Russo Ukrainian War. Day 284: Kremlin announces Putin’s visit to Donbas

 

Daily review

Article by: Hans Petter Midttun

European Commission proposes to criminalize the violation of EU sanctions. NATO countries in OSCE call on Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine. Kremlin announces Putin’s visit to Donbas.

Daily overview — Summary report, December 4

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 06.00 am, December 4, 2022 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. December 3, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Situation in Ukraine. December 3, 2022. Source: ISW.

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“[Russian forces concentrates its efforts on restraining the actions of units of the Defense Forces, carries out engineering equipment of defensive lines and positions. On the Avdiyivka and Bakhmut directions, the offensive continues and actively uses aviation to support ground groups.]

Over the past day, units of the Defence Forces of Ukraine repelled the attacks of the occupiers in the areas of the settlements of Ploshanka and Bilohorivka in the Luhansk oblast and Berestove, Bilohorivka, Yakovlivka, Soledar, Bakhmutske, Bakhmut, Opytne, Klishchiivka, Andriivka, Kurdyumivka, Vodiane, Pervomaiske, Vesele, Maryinka and Novomykhailivka, Donetsk oblast.

Over the past 24 hours, Russian forces launched 10 missiles and 16 airstrikes, as well as more than 30 MLRS attacks on the positions of our troops and settlements along the contact line. Objects of civilian infrastructure in Shevchenkove settlements of Kharkiv oblast and Kramatorsk in Donetsk oblast were hit by rockets.

There is still a threat of Russian forces launching missile strikes on the objects of the energy system and critical infrastructure throughout the territory of Ukraine.

In the Volyn and Polissya directions, the situation remains without significant changes, no signs of the formation of enemy offensive groups have been detected. [Certain units of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus continue to perform tasks in the areas bordering Ukraine.]

  • On the Siverskyi direction, Russian forces shelled the settlements of Sopych and Timofiivka, Sumy oblast, with mortars.
Kharkiv Battle Map. December 3, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Kharkiv Battle Map. December 3, 2022. Source: ISW.

  • In the Slobozhanskyi direction, more than ten settlements were hit by artillery fire. Among them are Odnorobivka, Strilecha, Neskuchne, Ternova, Starytsa, Ohirtseve, Chernyakiv, Chuhunivka and Dvorichna of the Kharkiv oblast.
  • Russian forces are defending in the Kupyansk and Lyman directions. Fired tanks and artillery of various calibres in the areas of Synkivka, Tabaivka, Berestove and Vyshneve in the Kharkiv oblast and Makiivka, Ploshchanka and Bilohorivka in the Luhansk oblast.
Donetsk Battle Map. December 3, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Donetsk Battle Map. December 3, 2022. Source: ISW.

  • In the Bakhmut and Avdiivka directions, the occupiers are concentrating their main efforts on conducting offensive actions, trying to improve the tactical position. In particular, the districts of Serebryanka, Bilohorivka, Verkhnyokamyanske, Yakovlivka, Soledar, Bakhmut, Kurdyumivka, Pivdenne, Avdiivka, Opytne, Vodiane, Pervomaiske, Nevelske, Krasnohorivka, Vesele, Maryinka, and Novomykhailivka were shelled by tanks, mortars, artillery and MLRS in Donetsk oblast.
  • Russian forces are defending in the Novopavlivsk direction. It subjected the areas of the settlements of Velyka Novosilka, Vuhledar, Prechystivka and Zolota Nyva of the Donetsk oblast to the fire.
  • Russian forces are on the defensive in the Zaporizhzhia direction. Artillery shelling was recorded, in particular, near Orikhiv, Zaporizhzhia oblast.
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. December 3, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. December 3, 2022. Source: ISW.

  • The occupiers are also defending in the Kherson direction. They are shelling the positions of our troops, as well as populated areas of Dnipropetrovsk and Kherson oblasts, with mortars, artillery and MLRS. The fire terror of the civilians of Kherson does not stop.

Regarding the losses of the Russian occupiers. According to detailed information, between November 28 and 30, 2022, up to 70 wounded and more than 230 dead Russian invaders were sent to hospitals in the temporarily occupied settlements of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. In addition, on December 2, another batch of wounded and dead occupiers’ bodies was brought to the Melitopol local hospital.

Looting and robbery of the local population continue in the territories temporarily occupied by enemy troops. From the local shops of Nova Kakhovka, the Russian invaders take away all goods and equipment, including freezers and cash registers. And in Novomykolaivka, Zaporizhzhia oblast, occupiers numbering up to 100 people on December 2 of this year organized a check of documents of local residents and the seizure of personal valuables and household appliances.

In addition, in the settlements of the temporarily occupied Kherson oblast, the Russian invaders force the local population to send their children to educational institutions to study according to the Russian program by threatening to deprive them of parental rights.

[Russian forces continue to suffer losses. Thus, on December 2, as a result of fire damage to the Russian forces’ concentration area in the city of Starobilsk, Luhansk oblast, Russian forces lost about 30 servicemen wounded and 14 killed.]

[During December 2, in the Melitopol and Vasyliv districts of the Zaporizhzhia oblast, the occupiers lost more than 270 people wounded. Information about the dead is being clarified.]

During the past day, the aviation of the Defense Forces made 22 strikes on the areas of concentration of personnel, weapons and military equipment, as well as 3 strikes on the positions of Russian anti-aircraft missile systems.

Ukrainian soldiers also shot down an enemy Su-25 aircraft and an Orlan-10-type unmanned aerial vehicle.

Over the past day, units of the Ukrainian missile forces and artillery hit 2 control points, an ammunition depot, 3 areas of concentration of personnel, weapons and military equipment, as well as an area of concentration of artillery means.“

Military Updates

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst. ~

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.

