Russo Ukrainian War. Day 278: Ukrainian authorities warn about possible Russian attack

 

Daily review

Article by: Hans Petter Midttun

Next week may be difficult: Ukrainian authorities and the military warn about more attacks from Russians. 17% of consumers reconnected to the power grid in Kherson. There are signs Russians may leave Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

Daily overview — Summary report, November 28

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 06.00 am, November 28, 2022 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. November 27, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Situation in Ukraine. November 27, 2022. Source: ISW.

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“[Russian forces continue armed aggression against our state, does not stop striking civilian infrastructure objects. Focuses efforts on deterring the actions of units of the Defence Forces. The transfer of personnel and military equipment of Russian forces to equip units that have suffered losses continues. Enemy forces operating in the temporarily occupied and temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine are expected to strengthen due to the transfer of individual units from the territory of the Republic of Belarus after they acquire combat capabilities.]

Russian forces are concentrating their efforts on restraining the actions of units of the Defence Forces of Ukraine. The transfer of personnel and military equipment of Russian forces to equip units that have suffered losses continues.

Over the past 24 hours, units of the Defence Forces repelled the attacks of the occupiers in the areas of Yakovlivka, Soledar, Bakhmut, Andriivka, Novobakhmutivka, Opytne, Vodyane, Pervomaiske, Nevelske and Novomykhailivka settlements of the Donetsk region.

Russian forces launched 4 missile attacks on civilian objects in Rozumivka, Zaporizhzhia oblast, and Musiivka, Dnipropetrovsk oblast, and fired more than 50 MLRS attacks at the positions of our troops and peaceful settlements.

The threat of missile strikes by the Russian occupiers on critical infrastructure facilities throughout Ukraine remains.

In the Volyn and Polissya directions, the situation has not changed significantly, and no signs of the formation of enemy offensive groups have been detected.

[The Republic of Belarus continues to support the armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, and provides its territory and airspace for launching missile and air strikes.]

The units of the Belarusian special operations forces, which are part of the regional grouping of the troops of the so-called union state of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus, perform the task of strengthening the section of the state border.

  • In the Siversky direction, mortar and artillery shelling was recorded near the settlements of Yanzhulivka, Mykolaivka and Halaganivka in the Chernihiv oblast and Vilna Sloboda in the Sumy oblast. [In the border areas of the Bryansk and Kursk regions, enemy units continue to perform the task of covering the section of the Russian-Ukrainian border, conducting demonstrations and provocative actions. A mortar attack was carried out near Yanzhulivka, Chernihiv oblast.]
Kharkiv Battle Map. November 27, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Kharkiv Battle Map. November 27, 2022. Source: ISW.

  • In the Slobozhansk direction, the areas of the settlements of Strilecha, Starytsa, Ohirtseve, Vovchansk, Bochkove, Budarky, Chuhunivka and Ambarne of the Kharkiv oblast were hit by mortars and MLRS.
  • Russian forces are defending in the Kupyansk direction. Fired artillery of various types in the Bolohivka, Kamianka, Kupyansk, Kurylivka, Tabaivka, Krokhmalne and Berestove areas of the Kharkiv oblast.
  • In the Lyman direction, Russian forces are concentrating their main efforts on conducting offensive operations. Fired from the entire variety of artillery in the areas of settlements Makiivka, Nevske and Bilohorivka in the Luhansk oblast and Yampolivka and Torske in the Donetsk oblast.
Donetsk Battle Map. November 27, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Donetsk Battle Map. November 27, 2022. Source: ISW.

  • In the Bakhmut and Avdiivka directions, Russian forces continue to focus their main efforts on conducting offensive operations. Objects in the areas of Serebryanka, Spirne, Yakovlivka, Bakhmutske, Bakhmut, Opytne, Klishchiivka, Andriivka, Kurdyumivka, Vesele, Avdiivka, Vodyane, Pervomaiske, Krasnohorivka, Kurakhove, Maryinka and Novomykhailivka of the Donetsk oblast were hit by fire from tanks and artillery.
  • In the Novopavlivka direction, Russian forces carried out artillery fire on the areas of Vuhledar, Novoukrayinka, Prechistivka, Zolota Nyva and Neskuchne settlements of the Donetsk oblast.
  • The occupiers are conducting defensive operations in the Zaporizhzhia direction. The firing of mortars, artillery and MLRS on the positions of the Defence Forces and the areas of populated areas of the Zaporizhzhia region, which are not far from the contact line, is recorded.
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle. November 27, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle. November 27, 2022. Source: ISW.

  • In the Kryvyi Rih and Kherson directions, the occupiers are in defensive positions. Artillery shelling of units of our troops and settlements on the right bank of the Dnipro River, in particular the city of Kherson, does not stop.

Russian forces continue to suffer significant losses. It has been confirmed that the object of the Russian invaders was damaged in the area of ​​the Enerhodar settlement. On November 26 of this year, 6 units of military equipment of various types were destroyed and about 30 servicemen were injured. As a result of the actions of the Defense Forces, about 80 invaders were injured in the areas of Polohy and Chernihivka settlements of the Zaporizhzhia oblast. The number of dead occupiers is being specified.

About 30 units of damaged military equipment of Russian forces under repair were recorded in the village of Hola Prystan, Kherson oblast.

[The occupiers continue to suffer losses. Local hospitals of the Shchastya district of Luhansk oblast are overloaded due to a large number of wounded invaders. Russian forces are forced to medically evacuate wounded servicemen to Luhansk.]

