Russo Ukrainian War. Day 271: Shelling damaged the infrastructure of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant

 

Daily review

Article by: Zarina Zabrisky

Russia transfers paratroopers from the Kherson direction to Luhansk Oblast. Shelling damaged the infrastructure of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP). Ukraine receives 2 batteries for Crotale air defense systems from France.

Daily overview — Summary report, November 21

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1594435664619053057

 

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 06.00 am, November 21, 2022 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. November 20, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Situation in Ukraine. November 20, 2022. Source: ISW.

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The two-hundred-seventy-first (271) day of the heroic resistance of the Ukrainian people to a russian military large-scale invasion continues.
The enemy is trying to hold the temporarily captured territories, concentrates its efforts on restraining the actions of units of the Defence Forces of Ukraine, continues to conduct offensive actions in certain directions.
Over the past day, our soldiers repelled the attacks of the occupiers in the areas of Bakhmut, Bilohorivka, Kurdyumivka, Maryinka, Novomykhailivka, Pervomaiske, Pidhorodne, Spirne, Stelmakhivka and Yakovlivka settlements of the Donetsk oblast.
Over the past 24 hours, the enemy has launched 2 missile strikes and launched more than 60 MLRS attacks. Objects of civil infrastructure in the city of Kupyansk, Kharkiv oblast, were hit by russian rockets.
In the Volyn, Polissya, and Siverskyi directions, the situation has not changed significantly, and no signs of the formation of enemy offensive groups have been detected.
Kharkiv Battle Map. November 20, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Kharkiv Battle Map. November 20, 2022. Source: ISW.

In the Slobozhanskyi direction, in the border areas of the Belgorod region, the enemy continues to carry out the task of covering the russian-Ukrainian border, conducting demonstration and provocative actions, with designated units. It carried out mortar shelling in the areas of Ambarne, Bochkove, Veterynarne, Ohirtseve and Starytsa settlements of the Kharkiv oblast.
On the Kupyansk and Lyman directions, the enemy is defending on previously occupied lines. Artillery shelling was recorded, in particular, in the areas of Krokhmalne and Tabaivka settlements of the Kharkiv oblast; Makiivka, Nevske, Novoselivske, Ploshanka and Stelmakhivka in the Luhansk oblast and Berestove in the Donetsk oblast.
Donetsk Battle Map. November 20, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Donetsk Battle Map. November 20, 2022. Source: ISW.

In the Bakhmut and Avdiivka areas, the enemy is concentrating its main efforts on conducting offensive operations. Conducts shelling from tanks, mortars, barrel and rocket artillery in the areas of Andriivka, Bakhmut, Bakhmutske, Bilohorivka, Verkhnyokamyanske, Vesele, Klishchiivka, Kurdyumivka, Krasnohorivka, Maryinka, Novomykhailivka, Ozaryanivka, Opytne, Pervomaiske, Rozdolivka, Soledar , Spirne and Yakovlivka in Donetsk oblast.
The enemy is defending in the Novopavlivsk and Zaporizhzhia directions. The areas of Bohoyavlenka, Vremivka, Vuhledar, Zolota Nyva and Prechystivka settlements of the Donetsk oblast were affected by the enemy’s artillery fire; Dorozhnyanka, Zaliznychne, Malynivka, Orihiv, Stepove and Charivne in the Zaporizhzhia oblast and the city of Nikopol in the Dnipropetrovsk region.
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. November 20, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. November 20, 2022. Source: ISW.

In the Kryvyi Rih and Kherson directions, the enemy is conducting positional defense, improving fortification equipment and logistical support of advanced units. In order to clarify the positions of our troops and adjust the artillery fire, the UAV conducts aerial reconnaissance. Directed fire from barrel and rocket artillery in the areas of the settlements of Vesele, Vysuntsi, Klapai and the city of Kherson.
In the Lyubymivka settlement of the temporarily occupied territory of the Kherson region, the occupiers, under the guise of searching for sabotage and intelligence groups, illegally break into private houses and loot the property of local residents.
It has been confirmed that a column of russian occupation forces was damaged in the area of ​​Syroyine settlement of Luhansk oblast. Information on enemy losses is being clarified.
Forced resettlement of local residents continues in the temporarily occupied territories of Luhansk oblast. In particular, residents of Bilovodsk were forcibly relocated to the city of Luhansk.
During the current day, the aviation of the Defence Forces struck the enemy 6 times: 3 on the areas where the occupiers are concentrated and 3 on the positions of his anti-aircraft missile systems.
During the current day, units of missile forces and artillery of the Defence Forces hit 2 control points, an ammunition warehouse, 5 areas of concentration of personnel, weapons and military equipment and 2 other important enemy objects.