Joint Forces Commander: Russians are concentrating forces in Belarus, we’re getting ready to react, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “Serhii Naiev, Lieutenant General and the Commander of the Joint Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has stated that Ukrainian defenders were preparing for a due response for the accumulation of hostile troops in Belarus. 

The situation in the Northern operational zone is under control. Accumulation of the Russian-Belarusian combined force continues on the territory of Belarus. Therefore, we constantly monitor this situation and prepare our forces for a rational response.

Currently, there is no threat from Belarus. The work we are doing should increase the resilience of our defences and the rationality of our response to the growth of this threat. Naiev states that if the military threat from Belarus increases, the General Staff will provide assistance with additional forces and resources.”

Russia keeps 24 Kalibr missiles armed in the Black Sea – defence forces of Ukraine’s south, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Nataliia Humeniuk, head of the press centre of the Operational Command South. “Russian forces have now put 18 ships on combat duty; almost all of them are trying to withdraw from the base. Currently, there are four [cruise missiles carrying warships] on combat duty, two of which are [submarines]. These are 24 Kalibr-type missiles that are ready for use.”

Ukrainian authorities begin to evacuate people from the left bank of the Dnipro River in Kherson Oblast; combat actions expected to step up, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the Kherson Oblast Military Administration. “The evacuation is necessary due to the possible intensification of hostilities in this area. Therefore, the ban on moving across the waters will be lifted during the specified period, but only during daylight hours.

River crossings will be allowed at the River Port section. On other sections of the river, there will be no permission to cross on the specified dates. In case of the need for extra time to arrive at the liberated territory, citizens are requested to dock only at the River Port, as the only permitted place.

During the evacuation, it is necessary to carry the documents confirming one’s identity and confirming Ukrainian citizenship. The authorities do not specify whether there is an agreement with the occupiers in this regard, or how they will react to the evacuation.”

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1599024775355154434

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

  • Recent polling suggests that Russian public support for the ‘special military operation’ is falling significantly.
  • An independent Russian media outlet has claimed access to data collected by Russia’s Federal Protective Service for internal use. The data indicated 55 percent of Russians favour peace talks with Ukraine, with only 25 percent claiming to support continuing the conflict. These results are consistent with a separate October 2022 survey where 57 percent of respondents reported being in favour of talks. In April 2022, around 80 percent of Russians claimed to support the operation.
  • Despite the Russian authorities’ efforts to enforce pervasive control of the information environment, the conflict has become increasingly tangible for many Russians since the September 2022 ‘partial mobilisation’. With Russia unlikely to achieve major battlefield successes in the next several months, maintaining even tacit approval of the war amongst the population is likely to be increasingly difficult for the Kremlin.
  • Russian forces continue to invest a large element of their overall military effort and firepower along an approximately 15km long sector of entrenched front line around the Donetsk Oblast town of Bakhmut.
  • Russia’s plan is likely to encircle the town with tactical advances to the north and south. In recent days, Russia has highly likely made small advances on the southern axis of this assault, where it is seeking to consolidate limited bridgeheads to the west of the boggy ground around the minor Bakhmutka River.

Russia has prioritised Bakhmut as its main offensive effort since early August 2022. The capture of the town would have limited operational value although it would potentially allow Russia to threaten the larger urban areas of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk. However, the campaign has been disproportionately costly relative to these possible gains. There is a realistic possibility that Bakhmut’s capture has become primarily a symbolic, political objective for Russia.

Losses of the Russian army 

As of Sunday 4 December, 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 91150 (+550),
  • Tanks – 2922 (+5),
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 5892 (+6),
  • Artillery systems – 1908 (+2),
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 395 (+0),
  • Air defence means – 210 (+0),
  • Aircraft – 281 (+1),
  • Helicopters – 263 (+o),
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 4479 (+7),
  • Vessels/boats – 16 (+0),
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 1573 (+1),
  • Special equipment – 163 (+0),
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0),
  • Cruise missiles – 531 (+0)

Russian enemy suffered the greatest losses (of the last day) in the Bakhmut and Lyman directions.

Humanitarian 

Russia had a secret plan to wipe Ukraine off the face of the Earth. This report tells why it failed

Over 11.5M Ukrainians forcibly deported since Russian invasion started – Internal Affairs Ministry, Ukrinform reports. “Over 11.5 million Ukrainians have been forcibly deported by Russia since the full-scale invasion started. The relevant statement was made by Ukrainian Internal Affairs Deputy Minister Kateryna Pavlichenko.

Amid the full-scale invasion, full-scale war, and the humanitarian crisis we are facing now, the problem of human trafficking is taking on a new urgency. […] Today we are facing new challenges: the humanitarian crisis, the movement of millions of Ukrainians abroad in search of a calmer, safer place, and the forced relocation, deportation of Ukrainians, namely children, to Russia, Belarus and the temporarily occupied areas, Pavlichenko noted.

Kyiv schools adapt to survive under Russian bombardment, Reuters reports. “Despite the missile strikes and power cuts that have become a regular occurrence in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv’s 190,000 remaining school children are still expected to attend classes, whether online or in person. If there is no light, it’s sometimes hard to see when you are writing, said Yulia, 13, sitting in the front row of an English lesson with around a dozen classmates in a western suburb of the city.

Though her school, like most buildings in Ukraine’s embattled capital, experiences regular electricity cuts caused by Russian missile barrages on the power grid since October, city officials insist pupils will at least be able to finish the current semester, which ends on Dec. 23. We really need to hold on for these three weeks, Oleksiy Kurpas, an adviser to the deputy head of Kyiv’s city administration, told Reuters in one of the airy yet warm corridors of the Soviet-era school.