[It was confirmed that an enemy object was damaged in the area of ​​the settlement of Svatove on November 25 of this year. About 70 enemy servicemen were there. The number of wounded and dead occupiers is being clarified.]

To discredit the Defence Forces, the Russian occupiers are shelling populated areas, shifting the responsibility to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. In addition, Russian forces spread misinformation that Ukrainian citizens from the liberated territories are detained by the Ukrainian military to increase the exchange fund, accusing them of collaborating with the occupiers.

During the day, units of the missile troops and artillery of the Defense Forces of Ukraine hit 4 areas of concentration of personnel, weapons and military equipment, as well as one other important military object of Russian forces.“

Military Updates

Russian Defenses in Kherson. Source: ISW. ~

Russian Defenses in Kherson. Source: ISW.

Russians hunting down partisans in Melitopol are offering half a million roubles, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Ivan Fedorov, the mayor of Melitopol. “The Ruscists in temporarily occupied Melitopol are in their death throes. The collaborators are discussing escape plans, Gauleiters are terrorising the medics, and the occupiers are looking for partisans by any means. [‘Gauleiter’ is a term for Russian-installed puppet leaders that was originally used for the German governors of territories occupied by the Nazis in WWII.]

The reason for the latest terror is the total resistance of our medical workers: they refuse to cooperate with the occupiers. The occupiers are relentlessly promoting a chatbot that encourages local residents to turn ‘Ukrainian bandits’ in. They are even offering 500,000 roubles for valuable information.”

Ukrainian resistance reports that all collaborators leave Nova Kakhovka, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the National Resistance Center. “The Russians have relocated all the active collaborators out of the city of Nova Kakhovka in Kherson Oblast. National Resistance Center noted that this was not limited to only those collaborators who used to hold positions in the occupation administration but also included those who used to join Russian raids of the local population and who had intimidated and forced the residents to cooperate with the occupying forces.

All the active traitors have left the city because they feel that its liberation is only a matter of time, the National Resistance Center said.”

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

  • Despite its liberation by Ukrainian forces on 11 November 2022, Kherson city in southern Ukraine continues to suffer daily bombardment by Russian artillery. On 24 November 2022 alone, 10 people were killed. On 27 November 2022, a recent high of 54 shelling incidents was reported in the area.
  • The city is vulnerable because it remains in range of most of Russia’s artillery systems, now firing from the east bank of the Dnipro River, from the rear of newly consolidated defensive lines.
  • Much of the damage is likely being inflicted in Kherson by Russia’s use of multiple rocket launchers, principally BM-21 Grad systems.
  • The area around the towns of Pavlivka and Vuhledar in south-central Donetsk Oblast has been the scene of intense combat over the last two weeks, though little territory has changed hands.
  • Both Russia and Ukraine have significant forces committed to this sector, with Russian Naval Infantry having suffered heavy casualties.
  • This area remains heavily contested, likely partially because Russia assesses the area has potential as a launch point for a future major advance north to capture the remainder of Ukrainian-held Donetsk Oblast. However, Russia is unlikely to be able to concentrate sufficient quality forces to achieve an operational breakthrough.

Losses of the Russian army 

As of Monday 28 November, the approximate losses of weapons and military equipment of the Russian Armed Forces from the beginning of the invasion to the present day:

  • Personnel – about 87900 (+590),
  • Tanks – 2908 (+3),
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 5861 (+5),
  • Artillery systems – 1899 (+2),
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 395 (+0),
  • Air defence means – 209 (+0),
  • Aircraft – 278 (+0),
  • Helicopters – 261 (+0),
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 4416 (+4),
  • Vessels/boats – 16 (+0),
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 1555 (+0),
  • Special equipment – 163 (+0),
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0),

Cruise missiles – 531 (+0)

Humanitarian 

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1597002326786588681

Arakhamiia: next week may be difficult – the authorities and the military are preparing, Urainska Pravda reports. “The leader of the Servant of the People (Sluha narodu) faction, Davyd Arakhamiia, has again stressed that […] next week may be very difficult. Russians are planning new terrorist attacks against energy facilities.

Emergency services and authorities are anticipating various scenarios. Much training has been conducted, the possible actions of power engineers with critical infrastructure have been anticipated, and everyone knows what they should do. We’re getting ready. The military is preparing.

Arakhamiia called on every Ukrainian to take adequate precautions for themselves and their families. In particular, to prepare an emergency supply of water, and long-term food storage, to charge phones and power banks,  and to locate the nearest ” invincibility centre”. A special website has been set up, nezlamnist.gov.ua, where there is  a map of these locations, which is constantly updated.”

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1596987229062123521

Power deficit in the Ukrainian power system makes 20%, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the press service of the NPC Ukrenergo. “Due to the cold weather, electricity consumption by household consumers gradually increases. Therefore, the consumption restriction regime continues to operate due to the power shortage, which is currently an estimated 20%.

Ukrenergo informs regional power distribution companies of consumption limits for each oblast, and these cannot be exceeded; the distribution system operator must independently determine the types of outages, whether emergency or planned, and apply them directly.

In particular, 50% of consumers can use electricity and water simultaneously in Lviv Oblast. 718 settlements of the Oblast are cut off from electricity, and 314 are partially without power supply.”

17% of consumers reconnected to the power grid in Kherson, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Yaroslav Yanushevych, the head of the Kherson Oblast State Administration. “As of now, 17% of household consumers have been supplied with electricity in Kherson. In the liberated city of Kherson, the electric supply was restored on 26 November. As of the morning of 27 November, nearly 5% of Kherson residents were supplied with electricity.”