Military Updates

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst. ~

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.

️“We need a victory, not a draw. If we allow Russia to pause, Putin will create a giant ticking bomb of a frozen conflict in Europe” — Ukraine’s MFA. It is the time to embrace the goal of Ukrainian victory and work toward it collectively rather than looking for premature peace deals with Russia, Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba said in his address at the 100 anniversary of the Paneuropean movement. Read more here. 

Russia transfers paratroopers from Kherson direction to Luhansk Oblast – Oblast Head Haidai. Russia pulled out its troops from the western-bank Kherson Oblast in early November and the Ukrainian troops secured the area around 9-12 November. The regional capital city of Kherson was liberated on 11 November. Euromaidan Press.

Regional Updates

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1594366106055380993

In Kherson Oblast, Russian soldiers continue looting. The trucks of Russian troops carrying stolen Ukrainian goods have been repeatedly seen across the Kherson Oblast. The large-scale looting caught the eye of Russian authorities, and they imposed limits on illegal transporting, First Deputy Chairman of the Kherson Regional Council, Yuriy Sobolevskyi, said. Euromaidan Press. 

Tankers stopped entering Russian Novorossiysk to export oil after an alleged drone attack on the terminal

According to British Defence Intelligence, (last 48 hours): 

  • Over the last seven days, intense artillery exchanges have continued around the Svatove sector in Luhansk Oblast in north-eastern Ukraine. As on other parts of the front, Russian forces continue to prioritise constructing defensive positions, almost certainly partially manned by poorly trained mobilised reservists.

 

  • With Russia’s south-western front line now more readily defendable along the east bank of the Dnipro River, the Svatove sector is likely now a more vulnerable operational flank of the Russian force.

 

  • As a significant population centre within Luhansk Oblast, Russian leaders will highly likely see retaining control of Svatove as a political priority. However, commanders are likely struggling with the military realities of maintaining a credible defence, while also attempting to resource offensive operations further south in Donetsk. Both Russian defensive and offensive capability continues to be hampered by severe shortages of munitions and skilled personnel.

Losses of the Russian army 

As of 21 November, the approximate losses of weapons and military equipment of the Russian Armed Forces from the beginning of the war to the present day:

Russian Army Losses. MFA of Ukraine. ~

Russian Army Losses. MFA of Ukraine.

 

Humanitarian 

https://twitter.com/MFA_Ukraine/status/1594261398955380737

Kherson is at the edge of a humanitarian catastrophe. The residents do not have water, power and heat in freezing temperatures.

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1594255911844986882

Environment

IAEA warns whoever was behind ‘powerful explosions’ at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant is ‘playing with fire’ – CNN. “Explosions rocked the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine this weekend, renewing concerns that fighting so close to the facility could cause a nuclear accident. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, said that whoever was responsible for the attacks was “playing with fire,” reiterating a warning he made in September,wrote the publication.

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1594487505830682624

Legal 

Russia left a trail of mined kindergartens and torture chambers in the Kharkiv oblast. After Ukraine’s Armed Forces drive the Russians out of any populated area, they discover that the retreating invaders have left mines in kindergartens, in playgrounds and in people’s homes.  Although such deadly reminders of the Russians’ occupation are found on all liberated territory, the Interior Ministry reports that the Kharkiv oblast is especially affected. Read more here.

Support 

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1594429524128796672

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and Mariupol’s Mayor Vadym Boychenko signed a memorandum on rebuilding Mariupol. EBRD will prepare a report on the damage assessment.

Ukraine receives 2 batteries for Crotale air defense systems from France. France has also been training the military on the use of weapons it provided, including Milan & Mistral missiles & VAB armored personnel carriers, Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu said. 

Sweden’s 9th package of security assistance for Ukraine is $282 million which is more than the previous 8 packages combined. As expected, it includes air defense systems, vehicles, and ammunition. In addition, Sweden also provides humanitarian aid for Ukraine and Moldova.

Massive Russian missile attacks confirm need to recognize Russia as state sponsor of terrorism – Ukraine President’s Office. Massive missile attacks confirm the need for the European Parliament to adopt a resolution designating Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, said Ihor Zhovkva, Deputy Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, during a meeting with a delegation of the European Parliament, Ukrinform reports. Euromaidan Press.

New Developments 

Oil and gas ban can stop Russian war against Ukraine – Ukrainer. Russia uses energy supplies to Europe as blackmail over the war in Ukraine. The sale of gas and oil also allows Kremlin to get money to continue its illegal invasion, Ukrainer writes. Euromaidan Press.