Kurpas expressed hope that the school year would run until the summer, but the wider situation is bleak: nearly half of Ukraine’s power grid has been wrecked and Kyiv has said it expects further attacks.

The official said that about 85% of Kyiv’s pre-war school staff remained in the city, compared with 60% of pupils. The other students have moved to safer regions or abroad. As a result, schools have been working in a hybrid mode both in person and online since the start of the academic year.

Online classes are attended by many students still in Kyiv, as there is still a city-wide shortfall of 35,000 places in school bomb shelters where students and staff must take refuge during air raid sirens. […]

The school’s head teacher, Olena Roman, said staff were sometimes unable to set homework if the power suddenly went down, and pupils learning remotely often struggled during power cuts in their homes. Kyiv’s mobile coverage drops significantly during outages, as base stations are forced to use backup batteries with limited power reserves.

Kurpas acknowledged this was a problem and said his own child had been affected by it but added that all possible measures, such as passing on the material through several messaging apps at once, were being taken to minimise the impact on learning.

Despite the city’s precarious situation, Roman remained confident that the school would keep teaching. We will continue working, without question … we have a generator, it will allow us to work in any situation, and that is what we will do, she said.

Kyiv’s private schools, many of which opened in the years preceding the invasion, have been able to use their greater financial resources to prepare extensively for the disruptions. A small private school in north Kyiv has even established a heated and powered “hub” for parents who want to find refuge from cold, dark homes. […]

Millions of refugees from Ukraine have crossed borders into neighbouring countries, and many more have been forced to move inside the country. The escalation of conflict in Ukraine has caused civilian casualties and destruction of civilian infrastructure, forcing people to flee their homes seeking safety, protection and assistance the UNHCR reports. As of 29 November:

Individual refugees from Ukraine recorded across Europe: 7,891,977
Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Slovakia 2,363,697
Other European countries 2,658,676
Russian Federation, Belarus 2,869,604
Refugees from Ukraine registered for Temporary Protection or similar national protection schemes in Europe: 4,776,606
Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Slovakia 2,357,342
Other European countries 2,419,264
Border crossings from Ukraine (since 24 February 2022): 15,835,332
Border crossings to Ukraine (since 28 February 2022): 8,125,775

Environment

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1599118166143094784

Russia awaiting a response on Zaporizhzhia nuclear safety zone, talks ongoing – RIA, Reuters reports. “Russia has outlined its position on the creation of a safety zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and is now awaiting a response, Russia’s RIA news agency reported on Friday citing the head of state-run nuclear energy agency Rosatom.

Our representative at the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, is actively working, we all understand, but now the decision is not on the Russian side, not in Moscow, Rosatom CEO Alexei Likhachev was quoted by RIA as saying.”

Russia is ready to abandon Zaporizhzhia NPP in exchange for transit of oil and gas through Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Meduza. “A source close to the Kremlin and an interlocutor close to the Russian government, claims that the Russian Federation is ready to quit Zaporizhzhia NPP, but does not plan to completely leave Zaporizhzhia Oblast. Meduza reports that the Kremlin plans to hand over the NPP either to the Ukrainian authorities or to the IAEA.

As the sources state, in exchange for the withdrawal of troops from the NPP, the Russian authorities expect to receive guarantees of uninterrupted transit of oil and gas through the territory of Ukraine. The interlocutors claim that both the Kremlin and the government “are ready for an agreement,” since “pumping and selling oil and gas is very important for the Russian budget.”

In a comment to Meduza, Dmitry Peskov, the Press Secretary of the President of the Russian Federation, rejected the possibility of such an agreement.”

Legal 

European Commission Proposes to Criminalise the Violation of EU Sanctions, European Pravda reports. “The European Commission has put forward a proposal for the harmonisation of criminal offences and penalties for violations of EU restrictive measures.

“While the Russian aggression on Ukraine is ongoing, it is paramount that EU restrictive measures are fully implemented and the violation of those measures does not pay off. The Commission proposal sets out common EU rules, which will make it easier to investigate, prosecute and punish violations of restrictive measures in all Member States alike,” the EC statement reads.”

443 children were killed, 852 children injured, 12,572 deported by foe forces, and 330 reported missing – the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine reports as of December 4. 2,719 educational establishments are damaged as a result of shelling and bombings, 332 of them are destroyed fully. 51,161 crimes of aggression and war crimes and 18,585 crimes against national security were registered.

Support 

Germany to send seven additional Gepard tanks to Ukraine, Reuters reports. “Germany is preparing to deliver seven Gepard tanks to Ukraine, adding to the 30 air-defence tanks that are already being used to fight against the Russian army, according to a German government website.

According to Spiegel magazine, which first reported the number of additional tanks, the seven Gepards, which were initially destined for the scrap pile, should arrive in Ukraine in Spring 2023 and are currently being repaired by Munich-based arms manufacturer Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW).”

Bulgaria to send nine Boeing aircraft with weapons to Ukraine – media, Ukrinform reports. “According to Ukraine’s Ambassador to Bulgaria, Vitalii Moskalenko, the list is “long and serious” and it includes artillery guns, means of defence, shells and ammunition.

According to the report, Bulgaria cannot transfer S-300 missile systems because it needs them to protect strategic sites in the country. The Bulgarian parliament voted on November 3 to approve the supply of weapons to Ukraine amid Russian aggression.”