Ukraine sees less than 3 mln tonnes of grain leaving in November – minister, Reuters reports. “Exports of Ukraine’s grain will not reach 3 million tonnes in November as Russia tries to limit ship inspections at ports, Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said late on Sunday. In October, some 4.2 million tonnes of grain left Ukrainian ports, Kubrakov said on his Facebook page.

It was the custom to conduct 40 inspections a day, now, due to Russia’s position, there are five times fewer checks, he said.”

Environment

There are signs Russians may leave ZNPP – president of Energoatom, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “Petro Kotin, president of the national nuclear energy company Energoatom, reported that there are signs that the occupiers may be getting ready to abandon the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.

During the last few weeks, we have been receiving information that they [the occupiers – ed.] may be preparing to leave the ZNPP. First, there have been many reports in Russian media outlets lately about how Russians may have to leave the ZNPP and transfer it to the IAEA’s control. You know, I am under the impression that they are packing their bags and stealing everything they see.

Kotin stressed that it is too early to say that the Russian forces are leaving the ZNPP but it appears that they are getting ready to do so. He also noted that Russian forces pumped the ZNPP area full of everything: military equipment, personnel, trucks, likely with armament and explosives and mined the territory of the power plant.”

Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant remains under Moscow control -Russia installed administration, Reuters reports. “The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant remains under Russian control, the Russia-installed administration of the occupied Enerhodar city said on Monday after a senior Ukrainian official suggested Russian forces were preparing to leave.

The media are actively spreading fakes that Russia is allegedly planning to withdraw from Enerhodar and leave the (nuclear plant). This information is not true, the Russian-backed administration said on the Telegram messaging app.”

Russians will fail to keep control of Zaporizhzhia NPP – Podoliak, Ukrinform reports, citing the advisor to the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Mykhailo Podoliak on Radio Svoboda [Radio Liberty]. “The Russian military will retreat from Zaporizhzhia NPP, as their line of defense is being gradually pushed away towards the borders of Russia.”

Legal 

32,000 civilian properties and 700 infrastructure facilities have been damaged by Russians, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Yevhenii Yenin, First Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs. “As one would expect of terrorists, they [the Russians – ed.] target civilian properties. To date, about 32,000 such properties have been damaged by Russian missiles and shells. These are primarily civilians’ private houses or apartment buildings. Only 3% of recorded attacks have been on military facilities.

Critical infrastructure facilities also remain Russian targets. As of now, more than 700 critical infrastructure facilities – airfields, bridges, oil depots, electricity substations, etc. – are recorded as having been hit by the orcs [Russian forces]. Yenin noted that the Russians “still have a maniacal desire to plunge Ukraine into darkness, and there is no reason to believe that they will stop.”

Support 

The UK sends Brimstone 2 precision-guided missiles to Ukraine, Ukrinfrom reports, citing the British Ministry of Defense. “As part of its aid package, the UK has provided Brimstone 2 precision-guided missiles to the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

As reported, Britain plans to supply Ukraine with advanced Brimstone 2 laser-guided missiles with double the range of the previous design, delivered to the Armed Forces earlier. This system essentially allows a missile to scan the battlefield and select the most appropriate target while screening out civilian vehicles or less important military equipment.”

Germany sends a new batch of military aid to Ukraine, Ukrinform reports. “Last week, Germany sent another batch of special-purpose vehicles for the Ukrainian military. This is said in a statement published on the website of the German government.

In particular, the military support delivered to Ukraine last week included: 2 tank transporter tractor M1070 Oshkosh (8 had been delivered before), and 14 border protection vehicles (39). Military support to Ukraine in planning/in execution includes 14 tracked and remote controlled infantry vehicles for support tasks.”

100-mile strike weapon weighed for Ukraine as arms makers wrestle with demand -sources, Reuters reports. The Pentagon is considering a Boeing proposal to supply Ukraine with cheap, small precision bombs fitted onto abundantly available rockets, allowing Kyiv to strike far behind Russian lines as the West struggles to meet the demand for more arms.

US and allied military inventories are shrinking, and Ukraine faces an increasing need for more sophisticated weapons as the war drags on. Boeing’s proposed system, dubbed Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB), is one of about a half-dozen plans for getting new munitions into production for Ukraine and America’s Eastern European allies, industry sources said. GLSDB could be delivered as early as spring 2023, according to a document reviewed by Reuters and three people familiar with the plan. It combines the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) with the M26 rocket motor, both of which are common in US inventories.

Doug Bush, the US Army’s chief weapons buyer, told reporters at the Pentagon last week the Army was also looking at accelerating production of 155-millimeter artillery shells – currently only manufactured at government facilities – by allowing defense contractors to build them.

The invasion of Ukraine drove up demand for American-made weapons and ammunition, while US allies in Eastern Europe are “putting a lot of orders,” in for a range of arms as they supply Ukraine, Bush added. […] Although a handful of GLSDB units have already been made, there are many logistical obstacles to formal procurement. […]

Although the United States has rebuffed requests for the 185-mile (297km) range ATACMS missile, the GLSDB’s 94-mile (150km) range would allow Ukraine to hit valuable military targets that have been out of reach and help it continue pressing its counterattacks by disrupting Russian rear areas. GLSDB is made jointly by SAAB AB and Boeing Co and has been in development since 2019, well before the invasion […].