 

Assessment 

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of 20 November, 2022:

ISW is publishing an abbreviated campaign update today, November 20. This report discusses the rising influence of the milblogger (military correspondent or voenkor) community in Russia despite its increasingly critical commentary on the conduct of the war. The milblogger community reportedly consists of over 500 independent authors and has emerged as an authoritative voice on the Russian war.[1] The community maintains a heavily pro-war and Russian nationalist outlook and is intertwined with prominent Russian nationalist ideologists. Milbloggers’ close relationships with armed forces – whether Russian Armed Forces, Chechen special units, Wagner Group mercenaries, or proxy formations – have given this community an authoritative voice arguably louder in the Russian information space than the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD). Russian President Vladimir Putin has defended the milbloggers from MoD attacks and protected their independence even as he increases oppression and censorship throughout Russia.

The Kremlin has allowed the ever-growing informal milblogger community to gain a quasi-official but independent position despite otherwise increasing domestic repression and censorship. The Kremlin has historically promulgated its state narrative via Russian federal outlets, TV, and print media, but has allowed the highly individualistic and often critical milblogger community to put forth its own narratives regarding this war. The milblogger community is composed of a wide range of characters ranging from those who support the Kremlin while criticizing the Russian military command to some who have directly blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for Russia’s consistent military failures in Ukraine. That the Kremlin tolerates the miblogger community is astonishing given its censorship of other more traditional outlets including opposition and foreign media.

Russian milbloggers are not merely cheerleaders for the war – they are emerging as a group with a distinct voice within Russia. Milbloggers offer a highly informal platform that differs dramatically from the Russian MoD’s structured presentation of the war. Milbloggers largely publish self-authored content on Russian social media platforms such as Telegram, VK, and RuTube in a casual and approachable manner. Most prominent milbloggers either operate on the frontlines or have sources within Russian military structures, which allows them to form assessments based on first-hand accounts independent of MoD information and censorship.

The milbloggers are not fully separate from the Russian government, however. Russian investigative outlet The Bell, for example, uncovered that the creator of one of the most influential Russian Telegram channels, Rybar, is a former employee of the Russian MoD’s press service.[2] Other milbloggers are correspondents of Russian state media outlets such as Komsomoslkaya Pravda, Ria, and RiaFan where they maintain their highly opinionated coverage of the war and even offer recommendations to improve the conduct of the Russian military campaign. Some proxy officials from occupied Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts also operate as milbloggers because they voice their opinions, share analysis from other milbloggers, and disseminate footage from the frontlines independent of the Kremlin and often at odds with the official MoD and Kremlin lines.

Select milbloggers are now holding official positions within the Kremlin. Putin has promoted some prominent milbloggers with large numbers of followers in order to reach the nationalist constituency to which they speak and most importantly to prevent this group from turning against Putinism. Putin appointed a prominent Russian milblogger and correspondent for Komsomolskaya Pravda, Alexander (Sasha) Kots as a member of the Russian Human Rights Council on November 20, for example, as ISW has previously reported.[3] Putin has met individually with some Russian milbloggers and invited them to attend his annexation speech on September 30.[4] Putin’s engagements with these milbloggers have not softened their commentary on the war, however. They continue to criticize the Russian war effort and especially the Russian MoD even as Putin defends and promotes them.

Some Russian milbloggers have close ties with prominent nationalist ideologists. Nationalist and former member of the Russian State Duma Zakhar Prilepin (known for creating a volunteer battalion in occupied Donetsk Oblast in 2017) and founder of the modern-day National Bolshevik Party Eduard Limonov reportedly celebrated Russian milblogger Semyon Pegov (known under the alias Wargonzo).[5] Milbloggers also host podcasts with widely known Russian neo-nationalists such as Alexander Dugin and perestroika-era Soviet TV personality Alexander Lyubimov.[6] The milbloggers’ affiliation and mutual promotion with these figures foster a maximalist goal of full Russian supremacy in Ukraine within the information space. Dugin even directly blamed Putin for Russia’s military failures following the Russian withdrawal from Kherson City, in fact, criticizing Putin for failing to embrace Russian nationalist ideology fully enough.[7] Dugin’s criticism did not lead other milbloggers to criticize Putin explicitly, but neither did the milbloggers defend Putin against Dugin’s critique or attack Dugin.