New Developments 

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  1. S. defence secretary accuses Russia of ‘deliberate cruelty’ in Ukraine, Reuters reports. “US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Saturday accused Russia of deliberate cruelty in its war in Ukraine, saying Moscow was intentionally targeting civilians. With deliberate cruelty, Russia is putting civilians and civilian targets in its gunsights, Austin told the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California. Russian attacks have left children dead, schools shattered, and hospitals smashed, he said.”
  2. NATO countries in OSCE calls on Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine, Ukrinform reports, citing a joint statement. “NATO member states, as well as the NATO Invitees Finland and Sweden, in a joint statement called on Russia to stop its aggression against Ukraine and “fully and unconditionally” pull back its troops from Ukrainian territory. “We call on Russia to immediately stop its war of choice and fully and unconditionally withdraw from Ukraine,” the statement reads.
  3. Macron says new security architecture should give guarantees for Russia, ReutersThe West should consider how to address Russia’s need for security guarantees if President Vladimir Putin agrees to negotiations about ending the war in Ukraine, French President Emmanuel Macron said in remarks broadcast on Saturday. This means that one of the essential points we must address – as President Putin has always said – is the fear that NATO comes right up to its doors, and the deployment of weapons that could threaten Russia, Macron said. […] Macron’s remarks suggested he was sympathetic to Moscow’s need for security guarantees – a demand that was the focus of intense but failed diplomacy in the run-up to the war.
  4. Servant of the People party leader names conditions for negotiations on security guarantees for Russia, Ukrainska PravdaDavyd Arakhamiia, Head of the Servant of the People (Sluha Narodu) parliamentary faction and former head of the negotiating group with the Russian Federation, has put forward conditions for possible negotiations on the security guarantees for Russia that French President Emmanuel Macron mentioned on Saturday. Ukraine is prepared to ensure security guarantees for Russia. All Russia has to do is leave the territory of our country; pay reparations; punish all war criminals; voluntarily give up nuclear weapons. After that, we are prepared to sit down at the negotiating table and talk about security guarantees.”
  5. Putin takes war to a new level of ‘barbarism,’ US diplomat says, ReutersPresident Putin is not sincere about peace talks with Ukraine while he is taking the war to a new level of “barbarism” by trying to turn off the lights of civilians, [US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland] said on Saturday. Diplomacy is obviously everyone’s objective but you have to have a willing partner, she told reporters. And it’s very clear, whether it’s the energy attacks, whether it’s the rhetoric out of the Kremlin and the general attitude, that Putin is not sincere or ready for that.

US President Joe Biden said on Thursday he was prepared to speak to Putin if the Russian leader was interested in ending the war. But the idea died quickly when the Kremlin said the West must recognize Moscow’s declared annexation of four Ukrainian regions.”

  1. Russia’s Putin tells Germany’s Scholz that Western line on Ukraine is ‘destructive’ – Kremlin, ReutersRussian President Vladimir Putin told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in a phone call on Friday that the German and Western line on Ukraine was “destructive” and urged Berlin to rethink its approach, the Kremlin said. […] Attention was drawn to the destructive line of Western states, including Germany, which are pumping the Kyiv regime with weapons and training the Ukrainian military, the Kremlin said. All this, as well as comprehensive political and financial support for Ukraine, leads to the fact that Kyiv completely rejects the idea of ​​any negotiations.”
  2. President Lukashenko at a meeting with Sergei Shoigu threatens war until the last “either Ukrainian or Pole”, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Belarusian state agency BelTA. “If they want to fight to either the last Ukrainian, or the last Pole, or the last mercenary, well, this is their right to do so. However, neither I nor our special services see that they are ready for full-fledged negotiations and any reasonable agreement. In our view, they want to continue the war. Well, then the special operation will not stop, [Alexander Lukashenko said]
  3. The US says it remains ready to meet with Russia over nuclear treaty talks, ReutersThe United States remains ready to meet Russia for talks over a nuclear treaty despite Moscow having accused Washington of toxic anti-Russian behavior that it cited to pull out of the negotiations earlier this week, the State Department said. Russia withdrew from the New START nuclear treaty talkswith US officials in Cairo this week. As the last surviving arms pact of its kind between the world’s two biggest nuclear powers, New START limits the number of atomic warheads that each side can deploy and has symbolic as well as practical significance.”
  4. Kremlin announces Putin’s visit to Donbas, Ukrainska PravdaDmitry Peskov, the Press Secretary for the President of the Russian Federation, has reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to visit the occupied territories of Ukraine soon“.

  1. Russia criticizes the introduction of a price cap for Russian oil, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the Embassy of Russia in the United States. “The Russian Embassy in the United States has claimed that agreeing on a “price cap” for the supply of Russian oil means redrawing the basic principles of the functioning of free markets.”
  2. Russia says it won’t accept the oil price cap and is preparing a response, ReutersRussia “will not accept” a price cap on its oil and is analysing how to respond, the Kremlin said in comments reported on Saturday, in response to a deal by Western powers aimed at limiting a key source of funding for its war in Ukraine. […] Russia has repeatedly said it will not supply oil to countries that implement the cap – a stance reaffirmed by Mikhail Ulyanov, Moscow’s ambassador to international organisations in Vienna, in posts on social media on Saturday.”

Assessment 

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of  December 3, 2022:

Eastern Ukraine: (Eastern Kharkiv Oblast-Western Luhansk Oblast)

Russian forces continued to defend their positions against Ukrainian counter-offensive operations in the directions of Kreminna and Svatove on December 3. Ukrainian sources reported that Russian forces are conducting defensive operations amidst fierce battles near Kreminna and Svatove. Luhansk Oblast Head Serhiy Haidai stated that Russian forces are also building a second line of defense near Starobilsk (55km southeast of Svatove). […] A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces have reached Chervonopopivka (6km north of Kreminna) and that Russian forces no longer control part of the P-66 highway north of Kreminna. The Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces are increasing the pace of their counteroffensive operations in eastern Kharkiv and western Luhansk oblasts. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled a Russian assault near Chervonopopivka, further indicating that Ukrainian forces have likely made advances in the area. A prominent Russian milblogger’s map posted on December 3 similarly shows Chervonopopivka outside of the Russian area of control. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces continued routine indirect fire along the line of contact in eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian forces continued to strike Russian force concentration areas and logistics nodes in Luhansk Oblast. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces struck a Russian force concentration on December 2 in the vicinity of Starobilsk, killing 14 Russian personnel and wounding 30. Russian sources claimed on December 3 that Ukrainian forces struck Khoroshe, Starobilsk, Svatove, and Novochervone in Luhansk Oblast with HIMARS rockets.