GLSDB is GPS-guided, can defeat some electronic jamming, is usable in all weather conditions, and can be used against armored vehicles, according to SAAB’s website. The GBU-39 – which would function as the GLSDB’s warhead – has small, folding wings that allow it to glide more than 100km if dropped from an aircraft and targets as small as 3 feet in diameter.

At a production plant in rural Arkansas, Lockheed Martin is redoubling efforts to meet surging demand for mobile rocket launchers known as HIMARS, which have been successful in hitting Russian supply lines, command posts and even individual tanks. The No. 1 US defense contractor is working through supply chain issues and labor shortages to double production to 96 launchers a year. […]

HIMARS fires Guided Multiple Rocket Launch System missiles (GMLRS), which are GPS-guided rounds with 200-pound (90kg) warheads. Lockheed Martin make about 4,600 of the missiles per year; more than 5,000 have been sent to Ukraine so far, according to a Reuters analysis. The US has not disclosed how many GMLRS rounds have been supplied to Ukraine.

Putin trying to use winter as a weapon — Stoltenberg, Ukrinform reports. “NATO should step up its support for Ukraine so as not to give Putin any chance to bring it to its knees over the winter. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told this to the German media outlet Welt ahead of a meeting of NATO foreign ministers. Currently, he said, Putin reacts to defeats with “more brutality.” With the onset of winter, Moscow began bombing Ukraine’s energy system in order to bring the country to its knees.

Putin is trying to use winter as a weapon. But he will not achieve this success, Stoltenberg said. He noted that the more military successes Ukraine has, the stronger its position will be in future negotiations. We can strengthen Ukraine’s position at the negotiating table if we provide military support to the country. The best way to support peace is to support Ukraine, he said.

Stoltenberg added that all partners should support and increase aid to Ukraine. […] He acknowledged that aid to Ukraine comes at a price in Western societies, as rising food and electricity bills mean hard times for many households in Europe. But we must remember that the people of Ukraine pay with their blood every day, he said.

On November 29-30, in Bucharest, the foreign ministers aim to make a decision on even greater support for Ukraine as part of a comprehensive aid package.”

Podoliak: Air defence is not about escalation, but about protecting civilians from missiles, Ukrinform reports. “Air defence is not about escalation, but about protecting civilians from missile attacks, according to Mykhailo Podoliak, an advisor to the head of Ukraine’s presidential office. ‘Patriot system’ and ‘escalation’ – words that cannot be in the same sentence. Air defence is not about offensives, but about protecting children and civilians from missiles, Podoliak said.

A wise initiative by Poland. Correct words of the NATO Secretary General. Waiting for Germany’s decision, he wrote. Germany last Monday offered Poland to deploy Patriot surface-to-air missile systems on the Polish-Ukrainian border after a missile incident on Polish soil. Poland, for its part, offered to deploy the systems on the Ukrainian side of the border.”

Pressure builds to step up weapons tracking in Ukraine, The Washington Post reports. “Legislation would require greater scrutiny of the $20 billion in military aid President Biden has sent Ukraine, and it has bipartisan support. Emboldened by their success in the midterm elections, House Republicans, who will hold a slim majority in the next Congress, have warned the Biden administration to expect far-tougher oversight of the extensive military assistance it has provided Ukraine.

The administration, anticipating such demands as the commitment of military aid under President Biden fast approaches $20 billion, has worked in recent weeks to publicize its efforts to track weapons shipments. Both the State Department and the Pentagon have outlined plans, including more inspections and training for the Ukrainians, meant to prevent US arms from falling into the wrong hands — initiatives that have failed thus far to quell Republican sceptics calling for audits and other accountability measures.

Most in Washington are in agreement that, generally, the push for more oversight is a good thing. But experts caution there are credible limitations to ensuring an airtight account of all weapons given to Ukraine that are likely to leave Biden’s harshest critics unsatisfied.

There are shortcomings of end-use monitoring in the best of circumstances, and of course Ukraine isn’t in the best of circumstances, said Elias Yousif, a researcher on the global arms trade with the Stimson Center. There has to be some willingness to be practical about what we can achieve.

To date, the megaphone for demanding change has been controlled primarily by the GOP. Congress will hold our government accountable for all of the funding for Ukraine, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) said this month in announcing a measure to audit the aid program after Biden requested another $37 billion for the government in Kyiv. There has to be accountability going forward, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), House Republicans’ current leader, told CNN in the interview in which he warned against giving Ukraine a “blank check” to fight off Russia’s invasion.

Yet the reckoning could begin before the Republican takeover. A series of provisions on offer in the House-passed version of this year’s annual defense authorization bill would require a web of overlapping reports from the Pentagon and the inspectors general who police transfers of articles of war, plus the establishment of a task force to design and implement enhanced tracking measures.

And unlike the rising GOP chorus of Ukraine scepticism, such line items — while yet to be reconciled with the Senate’s version of the bill, which is still pending in that chamber — largely enjoy bipartisan support.

“The taxpayers deserve to know that investment is going where it is intended to go,” Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), a veteran-turned-lawmaker, said in an interview. Crow led an effort in the House Armed Services Committee to include in the defense bill instructions to the Defense Department Inspector General to review, audit, investigate and otherwise inspect the Pentagon’s efforts to support Ukraine. He called the directive “necessary,” even if he does not count himself among the critics insinuating the Defense Department and the Ukrainians have failed to take the matter seriously enough.

“In any war, there can be missteps and misallocation of supplies,” he explained. But Crow also acknowledged that there were likely to be limitations to the scope of accounting that the United States can provide. We’re not playing a mission of perfection here. This is a brutal, large-scale land war — house to house, street to street, trench to trench. There will be things lost, he said. We’re not trying to prevent every single piece from falling into the hands of the Russians, but we want to make sure it’s not happening at a large scale.

