Ukraine from the Avdiivka industrial zone, it is still premature to conclude that it has fallen under Russian control, and the possibility of Ukrainian forces returning cannot be ruled out in the near future. Alternatively, a tactical decision to retreat may have been made to avoid a repeat of the Bakhmut scenario. If so, it would mark the first success for Russian forces in this area in nine years. The presence of the Russian Armed Forces in the industrial zone gives them the capability to target an adjacent residential neighborhood of Avdiivka, where Ukrainian forces are stationed.

In the Bakhmut direction, the situation has become more complicated for the AFU. According to Ukrainian blogger Andriy Babichev (Moto LIFE UA), who is actively engaged with Ukrainian forces, they are retreating from Khromove. However, this village lacks significant strategic importance.

Ukrainian and Russian Strikes

During the night of Nov. 25, Russian forces conducted their most extensive attack on Kyiv since September 2022. Reports say that 75 Shahed-136 (Geran 2) loitering munitions were launched at the city, with 74 successfully intercepted. Based on images of drone debris, it appears that a new, more advanced version of the drone was used for the first time. These drones were manufactured using composite materials, likely carbon fiber or fiberglass, and were painted black. These modifications not only rendered them less visible at night, but might have also reduced their radar signatures, complicating air defense targeting.

A joint report published by The Sun and Reuters suggests that the AFU employed high-explosive fragmentation airburst rounds for the first time to target the drones. Sources say that these ammunition could have been fired by either Skynex or Skyranger short-range air defense systems. These cutting-edge air defense systems scheduled to be delivered by the German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall to Ukraine by 2024, reportedly had already been handed over to the AFU in March 2023. As these air defense turret systems have not yet entered service, even in Germany, their deployment in Ukraine presents itself as a unique occasion to test them in real combat conditions.

On Nov. 26, in response to Russia’s drone raid on Kyiv, Ukraine carried out a large-scale drone attack on Russian territory. According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, 24 drones were intercepted. Most of them were launched during the night of Nov. 26, with several UAVs also spotted in the morning. Throughout the night, drones were intercepted in the Moscow, Tula, Kaluga and Bryansk regions. In the morning, four additional UAVs, as reported by the MoD, were shot down over the Bryansk, Smolensk and Tula regions. This marks the most intense attack in recent months.

According to Governor of the Tula region Aleksey Dyumin, one of the drones was intercepted by air defenses and crashed into a multi-storey residential building in Tula. One person was injured, and windows in several apartments were broken.

There were reports that a drone caused a fire after hitting military barracks at the 275th Self-Propelled Artillery Regiment of the Kantemirovskaya division base in the Moscow region. No other details and no injuries were reported.

Russian propagandist Marat Gazdiev, in a video report for RT [Russia Today, a Russian state-controlled international news television network], claimed that the RuAF had allegedly acquired the ability to intercept the video signal of Ukrainian FPV drones. However, certain images from the report have raised some doubts, such as the presence of a spelling error, with "ATACAMS" instead of "ATACMS" written on a screen. This technology allegedly allows operators to trace an FPV drone back to its operator and subsequently hit the location.

Ukrainian officer Robert "Madyar" Brovdi had previously reported on intercepting the video signal of Russian drones. We assume that this is achieved by intercepting the communication channel through which the drone transmits video back to the operator. This is entirely possible if the channel is either weakly encrypted or not encrypted at all. "Madyar" also claimed that they had successfully remotely taken control of, and forcibly landed enemy drones, though the specific methods employed by Ukrainian operators for this feat remain unknown.

Ukrainian volunteer Serhii "Flash" has revealed a new issue with Russian drones: they are now commonly equipped with night vision devices, each costing around $300. While it might seem expensive for a disposable kamikaze drone, it remains significantly cheaper than the military vehicles or ammunition storage facilities that these drones have the potential to destroy.

According to the volunteer, it will soon be possible to make FPV-drones self-guided. Commercial drones already have the capability to track objects,, even if the target briefly disappears from view. In the case of combat drones, the challenge extends beyond tracking the target, and requires effectively striking it, adding complexity to the task. Additionally, implementing such technologies may prove too energy-intensive (in civilian unmanned systems, the tracking system's hardware is located on the remote control), reducing flight time.

However, if successful, this advancement could significantly shorten drone operator training time, and such self-guided drones would be less vulnerable to electronic warfare. The likelihood of drones capable of autonomously identifying targets emerging in the near future is considered low, as it requires teaching them to distinguish between friend and foe.

Western Assistance

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, speaking at a press conference following the International Grain from Ukraine summit in Kyiv, announced that Western partners would provide Ukraine with certain warships to guarantee the safety of vessels transporting grain in the Black Sea.

The Danish Ministry of Defense stated it would increase its military support to Ukraine this year by 2.3 billion Danish Crowns [$380 million]. These funds will be part of the country's commitments to the NATO alliance. Denmark had previously promised to spend 800 million dollars on this objective. Given that there is only one month left until the end of the year, it is not entirely clear how this support will be implemented.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, at a joint press conference with the President of the European Council Charles Michel, and the head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, announced that Canada would provide Ukraine with 11,000 assault rifles and over 9 million rounds of ammunition. There have been no reports of a shortage of assault rifles in the AFU, which raises questions about the necessity of these deliveries.

A photo of an M1A1 Abrams tank somewhere in Ukraine has been published.

As of the end of November, BBC News Russian and Mediazona [independent Russian media outlet] together with volunteers have identified the names of over 37,000 Russian servicemen killed in the war with Ukraine. In addition, their latest report provides an analysis of the geographic distribution of the casualties in different regions of Russia. The data in the report do not support the claims of some activists about the deliberate recruitment of ethnic minorities for the war, let alone that a genocide of ethnicminorities is taking place. A significant portion of the casualties falls on poor regions, including many national republics. The poorer the region, the more of its population went to fight in the war for a steady paycheck. Consequently, there is a greater number of fatalities coming from national republics, compared to their representation in the overall population of the Russian Federation. At the same time, the proportion of ethnic Russians from these national republics killed on the front is often equal, or greater, to their share in the population of those republics (ethnic Russians represent a large percentage of the populations of most national "ethnic" republics that are part of the Russian Federation). Similarly, ethnic Russian are as likely to be killed on the front as people from minority ethnic backgrounds originating from national republics.

The Washington Post, citing Ukrainian intelligence, reported that businessmen close to the Russian authorities are engaged in secret talks with the state-owned China Railway Construction Corporation concerning the construction of an underwater tunnel near the Crimean Bridge. This tunnel would provide a safe route from Russia to occupied Crimea. However, both CIT and The Bell find such rumors rather implausible. Constructing such a tunnel is an extremely complex and expensive project that would take several years to complete, and it would obviously be of no use in the current war. Moreover, for a large Chinese company, taking part in such a project carries considerable risks, as it could lead to sanctions.

Bild journalist Julian Röpcke alleges that there is an agreement between US President Biden and German Chancellor Scholz to continue to support Ukraine with the necessary resources to retain territory, but not to achieve victory in the war. Allegedly, this agreement also involves attempts to pressure Ukraine into negotiations. For our part, we have no evidence confirming the existence of such an agreement. We believe that the lack of significant progress in the Ukrainian offensive and the issues in the US Congress and some EU countries that refuse to support Ukraine (such as Slovakia and Hungary) are forcing the public to look for explanations for the current situation, even if it delves into conspiracy theories.