Ukrainian forces reportedly reached the east (left) bank of the Dnipro River across from Kherson City. The Ukrainian “Carlson” volunteer special air intelligence unit posted footage on December 3 of Ukrainian servicemen traversing the Dnipro River in boats, reaching a wooden marina-like structure on the east bank, and raising a Ukrainian flag on a tower near the shore. Special Unit “Carlson” reported that this is the first instance of a Ukrainian flag flying over the east bank of the Dnipro River and emphasized this operation will provide a springboard for subsequent Ukrainian operations on the east bank. If confirmed, this limited Ukrainian incursion onto the east bank could open avenues for Ukrainian forces to begin to operate on the east bank. As ISW has previously reported, observed Russian fortifications on the left bank indicate Russian forces are anticipating Ukrainian offensive actions on the east bank and have been constructing defensive lines south of the Dnipro River. The establishment of positions along the eastern riverbank will likely set conditions for future Ukrainian offensive operations into occupied Kherson Oblast if Ukrainian troops choose to pursue this line of advance in the south.

French President Emmanuel Macron amplified Russian information operations about the West’s need to discuss Russian “security guarantees” in a televised interview on December 3. Macron stated that the West should consider how to address Russian security guarantees if President Vladimir Putin agrees to negotiations about ending the war in Ukraine: “That topic will be part of the topics for peace, so we need to prepare what we are ready to do, how we protect our allies and member states, and how to give guarantees to Russia the day it returns to the negotiating table.” ISW has extensively documented how the Kremlin demanded “security guarantees” and declared  “lines” as part of the ultimatum it presented the US and NATO before launching the February 2022 invasion. Russia’s demanded security guarantees entail partially dismantling NATO by returning NATO to its 1997 borders and grants Russia a veto on future NATO expansion by demanding NATO suspend its “Open Door” policy. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov referred to these precise demands on December 1, as ISW previously reported. The Russian demand for supposed “security guarantees” is part of a larger Russian information operation that portrays NATO as having provoked the 2022 Russian invasion by threatening Russia. The security guarantees that Ukraine, NATO, and the rest of Europe would accept from Russia following the Kremlin’s unprovoked and brutal war of conquest against Ukraine might be a more appropriate topic of conversation for Western leaders considering negotiations with Moscow.

Amplification from ISW Friday 2 December assessment:

Russia is attempting to capitalize on the Western desire for negotiations to create a dynamic in which Western officials feel pressed to make preemptive concessions to lure Russia to the negotiating table. Russian President Vladimir Putin held an hour-long telephone conversation with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on December 2 in which Putin falsely stated that Western financial and military aid to Ukraine creates a situation in which the Ukrainian government outright rejects talks between Moscow and Kyiv and called upon Scholz to reconsider Germany’s approach regarding developments in Ukraine. Scholz stated that any diplomatic solution to the conflict in Ukraine must include the withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukrainian territory. The Putin-Scholz call corresponded with a diplomatic overture from US President Joe Biden on December 1 in which Biden stated that he is prepared to speak with Putin if the Russian president is looking for a way to end the war, although Biden acknowledged that he has no immediate plans to do so.

Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov responded to Biden’s comments on December 2 stating that Biden seems to be demanding the removal of Russian forces from Ukraine as a precondition for negotiations and said that the “special military operation” would continue. Peskov added that America’s reluctance to recognize Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukrainian territories significantly complicates the search for common ground in possible negotiations.

Putin’s and Peskov’s statements regarding negotiations follow Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s December 1 comments in the context of a meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) repeating precisely the same demand the Kremlin had made of the US and NATO before the February 24 invasion. Lavrov said that Russian officials will be ready to talk with Western officials if the West shows its willingness to discuss the documents Russian officials proposed in December of 2021. The Russian Foreign Ministry published a draft of its “security guarantees” demands of the US and NATO on December 17, 2021, which called for an expansive list of concessions on NATO and Western military actions in Europe, including, as ISW noted at the time, “a moratorium on NATO expansion, a revocation of the 2008 NATO Bucharest Summit Declaration that Ukraine and Georgia are eligible to become NATO members, a moratorium on establishing military bases on the territory of former Soviet and current non-NATO states, not deploying strike weapons near Russia, and rolling back NATO to its 1997 posture when the Russia­–NATO Founding Act was signed.” The Russian Foreign Ministry had issued a statement on February 17 threatening to take “military-technical measures” in response to the refusals by the US and NATO to negotiate on this basis—those military technical measures were the “special military operation” that began a week later.

ISW has previously assessed that Vladimir Putin’s rhetoric indicates that he is not interested in negotiating seriously with Ukraine and retains maximalist objectives for the war. It is likely that Putin, Lavrov, and Peskov made these statements regarding negotiations to create a perception among Western officials that Russia needs to be lured to negotiate. The Kremlin likely intends to create a dynamic in which Western officials offer Russia preemptive concessions in hopes of convincing Russia to enter negotiations without requiring significant preliminary concessions of Russia in return. Putin’s, Lavrov’s, and Peskov’s statements highlight what some of those desired preemptive concessions may be: decreased Western financial and military aid to Ukraine, recognition of Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukrainian territory, and restrictions on NATO and Western military actions in Europe. The Kremlin has also kept its language about the subject of negotiations vague, likely in order to convince Western officials to begin negotiation processes without a clear definition of whether negotiations are in pursuit of a ceasefire, a peace process, or a final peace agreement.