Lawmakers, Pentagon officials and experts all note that, thus far, there are few tangible reasons for concern. Ukraine, they said, has been a proactive steward of the assistance it has received, readily reporting back about how US military aid has been put to use — a gesture officials believe is in no small part a function of Kyiv’s effort to secure more of it. There also is a sense the Ukrainians have too much existential national pride at stake to risk compromising their effort to drive out the Russians by siphoning off weapons to the black market. […]

Another reason is the law. “End-use monitoring” is governed by the Arms Export Control Act, which requires the presidential administration to provide “reasonable assurance” that recipients of military assistance are using the weapons for the purpose they were intended, and complying with any conditions set by the United States.

In most cases, that checkup happens solely at the point where weapons are transferred to Ukrainian custody. Only in special cases, usually when the weapons in question contain sensitive technology, is “enhanced” monitoring required of the recipient nation. That entails tracking serial numbers and submitting reports from the field. In Ukraine, such items include Stingers, Javelins, Avenger air defenses and night-vision devices.

The existing system is not good enough, some lawmakers argue, noting that before the war, Ukraine ranked fairly low on global corruption indexes. […]

Thus far, the Biden administration has resisted pressure to send inspectors or other military personnel too deeply into Ukraine, for fear of fomenting a wider conflict. According to US officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss operational matters, American specialists currently conduct weapons inspections unarmed — a condition that would likely be unsustainable if they were sent closer to the front lines.

The Biden administration has been adamant, officials and lawmakers who have been briefed by them say, that it will not tiptoe into a situation that risks being interpreted by the Kremlin as direct American involvement in the war. But Waltz noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin is waging a propaganda campaign accusing the United States and NATO of clandestinely operating in Ukraine to turn the population against Moscow. That’s a self-limitation on the administration’s part,” he argued. There is an acceptable risk to having people behind the front lines checking on where all this aid is going and helping the Ukrainians use it more effectively.”

New Developments 

New Russian PMC to compete with Prigozhin’s Wagner, recruit criminals – Ukraine’s intelligence

  1. Scholz: Russia unable to win the war against Ukraine, Ukrinform reports, citing Spiegel. “Given the support of Germany and other partner countries of Ukraine, it is becoming more and more obvious that Russia not only should not win this war but will not win it, the Chancellor said at the SPD party conference in Cottbus, Brandenburg. The Chancellor also reaffirmed the promise to provide financial, humanitarian and military-technical assistance to Ukraine as long as it takes“.
  2. G7 justice ministers to hold the first-ever meeting to discuss war crimes in Ukraine, Ukrinform reports, citing German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann. “Germany, this year’s chair of the Group of Seven (G7) nations, is initiating the first-ever meeting of G7 justice ministers to discuss the investigation into war crimes committed in Ukraine and the prosecution of war criminals.”
  3. Kremlin defends Russian-led security alliance after Armenia criticism, ReutersKremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Sunday said attempts to break up a Russian-led security alliance had always existed and would continue to do so, but insisted that the alliance remained in high demand following criticism this week from Armenia. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called into questionthe effectiveness of the six-nation Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) at a summit this week.”

Assessment 

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of 27 November, 2022:

The Russian military clearly assesses that Ukrainian forces could cross the Dnipro River and conduct counter-offensive operations in eastern Kherson Oblast, possibly threatening all of the critical ground lines of communications (GLOCs) from Crimea to the mainland. Russian forces have been digging trench lines and concentration areas in eastern Kherson since early October 2022 in obvious preparation for the withdrawal from the west bank of the Dnipro River and Kherson City. Russian troops are preparing either to defend in depth or to conduct operational or strategic delay operations. Russian forces clearly do not expect to be able to prevent Ukrainian forces from getting across the river, nor are the Russians prioritizing defensive positions to stop such a crossing. The Russian military is setting conditions for a protracted defense in eastern Kherson Oblast that could allow the establishment of a solid Ukrainian lodgment on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River. The assessment that follows examines the Russian defensive laydown and evaluates the expectations for the flow of operations likely guiding that laydown exclusively. This assessment makes no effort to determine whether Ukrainian forces intend to cross or are capable of crossing the Dnipro River in this region and offers no forecast about whether or not they will make any such attempt.

Russian forces are fortifying their positions along critical GLOCs in eastern Kherson Oblast against a possible future Ukrainian counteroffensive. Satellite imagery shows that Russian forces have prioritized digging trenches and erecting dragon’s teeth anti-tank defenses along GLOCs that connect Russian forces on the eastern (left) bank of the Dnipro River with southeastern rear areas in Kherson Oblast and Crimea as well as with eastern rear areas around Melitopol, Zaporizhzhia Oblast. Most of these field fortifications are situated directly on the GLOCs themselves and are primarily oriented perpendicular to the roads themselves. They are thus most like elaborate roadblocks rather than parts of cohesive defensive lines that stretch across multiple GLOCs and fields. Russian forces have also heavily fortified a 3km-wide strip of land separating the Kinburn Spit from mainland Kherson Oblast and along the beaches immediately south and east of the strip.

