Russo Ukrainian War. Day 288: Zelenskyy is TIME’s 2022 Person of the Year

 

Daily review

Article by: Hans Petter Midttun

Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the spirit of Ukraine become TIME’s 2022 Person of the Year. Russian authorities claim the fire at the airfield in Kursk is caused by a drone attack. Ukrainian Defence Intelligence Chief: Russia still has a stockpile of missiles for several large-scale attacks.

Daily overview — Summary report, December 8

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 06.00 am, December 8, 2022 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. December 7, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Situation in Ukraine. December 7, 2022. Source: ISW.

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“{During the day, residential buildings and other civilian objects in the city of Korosten, Zhytomyr oblast, and a number of settlements in Zaporizhzhia oblast were damaged by enemy rocket attacks and unmanned aerial vehicles. In addition, residential quarters of the city of Kurakhove, Donetsk oblast, were shelled by MLRS.]

Over the past day, the units of the Defense Forces repelled the attacks of the Russian invaders in the areas of settlements of Ternova, Kharkiv oblast; Stelmakhivka, Ploshchanka, Chervonpopivka and Bilohorivka in the Luhansk oblast and Bilohorivka, Berestove, Yakovlivka, Bakhmutske, Bakhmut, Opytne, Kurdyumivka, Mayorsk, Maryinka and Novomykhailivka in the Donetsk oblast.

Over the past day, the enemy launched 7 missiles, 16 airstrikes and more than 40 MLRS attacks.

The threat of Russian missile attacks on the objects of the energy system and critical infrastructure throughout the territory of Ukraine remains in the future.

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. [Training of enemy units continues on the training grounds of the Republic of Belarus.]

  • In the Siversky direction, the enemy carried out artillery and mortar attacks on the settlements of Khrinivka and Hremyach in the Chernihiv oblast and Novovasylivka, Ulytsia, Chernatske, and Seredyna Buda in the Sumy oblast.
Kharkiv Battle Map. December 7, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Kharkiv Battle Map. December 7, 2022. Source: ISW.

  • In the Slobozhanskyi direction, the areas of Udy, Veterynarne, Starytsa, Ohirtseve, Vovchanski Khutory, Ambarne, Bolohivka, Dvorichna, and Kamyanka of the Kharkiv oblast were shelled by tanks and artillery.
  • The enemy is defending in the Kupyansk direction. Shelled the areas of Kupyansk, Synkivka, Kyslivka, Kotlyarivka, Tabaivka, Krokhmalne, Berestove and Pershotravneve settlements in the Kharkiv oblast and Stelmakhivka and Andriivka in the Luhansk oblast.
  • In the Lymans direction, enemy fire damage was recorded in Hrekivka, Makiivka and Ploshanka districts of Luhansk oblast and Terniv, Dibrova and Hryhorivka districts in Donetsk oblast.
Donetsk Battle Map. December 7, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Donetsk Battle Map. December 7, 2022. Source: ISW.

  • In the Bakhmut and Avdiivka directions, the enemy does not stop trying to go on the offensive. The settlements of Verkhnokamianske, Spirne, Bilohorivka, Soledar, Bakhmutske, Bakhmut, Klishchiivka, Kurdyumivka, Druzhba, Zalizne, Pervomaiske, Nevelske, Krasnohorivka, Maryinka and Novomykhailivka of the Donetsk oblast were shelled by tanks, mortars, artillery and MLRS.
  • The enemy is on the defensive in the Novopavlivsk and Zaporizhzhia directions. It carried out artillery and mortar shelling of the Vuhledar, Bohoyavlenka, Prechystivka and Zolota Nyva districts in Donetsk oblast.
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. December 7, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. December 7, 2022. Source: ISW.

  • In the Kherson direction, the enemy is conducting defensive operations, strengthening the grouping of troops. More than 15 settlements near the contact line were hit by artillery. Among them are Zolota Balka, Kachkarivka, Lvove, Tokarivka, Inzhenerne, Antonivka, Dniprovske of the Kherson oblast. The island of Bilohrudy and the cities of Kherson and Mykolaiv also came under fire.

According to available information, in the temporarily occupied city of Yasynuvata of the Donetsk oblast, during the transportation of one of the units of the occupying forces to combat positions, about 20 people with weapons escaped from among the previously imprisoned people. As a result of the search operation, three fugitives were killed. Activities are ongoing. As they say, fight your own so that others are afraid.

The Russian occupiers plan to mobilize local residents in the temporarily occupied territory of the Zaporizhzhia region in order to replenish current losses. In particular, in the city of Melitopol, Zaporizhzhia region, summonses were issued to men of conscription age with the requirement to come to the military commissariat in the near future.

During the past day, the Air Force of the Defense Forces made 17 strikes on the areas of concentration of personnel, weapons and military equipment, as well as 2 strikes on the positions of the enemy’s anti-aircraft missile systems.

At the same time, our soldiers shot down the “Shahed-136” type UAV and the “Orlan” reconnaissance drone.

Over the past 24 hours, missile and artillery units of the Defense Forces of Ukraine have hit 6 control points, 5 personnel concentration areas, an artillery position and 2 enemy ammunition depots.“

Military Updates

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst. ~

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.

Cold weather not affecting the operation of kamikaze drones – Ihnat, Ukrinform reports, citing Yurii Ihnat, spokesman for the Ukrainian Air Force Command. “Russian forces resumed attacks using Shahed-136/131 kamikaze drones for the first time in three weeks. We see that they were used last night, and the frost does not affect their operation. We must be ready for these challenges too, he said.”

Fire at the airfield in Kursk, Russia, authorities claim it is a drone attack, Ukrainska Pravda reported Tuesday, citing Roman Starovoyt, Governor of Kursk Oblast in Russia. “An oil storage tank caught fire near the Kursk airfield as a result of a drone attack. There were no casualties. The fire is being contained. All special services are working at the scene.