Russia would benefit from a temporary agreement with Ukraine and Western countries that creates a pause in hostilities that allows Russia to strengthen the Russian Armed Forces for future military operations in pursuit of maximalist goals in Ukraine. Putin has shown little interest in such a ceasefire, however, and the Kremlin continues to make demands that are tantamount to full Western surrender, suggesting that Putin remains focused on pursuing military victory.

Western leaders rebuffed the Kremlin’s efforts and reaffirmed their support for Ukraine. Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron in a joint press conference on December 1 reiterated their commitment to support Ukraine in its war against Russia. Biden’s and Macron’s joint show of support for Ukraine and Scholz’s insistence on the complete withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine indicate that France, Germany, and the US are not prepared to offer Russia significant preemptive concessions at this time. Biden added that “the idea that Putin is ever going to defeat Ukraine is beyond comprehension.”

Russia may be trying to use its coordinated missile-strike campaign against Ukrainian infrastructure and the associated humanitarian situation in Ukraine to add pressure on Western officials to offer preemptive concessions. Putin falsely stated in his call with Scholz that Russia has been left with no choice but to conduct missile strikes on targets in Ukrainian territory. Russia may be relying on causing undue human suffering, possibly to generate another wave of refugees, to pressure Western officials to offer preemptive concessions because the Russian military has been unable to achieve strategic success.

 

Independent Russian polling data indicates that Russian citizens still support Russia’s military operations in Ukraine despite growing war weariness over the past six months. Independent Russian polling organization Levada Center found that 74 percent of Russians support Russian forces’ actions in the war in Ukraine in a November poll published on December 2. The poll found that 42 percent of respondents “strongly support” and 32 percent “somewhat support” Russian forces’ actions in Ukraine. The poll also found that only 41 percent of respondents favored Russia continuing military operations in Ukraine, however, whereas 53 percent said that Russia should begin peace negotiations. Levada Center polling between July and November 2022 shows small but consistent erosion in support for the war among Russians. Levada Center findings are similar to a reported internal Kremlin-commissioned poll from November that found that 55 percent of Russians favor peace talks with Ukraine and only 25 percent favor continuing the war.

Both polls indicate that a shrinking but still significant portion of Russian citizens support—and are even enthusiastic about—continuing the war in Ukraine despite Russian military failures. Russian morale and political support for the war will likely further degrade with time if current trends hold. The longer the war continues to produce Russian casualties while Ukrainian forces gain ground the more the socio-political dynamics will likely continue to turn against the Kremlin. An operational pause under the guise of peace negotiations could alleviate growing political pressure on the Kremlin and allow Russia to reconstitute its forces for subsequent renewed offensive operations. 

Conditions in eastern Ukraine are reportedly becoming more conducive for a higher pace of operations as winter sets in. A Russian milblogger claimed on December 3 that the ground has frozen along the Kreminna-Svatove line and that he expects that Ukrainian forces will likely increase the pace of their counteroffensive operations in the area as a result. Luhansk Oblast Head Serhiy Haidai also stated on December 2 that weather is finally changing on the Kreminna-Svatove line and that he expects that Ukrainian forces will soon be able to improve their counter-offensive maneuver operations as mud in the area fully freezes. ISW has previously assessed that the overall pace of operations is likely to increase in the coming weeks as consistent cold weather allows the ground to freeze throughout the theater, especially in eastern Ukraine where operations on both sides have been bogged down by heavy mud. Neither Russians nor Ukrainians will likely suspend offensive operations in one of the most optimal times of year for mechanized maneuver warfare in this region.

The Russian and Belarusian Ministers of Defense met in Minsk likely to further strengthen bilateral security ties between Russia and Belarus. Russian Minister of Defense Army General Sergei Shoigu met with Belarusian Minister of Defense Major General Viktor Khrenin and signed amendments to the Agreement on the Joint Provision of Regional Security in the Military Sphere. Shoigu also met with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko during which Lukashenko stated that Belarusian and Russian forces continue to train together on Belarusian territory so that the “Union State [can] repel any aggression. Shoigu likely met with Khrenin and Lukashenko in an attempt to place pressure on Belarus to further support Russia’s offensive campaign in Ukraine. ISW has previously assessed that Belarus is highly unlikely to enter the war in Ukraine due to domestic factors that constrain Lukashenko’s willingness to do so.

Iranian Armed Forces General Staff Chief Major General Mohammad Bagheri reportedly met with Russian Deputy Defense Minister Colonel General Alexander Fomin in Tehran on December 3. The two discussed unspecified military cooperation, according to official readouts from Iranian state media. They may have discussed the sale of Iranian drones and missiles to Russia for use in Ukraine. Bagheri is Iran’s chief of defense and is responsible for military policy and strategic guidance. The meeting has not been reported in Russian media as of this writing.

Key Takeaways

  • Ukrainian forces reportedly reached the east (left) bank of the Dnipro River across from Kherson City.
  • French President Emmanuel Macron amplified Russian information operations about the need for NATO to consider “security guarantees” to be given to Russia during putative negotiations in a televised interview on December 3.
  • Conditions in eastern Ukraine are likely becoming more conducive to a higher pace of operations as winter sets in.
  • The Russian and Belarusian Ministers of Defense met in Minsk likely to further strengthen bilateral security ties between Russia and Belarus.
  • Ukrainian forces likely continue to advance northwest of Kreminna.
  • Russian forces continued ground attacks around Bakhmut, in the Avdiivka-Donetsk City area, and in western Donetsk and eastern Zaporizhzhia oblasts.
  • Russian authorities reportedly evacuated Russian collaborators from Oleshky.
  • The Russian National Guard’s (Rosgvardia) Organizational and Staff Department confirmed that mobilization continues despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement of the formal end of partial mobilization on October 31.