The Russian defensive positions suggest that the Russian military leadership views the prospect of a Ukrainian counteroffensive across the Dnipro River as a serious threat. The array of Russian fortifications on and around the Kinburn Spit (as shown in the map) suggests that Russian forces do not expect to maintain positions on the spit itself if Ukrainian forces launch a counterattack against the spit; rather, Russian forces very likely expect Ukrainian forces to take the Kinburn Spit but intend to prevent them from advancing to mainland Kherson Oblast and to defend against an amphibious attack on the land immediately surrounding the spit’s connection to mainland Kherson Oblast. The layered lines of defense (as shown in the map) provide Russian forces with multiple fallback positions if one defensive line happens to fall while the rest remain intact. Defenses near the spit suggest that Russian forces are concerned that Ukrainian forces could establish themselves on or near the spit and use that base to launch a drive from the west against their defensive positions that are otherwise generally oriented to defend against counter-offensive operations from the north.

Russian defensive positions are optimized to defend against Ukrainian forces attempting to advance along GLOCs rather than driving cross-country as Ukrainian forces have previously done. Russian forces concentrated most of their defenses at multiple locations astride critical GLOCs, establishing only a handful in the open fields between the highways. However, Ukrainian forces have previously conducted long cross-country drives in Kharkiv Oblast to capitalize on their success in breaking through Russian defensive lines near Balakliya, enabling them to more quickly advance on and surround Russian strongpoints such as Kupyansk and Izium and push Russian forces from the Siverskyi Donets River in Kharkiv Oblast to the international border in most of the oblast.

Most of the Russian field fortifications in eastern Kherson are nevertheless optimized to defend against drives along the roads and would be very vulnerable to envelopments across the open countryside.  Many of the fortifications across the roads do not extend far past the roads themselves, often just far enough to provide good fields of fire from both sides onto the road itself.  Most of these positions have open flanks terminating in the middle of fields. The flanks are often not refused (drawn back) or otherwise well-designed to deter or defend against attacks from the sides or rear. Many of these positions are not in tactical supporting distance of one another, moreover, which would make each vulnerable to Ukrainian tactical envelopments. Satellite imagery shows that Russian forces have constructed dragon’s teeth anti-tank structures around their positions immediately on the roads, but those anti-tank arrays do not extend far enough into the open fields to prevent Ukrainian tanks and other tracked vehicles from enveloping the Russian lines. 

The tactical vulnerabilities of these defensive positions are mirrored in a similar operational-level vulnerability. Russian forces would be under threat of attacks on their uncovered flanks or even complete encirclement if Ukrainian forces were able to cross the Dnipro River both in the Kherson City-Nova Kakhovka area to the north of most Russian fortifications and to initiate a substantial mechanized campaign from a base on or near the Kinburn Spit to the west of most fortifications.

Russian forces may be attempting to delay (slow down) rather than defend against (stop) a Ukrainian offensive on the east (left) bank of the Dnipro River. Russian forces would presumably delay until they can deploy more reinforcements to either stop or slow Ukrainian forces from breaking through secondary and tertiary lines of defense that protect critical GLOCs both to Crimea and to western Zaporizhzhia Oblast (as shown in the map). It is unclear if the Russian military leadership foresees a delay mission at the operational or the strategic level. An operational-level delay would require holding long enough to allow forces already in theater to move from other areas to eastern Kherson. A strategic-level delay would mean holding long enough to allow newly-mobilized units time to arrive in theater. The difference lies primarily in the Russian military’s perception of time-space relationships in this area. Russian forces would likely take many months to drive through a Ukrainian defensive array if the Ukrainians had built one like the one described in this report. If Russian forces expect Ukrainian forces to take months to break through their defenses in this region, they could reasonably expect additional mobilized forces or partially-trained conscripts to arrive in time to stop and possibly reverse the Ukrainian counter-offensive.

But Ukrainian counter-offensives have sometimes moved much more rapidly than that, once launched. If Ukrainian forces were able to penetrate several of the Russian defensive lines in Kherson Oblast in weeks rather than months, then Russian forces would have to reinforce from other parts of the theater with forces already deployed and operating there. The defensive array itself offers no insight into the Russians’ expectations in this regard.

Russian forces have likely deployed mobilized personnel to the primary lines of defense and pulled experienced, professional units to the secondary and tertiary lines of defense, a deployment pattern that could lead to more rapid Ukrainian advances. As ISW has previously reported, Russian mobilized personnel are generally poorly trained, equipped, and led, significantly increasing casualties among mobilized personnel and decreasing their willingness to fight. Such reports are so frequent and pervasive that they have divided the Russian information space and prompted swift punishment and suppression. Manning Russian frontline fortifications with these less effective, less organized, and poorly equipped and supplied personnel could lead to them collapsing or falling back faster than Russian military leadership may have planned, potentially disrupting Russian time-space relationship expectations.

The Russian effort to prepare extensive defensive positions in eastern Kherson, however well or poorly executed, highlights the critical importance this terrain holds for the future course of the war. The GLOCs that Russian forces seek to defend in Kherson Oblast include almost all remaining routes essential to maintaining military operations across southern Ukraine, including the two main highways connecting mainland southern Ukraine to Crimea. Losing even one of these GLOCs would likely strain Russian logistics supporting operations in eastern Kherson Oblast and western Zaporizhzhia Oblast and could allow Ukrainian forces to advance close enough to the remaining highway to interdict it. As ISW has previously reported, Russian forces may seek to use the Arabat Spit as a third GLOC between Crimea and southern Ukraine that Ukrainian forces could threaten by targeting one of the two bridges essential to maintaining the GLOC. The Russian failure to hold these GLOCs would force the Russians to rely entirely on the GLOC from Rostov through Mariupol and Melitopol, itself under threat of a Ukrainian counter-offensive from the north. If Ukrainian forces established themselves in eastern Kherson Oblast, they could threaten an additional counter-offensive toward Melitopol from the west, which Russian forces would likely struggle to defend against.