Putin has likely blocked MoD attempts to purge or otherwise control the milbloggers. ISW reported on October 14 that unspecified Russian senior officials within the Russian MoD attempted to criminally prosecute the most prominent milbloggers.[8] Russian milbloggers publicly criticized the Russian MoD for the censorship attempt, continued their normal war coverage, and did not report receiving criminal charges. Unknown Russian officials had previously attacked Russian milbloggers by accusing them of revealing Russian positions to Ukrainian forces.[9] Putin has apparently stood by the milbloggers, however, recently commenting on the importance of transparency and accuracy in war reporting—a comment that could only have been aimed at the milblogger coverage.[10]

The prominence of the milblogger community is likely a direct result of the Kremlin’s failure to establish an effective Telegram presence stemming from Putin’s general failure to prepare his people for a serious and protracted war. Russian media statistics center Brand Analytics noted that between the start of the war on February 24 and October 1, the number of Russian bloggers on Telegram increased by 58% while the use of banned Western social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter decreased markedly.[11] Telegram also has the highest percent increase of daily published content (23%) compared with to other Russian social media outlets over that period. The Bell noted that Rybar’s following increased sharply in September and October to over a million followers amidst partial mobilization and the start of Ukrainian counteroffensives in the east and south.[12] The growth of Telegram and the case of Rybar highlight Russians’ distrust of the Kremlin’s official narratives and search for more accurate reporting. The Ukrainian government, it is worth noting, took the opposite approach. Instead of attempting to centralize reporting on the war, Kyiv tasked all regional officials to start official Telegram channels to provide information regarding the war in real time.[13]

The Kremlin struggles to emulate the success of Russian pro-war siloviki figures online. Chechen leader and silovik Ramzan Kadyrov is the most followed Russian milblogger with over three million followers on Telegram. Kadyrov’s Telegram channel closely resembles the other milbloggers’ in format and features Kadyrov’s video rants, combat footage, and unfiltered opinions on the course of the “special military operation.”[14] Kadyrov’s channel, however, has a more coherent narrative than the individual milbloggers given his personal interests in promoting his troops.[15] Wagner Group-affiliated milbloggers also promote mercenary forces at the expense of criticizing the Russian MoD and traditional forces.[16] Prominent Kremlin state TV propagandists Vladimir Solovyov and Margarita Simonyan, on the other hand, only have 1.4 million and 500,000 followers on Telegram respectively and have begun echoing some Russian milblogger critiques on their Telegram channels.[17] The Russian MoD channel has even fewer followers on Telegram than Solovyov and Simonyan despite the growth of the platform – only 480,000.

Putin continues to double down on support for the independence of milblogger reporting even as he doubles down on efforts to mobilize the Russian population for war. These two phenomena are almost certainly related.  Putin likely recognizes that the Kremlin and especially the MoD has lost whatever trust many Russians may have had in the veracity of its claims as well as the need to rely on such voices as pro-war Russians find authentic to retain support for the increasing sacrifices he is demanding.  Putin’s defense of the milbloggers’ criticisms of his chosen officials is remarkable. It suggests that he sees retaining the support of at least some notable segment of the Russian population as a center of gravity for the war effort if not for the survival of his regime and that he is willing to endure critiques from a group he perceives as loyal to secure that center of gravity. Will the milbloggers remain loyal to Putin and the war effort if the Russian military continues to struggle and suffer setbacks? How will Putin react if they do not? These questions could become significant as Putin increases his demands on his reluctant population to provide cannon fodder for a failing war.

Key inflections in ongoing military operations on November 20:

  • The Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reported on November 20 that Russian special services are planning false flag attacks on Belarusian critical infrastructure facilities to pressure the Belarusian military to enter the war in Ukraine. The Ukrainian General Staff added that Ukrainian officials have not observed the formation of any Belarusian assault groups. ISW continues to assess that it is unlikely that Belarusian forces will invade Ukraine.
  • Russian and Ukrainian sources reported ongoing fighting along the Svatove-Kreminna line on November 20. Russian sources noted that deteriorating weather conditions are impacting hostilities.
  • A Ukrainian military official stated that Ukrainian forces have liberated 12 settlements in Luhansk Oblast since the start of the eastern counteroffensive.
  • The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed to strike a Ukrainian troop concentration in the area of Novoselivske, Luhansk Oblast. The Russian MoD previously claimed to repel Ukrainian attacks on the settlement, and this claim might indicate that Ukrainian forces advanced to the settlement.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations in the Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and western Donetsk directions.
  • Ukrainian officials reported that Russian forces continued to transfer some forces from the east (left) bank of the Dnipro River to other operational directions, but still maintain a significant force presence in southern Kherson Oblast.
  • Ukrainian and Russian sources reported that shelling damaged the infrastructure of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP). One Russian milblogger claimed that the shelling came from Russian-controlled territory south of the plant, but most Russian sources accused Ukraine.
  • Russian occupation officials may have purged the occupation Mayor of Enerhodar Alexander Volga. Some Russian sources claimed that Volga received a promotion within the occupation administration.
  • Russian military officials continued mobilization measures amid reports of ongoing resistance and poor conditions.

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