Russian authorities are continuing to use judicial measures to consolidate administrative control of occupied territories.

The US expects reduced tempo in Ukraine fighting to continue for months, Reuters reports. “US intelligence expects the reduced tempo in fighting in Ukraine to continue in the next several months and sees no evidence of a reduced Ukrainian will to resist, despite attacks on its power grid and other critical winter infrastructure, the Director of National Intelligence said on Saturday. We’re seeing a kind of a reduced tempo already of the conflict … and we expect that’s likely to be what we see in the coming months, Avril Haines told the annual Reagan National Defense Forum in California.

She said both the Ukrainian and Russian militaries would be looking to try to refit and resupply to prepare for a counter-offensive after the winter, but there was a question as to what that would look like, and added: We actually have a fair amount of skepticism as to whether or not the Russians will be in fact prepared to do that. I think more optimistically for the Ukrainians in that timeframe.

Asked about the effects of Russian attacks on Ukraine’s power grid and other civilian infrastructure, Haines said Moscow’s aim was partly to undermine the will of Ukrainians to resist and added: I think we’re not seeing any evidence of that being undermined right now at this point. She said Russia was also looking to affect Ukraine’s capacity to prosecute conflict and added that Kyiv’s economy had been suffering very badly.

It can over time, obviously, have an impact. How much of an impact will be dependent on how much they go after, what they’re capable of doing, the resilience of that critical infrastructure, our capacity to help them defend it. Ukraine’s economy is suffering very badly. It’s been devastating, and … obviously taking down the grid will have an impact on that as well.

Haines said she thought Russian President Vladimir Putin had been surprised that his military had not accomplished more. I do think he is becoming more informed of the challenges that the military faces in Russia. But it’s still not clear to us that he has a full picture at this stage of just how challenged they are … we see shortages of ammunition, for morale, supply issues, logistics, a whole series of concerns that they’re facing.”

Haines said Putin’s political objectives in Ukraine did not appear to have changed, but US intelligence analysts thought he may be willing to scale back his near-term military objectives on a temporary basis with the idea that he might then come back at this issue at a later time.

She said Russia appeared to be using up its military stockpiles “quite quickly.” It’s really pretty extraordinary, and our own sense is that they are not capable of indigenously producing what they are expending at this stage, she said. That’s why you see them going to other countries effectively to try to get ammunition … and we’ve indicated that their precision munitions are running out much faster in many respects.

Haines said the United States had seen some movement in supplies of munitions from North Korea, but it’s not been a lot at this stage. She said Iran had supplied Russia with drones and Moscow was looking for other types of precision munitions from Tehran, something that would be very concerning in terms of their capacity.

 

  1. Consequences and what to do? 

The US sees little prospect for Ukraine talks with Putin after Biden offer, The New York Times reports. “The Kremlin reaffirmed a stance that both Washington and Kyiv find unacceptable, and US officials said Mr. Biden’s position had not changed. A day after President Biden said he would be willing to talk with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia about a possible peace agreement in Ukraine, the Kremlin offered a frosty response, and prospects for settling the brutal conflict remained as distant as ever.

Mr. Biden said on Thursday that he would hold his first conversation with Mr. Putin since before Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 if the Russian leader was “looking for a way to end the war.” But US officials said that Russia, as they have previously assessed, was not prepared to negotiate in good faith, and Russian officials repeated hard-line demands that are unacceptable to Kyiv.

Although Mr. Biden’s remark was taken by some as a new emphasis on moving toward peace talks with Russia, John F. Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, told reporters that Mr. Biden’s position had not changed. […]. He’s got no intentions to talk to Mr. Putin right now. As he also said, Putin has shown absolutely no inclination to be interested in dialogue of any kind. In fact, quite the contrary. Everything he’s doing shows that Mr. Putin is interested in continuing this illegal, unprovoked war.

In Moscow, Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, said at a news conference on Friday that Mr. Putin remained open to contacts and negotiations and that diplomacy was the preferable way to achieve Russia’s goals. But Mr. Peskov noted that the United States still does not recognize new territories as part of Russia […] saying that “this makes more complicated the search for common ground for mutual discussions.”

In fact, the Russian position essentially rules out serious negotiations with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, who said in a mid-November interview with Bloomberg News that the war could not end until Ukraine had reclaimed all its territory from Russia, including the purportedly annexed regions as well as the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014.

The Russians have made it very clear that, of course, they are not in the mood for constructive dialogue and for constructive diplomacy, the State Department spokesman, Ned Price, said at a press briefing. Any conversation between Mr. Biden and Mr. Putin is nothing more than a hypothetical at this time, he added.

We have been very clear that the United States and countries around the world will never — never, never, never — recognize territory that Russia has illegally annexed, either in 2014 or more recently, as part of its illegal and now brutal aggression against Ukraine, Mr. Price added. […]

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who served as NATO secretary general from 2009 to 2014, said this week during a visit to Washington that he had spoken with Biden administration officials and saw no sign that they were pressuring Ukraine’s government to begin negotiating with Russia. It was an idea that was just floated, but it has been immediately shut down, Mr. Rasmussen said. It would really weaken the Western front if we tried to push Zelensky into premature peace negotiations, because that would be a trap. Putin is not sincere when it comes to peace negotiations, Mr. Rasmussen added.