Elements of the Russian information space are beginning to lose faith in Russian forces’ ability to hold key areas in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast, possibly setting long-term information conditions for a Russian withdrawal from this area. Russian milbloggers have made recent claims that Ukrainian forces are preparing to retake the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) in Enerhodar. Recent Russian-language discourse on Twitter references such posts to claim that Russian milblogger channels, especially those affiliated with Wagner Group, are promulgating a narrative that Russian forces are preparing to leave the ZNPP soon. The head of the Ukrainian nuclear energy agency Energoatom stated on November 26 that Russian forces may be preparing to leave the ZNPP and that the first indication of these preparations is unspecified “Russian publications”—possibly referring to social media discourse—that suggest Russia should transfer control of the ZNPP to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Though ISW has seen no evidence of an imminent Ukrainian counteroffensive in Zaporizhzhia Oblast that could threaten Russian positions in Enerhodar or Melitopol, this discourse combined with the consistent thread of Russian milblogger, occupation officials, and state media claims of a Ukrainian force concentration along this axis to threaten Melitopol may also prepare the information space for an eventual Russian withdrawal regardless of whether such claims actually intend to do so. Frequent Russian official claims that Ukrainian forces continue to shell the ZNPP could also intentionally or unintentionally support this condition-setting.

ISW offers no forecast of future Ukrainian operations and makes no assessment of Ukrainian capabilities to conduct the counter-offensive operations discussed above. The Russian military, however, clearly regards a Ukrainian counter-offensive across the Dnipro and/or via the Kinburn Spit as possible and very dangerous. It has put considerable effort into a defensive array against such possible Ukrainian operations, but that array contains many vulnerabilities that the Ukrainians have shown they can exploit.

Key inflections in ongoing military operations on November 27:

  • The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian officials are preparing for another wave of covert mobilization starting on December 10 in the Russian Federation and in Russian-occupied territories in Ukraine.
  • Russian milbloggers widely criticized the Russian Federal Customs Service for customs delays and exclusions of dual-use goods that volunteer movements have been sending to the Russian military.
  • The Ukrainian General Staff reported that the Russian forces along the Svatove-Kreminna line are conducting defensive operations around Kupyansk and offensive operations west of Kreminna.
  • Russian sources reported that Ukrainian troops continued counteroffensive operations toward Svatove and Kreminna.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations around Avdiivka. […]
  • Russian forces conducted strikes against Dnipro City, Kryvyi Rih, and Zaporizhzhia City.

Russian occupation officials continued to forcibly transfer Ukrainian children from occupied territories in Luhansk Oblast to Russia under the guise that the children require special medical care.“

Winter will likely favour the Ukrainian military, Jack Watling, Senior Research Fellow – Land Warfare, Military Sciences, PhD History, argues. “I thought I’d outline a couple of aspects of winter fighting that are both critical and often under-appreciated. A lot of discussions have revolved around the question of mud and tanks. We’ll circle back to this but fundamentally it is not significant. The real impact of winter is on infantry, secondly on logistics, and the impact on logistics has a secondary effect on military vehicles.

To begin with infantry. Winter sees the loss of a lot of covers as trees lack foliage. That means you have to keep low. Unfortunately low also means wet and muddy. Wet means cold. There is a limited period you can be wet and cold and remain alive. Being able to dry yourself and warm up in this environment takes a lot of personal discipline. It means keeping your wet and dry kit separate. It requires you to meticulously manage your ability to transition from one to the other in field conditions.

If your dry kit gets wet you are on a fairly short timeline to becoming combat ineffective and need to get somewhere that has heat to dry yourself and your equipment. That probably means power or fire. Both of these things are scarce under field conditions. The endurance and capacity of a force to operate in the field away from shelters are therefore closely tied to their personal discipline and survival skills. It is vital that junior leaders keep a close eye on their people and when someone gets cold and wet, withdraw them.

Now, the Ukrainians spent years defending the JFO through winter. Lots of the mobilised soldiers have experienced living in these conditions for months. The Ukrainian military also has reasonable junior leadership and people look out for one another. If you look at Ukrainian fighting positions they tend to be well kept. People tend to have warm clothing and defensive lines often have areas that are kept clean, dry, and warm. Company commanders build these close to fighting positions.

Russian junior leadership has been heavily attrited. The newly mobilised personnel do not have the experience or skills to operate for extended periods in the field. They have not been issued with winter clothing for the most part. Their fighting positions are often a mess. That will in itself see the Russians take casualties from exposure. It will also reduce the pace at which they can manoeuvre and make them more dependent upon centralised nodes for soldiers to recover. These nodes can be targeted.

The Ukrainian military therefore can inflict a lot of casualties just by skirmishing to keep the Russians in their fighting positions and timing attacks to prevent unit rotation. The result will be a high rate of death through hypothermia and disease.

Shifting to logistics, most military support vehicles are wheeled and both sides are heavily dependent upon commandeered civilian transport for resupply. People exaggerate how big a problem mud is for tanks. But it is a huge problem for wheeled logistics vehicles. This means that logistics in winter is much more road-bound and this makes logistics vulnerable. It also narrows the number of axes along which resupply can move. A slow pace of resupply necessarily reduces the pace of operations.

The impact on tanks and IFVs, therefore, is not that they can’t manoeuvre but that it takes longer to resupply them, repair them, and recover them if they get in trouble. That reduces the ability to exploit breaches made in a line and so makes offensive action more costly. For the Ukrainian military, trying to rebuild combat power after its recent offensives, the aim this winter should be to use artillery, skirmishing and constant pressure to keep the Russians outdoors. The result will be bad for Russian morale, discipline and combat power.

Inflicting the maximum number of casualties through exposure also creates a need for the Russians to replace losses and this will see mobilised personnel pushed in with limited training, rather than being held as new units. That should help Ukraine keep the initiative. So, the winter may see a reduction in large-scale offensive action unless there is a collapse somewhere. That does not mean a reduction in fighting or the levels of ammunition consumption.”

  1. Consequences and what to do? 

Hans Petter Midttun: Several Heads of State and international leaders have recently stressed that the more military successes Ukraine has, the stronger its position will be in future negotiations. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, has said as much. NATO’s General Secretary, Jens Stoltenberg, was the last to make the statement.

Laying out what he described as “four core elements of consensus” in the Biden government, Sullivan recently stressed that only Ukraine could decide when and on what terms to negotiate. He added that any just peace must be based on the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity and that the US will do all it can to make sure that Ukraine will be able to negotiate from a position of strength.

The US, NATO and the EU have all failed to define the “red lines” Russia cannot cross. They have failed to respond to the Russian continuous escalation of the war, that being the energy war against Europe, its attempt to eradicate Ukrainian nationhood, its war on global food security or its destruction of the Ukrainian energy sector. They have also failed to publicly support the Ukrainian declared end-state (or define one themselves) or clarify what “support as long as it takes” means in practical terms.

It is, therefore, hardly surprising that they haven’t outlined the preconditions for future negotiations. We have, however, seen multiple statements along the line that “most wars are ended at the negotiation table”.

The West is, of course, split on this issue as well.  While most support the idea of negotiations, many believe that now is not the time to be pursuing such a course of action, given that Ukraine has the initiative and can still strengthen its position on the ground. Most recognise that Russia today would use negotiation to reinforce and resupply while rebuilding its military power for further offensives.

Some countries like Hungary, Cyprus and Italy, however, are openly in favour of talks with the Kremlin. France and Germany pushed the Minsk agreements (even though they could not possibly lead to peace) until the low-intensity war turned full-scale. Others who knows Russia better than most, like the Baltic States and Poland, question the wisdom of seeking a diplomatic solution before Russia is defeated and evicted from Ukraine altogether.

Russia never negotiates from a position of weakness. Having been repeatedly humiliated on the battlefield, Putin must either seek a diplomatic solution, dig in for a long fight, or escalate.

The Kremlin has only supported a diplomatic solution that fulfils its original demand, representing a Ukrainian defeat in all meanings of the word. Other alternatives are dismissed.

Recent escalations have already proven that Putin has chosen escalation and protracted war over diplomacy. He still believes the West to be weak and unable or unwilling to do what it takes to ensure a Russian defeat. While his strategic messaging says otherwise, he believes victory is within his reach as long as Russia is only facing Ukraine on the battlefield, the maritime blockade remains unchallenged and he is free to escalate without consequences. And not least, as long as the West talks about negotiations.

This takes us back to the question about negotiations.

Generally, negotiation is seen as a strategic discussion that involves two or more parties that resolve an issue in a way that each party finds acceptable.

That solution is presently not possible due to Russian ultimatums. The war itself is defined as both unprovoked and unjustifiable by the international community. Russia does not need security guarantees. Its neighbours – irrespective of whether they are NATO members or not – need security guarantees from Russia.

Putin’s demands – supported by Russia’s atrocities in Ukraine – cannot possibly be fulfilled without undermining Ukrainian sovereignty and independence, putting even the nation at risk.

Russia has nothing to offer but to stop aggression at the cost of oppression. Equally important, it is presently occupying Ukrainian territory in blatant violation of international law.

Furthermore, the Russian demands are nothing but blackmail. We do not succumb to extortion and we do not negotiate with a State Sponsor of Terrorism. The West cannot be seen as willing to undermine international law or shared values and principles “at any costs”. Equally important, it is not in our interest to see a country which over centuries has grown at the cost of its neighbours, continue to grow.

It is time to recognise that 8 years of negotiations led to a full-scale war because they were conducted on unequal terms. Russia negotiated from a position of strength, having demonstrated that it was willing to use all available means – including military power – to achieve its strategic aim and objectives. The West – under German and French leadership – negotiated from a position of weakness, clearly stating that military options were off the table. We lacked the will Russia and Ukraine had in abundance but failed to enable Ukraine.

All talks of future negotiations while keeping military options off the table serve one purpose – and one purpose only: It confirms the Russian perception of the West as weak, and strengthens its resolve and belief that victory is possible.

Until the US, NATO and the EU can articulate the preconditions for negotiations and put military power behind their demand, they need to stop talking about negotiations. They must start talking about a Ukrainian victory and a Russian defeat.

They need to align their strategic messaging to that of their most important partner, Ukraine.

Negotiations will not happen until the return of all of Ukraine’s occupied territories, and the talks would be about Russian compensation for damage caused by the war and the prosecution of its war crimes. More crucially, the international community should define a clear time limit, telling Russia that military intervention will happen at a given date (shortly) unless Russian forces are fully withdrawn.

Or, we could continue doing what we have been doing for nearly 9 years – negotiate from a position of weakness – and hope for different results. It is not called diplomacy. It is the definition of insanity.

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