Ukrainian officials have said the same, warning that Russia could try to pause the fighting for talks — but only to use that time to prepare for new military offensives. […]

On Friday, Italy’s foreign minister, Antonio Tajani, said that Russian attacks on civilian infrastructure targets like power grids were making any kind of dialogue impossible. We all want peace, but it must come through Kyiv’s independence, not through its surrender, Mr. Tajani said. The responsibility for this situation is only Russian. […]

White House officials said they were not surprised by Russia’s reaction to Mr. Biden’s comments. Few on the president’s national security team expected anything different from Mr. Putin, given Russia’s behavior in the past several weeks, which has included strikes on infrastructure targets that have deprived major cities including Kyiv of heat, light and running water.

“This brutalization of Ukraine’s people is barbaric,” Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said at a NATO meeting in Romania on Wednesday. […]

Aides say the president continues to believe that negotiations will be necessary. But they also say he does not believe that direct talks with Mr. Putin will be possible unless the facts on the ground change. In his remarks on Thursday, Mr. Biden was careful to show deference to Ukraine and the NATO allies, saying he would talk to Mr. Putin only after consulting with them first.

In part, the message was intended to be a show of support for diplomacy by his counterparts. Mr. Macron has stressed the importance of maintaining dialogue with the Russian leader, if only to avoid dangerous escalation or miscalculation. He called Mr. Putin in August and is expected to meet with him in a few days. Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, spoke to the Russian president on Friday morning.

Kremlin readout of the call with Mr. Scholz blamed the West for the absence of talks, saying that the Western approach of pumping the Kyiv regime with weapons and providing it with financial and political support leads Kyiv to reject any idea of negotiations.

But there are other audiences to consider as well. Some leaders are anxious about the economic impacts of a war that has driven up food and energy prices worldwide. And in the United States, some Republican and progressive Democratic lawmakers have expressed frustration that the Biden administration, which has provided nearly $20 billion in military aid to Kyiv since the Russian invasion, appears to be writing “blank checks” without describing an end game for the conflict.

White House officials said the president’s comment about being willing to meet with Mr. Putin under certain circumstances was not directly aimed at those groups. But the remark nonetheless signals that the Biden administration has not foreclosed the possibility of diplomacy, even though Mr. Biden has not spoken to Mr. Putin since mid-February. Mr. Blinken has spoken to his counterpart, Sergey V. Lavrov, only once since mid-January […].

Speaking a day before Mr. Biden’s comments, Mr. Rasmussen, the former NATO chief, said he did not believe that Ukraine would accept a peace deal that allowed Russia to occupy any part of its territory. I can conclude quite confidently that as long as you will see Russian troops on Ukrainian soil, you will have a conflict, he said. “The only off-ramp for Putin is, get out of Ukraine.”

Ukraine war shows Europe too reliant on US, Finland PM says, Reuters reports. “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shown that Europe is too reliant on the United States for its own security, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on Friday. Speaking at a think tank in Sydney, Australia, Marin advocated boosting Europe’s defence capabilities, including arms production.

I must be brutally honest with you, Europe isn’t strong enough right now. We would be in trouble without the United States, Marin told an audience at the Lowy Institute. She added she had spoken with many US politicians who had said they think Europe should be stronger.

The United States has given a lot of weapons, a lot of financial aid, a lot of humanitarian aid to Ukraine and Europe isn’t strong enough yet, Marin said. We have to make sure that we are building those capabilities when it comes to European defence, European defence industry.”

Ukraine’s Ministry of Economy worsens forecast of Ukrainian GDP decline due to Russian missile strikes on energy system, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Interfax-Ukraine and Yuliia Svyrydenko, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy of Ukraine. “It is obvious that the macroeconomic forecast should be changed, or rather adjusted. At the beginning of the year, we assumed that the economic decline would be at the level of 32-33%. Then, the economy showed very high adaptive abilities.

However, due to the attack on the energy system that took place in November, some companies, of course, suspended their activities. This indicates that we, as the Ministry of Economy, have somewhat worsened our prospects and, unfortunately, have returned to our previous forecast: by the end of the year the GDP decline may reach 32-33%, even 33.5%, Svyrydenko said. […]

After 9 months of war in Ukraine, Oxford Economics expects that Ukraine’s GDP will fall by 31% in 2022, and will shrink by another 2-2.5% next year due to extreme economic challenges.”

Hans Petter Midttun: Today’s assessment will be published as a separate article. A teaser:

The West should consider how to address Russia’s need for security guarantees if President Vladimir Putin agrees to negotiations about ending the war in Ukraine, French President Emmanuel Macron said in remarks broadcast on Saturday.”

President Macron’s remarks suggest that he was sympathetic to Russia’s claim of the need for security guarantees.

This understanding is crucial because France is one of the nations that fronted the diplomatic initiative that succeeded in transforming a low-intensity war into a full-scale invasion and war. Not necessarily intentionally, but most definitely cynically, arrogantly, and spinelessly.

President Macron represents the part of NATO that does not understand Russia and – more importantly – does not take advice from those who do. Unfortunately, he is not the only Head of State at fault.

The reality is that Russia does not need security guarantees. Europe needs security guarantees from Russia.

Russia does not need security guarantees because from a military perspective, is one of the safest countries on earth. The fact that it claims otherwise, does not make it true. We know from experience that the Russian truths way too often are lies.

The notion that NATO is the problem is absurd. NATO didn’t invade Georgia; NATO didn’t invade Ukraine. NATO didn’t start a Hybrid War in Europe. NATO didn’t trigger the biggest refugee crisis since World War 2. NATO didn’t infringe on independent countries’ right to choose governance, security arrangements or alliances. NATO didn’t weaponize global food supplies. Russia did.

President Macron’s support of President Putin’s demands for security guarantees is, consequently, equally absurd.”

The article will of course explain why and why we cannot engage in negotiations from a position of weakness.

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