The fire was extinguished Wednesday. The fire was assigned fire severity level 3. Over 200 people fought the fire for more than a day.”

Not only Kursk: Drones attack Slava plant in Bryansk Oblast – Russian media, Ukrainska Pravda reported Tuesday. “On the morning of 6 December, Russian media outlets reported that last night UAVs attacked the Slava plant in Bryansk Oblast in Russia. A fire broke out as a result.”

Russians are panicking, begin to fortify Kursk Oblast with ‘dragon’s teeth’ and ditches, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Roman Starovoyt, Governor of Kursk Oblast. “In Kursk Oblast of Russia, which borders Ukraine, defence structures are being built: concrete pyramidal anti-tank structures, known as “dragon’s teeth”, are being installed in the fields.”

National Guards of Ukraine manage to shoot down a cruise missile from light machine guns and assault rifles, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the press service of the National Guard of Ukraine. A rare incident occurred in daylight, as the missile flew at a low altitude. A mobile fire group of the guards of the 27th Pechersk Brigade shot down the Kh-101 missile from light machine guns and assault rifles, preventing it from targeting its goal.”

Belarusian authorities check system of response to terrorist acts: military on roads of general use, traffic restricted, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Belta. “According to Belarusian Security Council, the national system of response to terrorist acts is being tested in the country on 7-8 December. The authorities report that the movement of military equipment and personnel is planned at this timespan. In addition, a restriction on the movement of citizens and transport in particular roads and areas of general use is implemented.”

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1600556046451642368

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

  • Elements of Russia’s 1st Guards Tank Army (1 GTA) are likely deployed along the defensive line near the Luhansk Oblast town of Svatove.
  • The supposedly elite 1 GTA took heavy casualties earlier in the war, including during the retreat from Kharkiv Oblast in September 2022. It has now likely been partially reinforced with mobilised reservists, although remaining well below its authorised strength of over 25,000 personnel.
  • Russia has now completed almost continuous trench systems along the 60km between Svatove and the Russian border. Despite the length of these works, however, the depth of the defences remains unclear. The effectiveness of 1 GTA and other formations’ defensive operations will largely depend upon the extent of mutually supporting, fall-back positions
  • Russia has recently started extending defensive positions along its international border with Ukraine, and deep inside its Belgorod region. On 6 December 2022, the governor of Belgorod announced he was establishing local ‘self-defence units’. Trench digging has been reported in Belgorod since at least April 2022, but the new constructions are probably more elaborate systems, designed to rebuff mechanised assault.
  • There is a realistic possibility that the Russian authorities are promoting defensive preparations within internationally recognised Russian territory to burnish patriotic feeling. However, it probably illustrates some Russia decision-makers’ genuine (but false) belief that there is a credible threat of invasion by Ukrainian forces.
  • Paucity in strategic assessment is one of the critical weaknesses in the central Russian government architecture: as highlighted by Russia’s original decision to invade Ukraine. Impartial official analysis is almost certainly frequently undermined by a tendency toward group-think and politically expedient conclusions.

Losses of the Russian army 

As of Thursday 8 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 93080 (+340),
  • Tanks – 2937 (+2),
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 5911 (+2),
  • Artillery systems – 1925 (+2),
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 395 (+0),
  • Air defence means – 211 (+0),
  • Aircraft – 281 (+0),
  • Helicopters – 264 (+0),
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 4528 (+2),
  • Vessels/boats – 16 (+0),
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 1603 (+2),
  • Special equipment – 164 (+1),
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0),
  • Cruise missiles – 592 (+0)

Putin claims 150,000 Russian conscripts have already been sent to Ukraine, additional recruitment “makes no sense”, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing RIA Novosti. “As for possible conscription, and rumours about it. Look, out of 300,000 draftees, 150,000 are in the area of the special military operation [as Russia calls the war against Ukraine – ed.]. Thus, half of them have been deployed. Out of these 150,000, 75,000 are directly in combat units. Others are on the second or third lines, operating as territorial defence troops, or undergoing additional training.”

According to Putin, the remaining 150,000 draftees are still at training grounds and defence training centres, where they undergo additional training. Taking into account these circumstances, the talks about any additional conscription measures do not make any sense and there is no need [for these measures – ed.] for the state and the Ministry of Defence at this time.”

The US has not seen the transfer of Iranian ballistic missiles to Russia-Kirby, Reuters reports. “The United States has not seen evidence that Iran has transferred ballistic missiles to Russia for use against Ukraine, the White House said on Wednesday. John Kirby, the spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, told reporters the United States has seen the continued provision of Iranian drones to Russia.

We know that their defence industrial base is being taxed, Kirby said of Russia. We know they’re having trouble keeping up with that pace. We know that he’s (Russian President Vladimir Putin’s) having trouble replenishing specifically precision-guided munitions.”

Ukrainian Defence Intelligence Chief: Russia still has a stockpile of missiles for several large-scale attacks, Ukrainska Pravda reported Tuesday, citing Kyrylo Budanov, Head of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine (DIU). “In fact, the reserves of high-precision weapons in the Russian Federation are already running low. They have long since reached a critical minimum. However, as we can see, they have decided to go all the way, that is, reach zero. Which, in principle, is very bad for the Russian Federation itself. The military there knows about this problem.

Production of new missiles – they have it. It is absolutely minuscule compared to the amount they use. If we talk about specific numbers and volumes, recently the Minister of Defence [of Ukraine, Oleksii Reznikov] made this information public…

In reality, they still have [missiles] for a few large-scale attacks, and they will reach the bottom of the barrel.”

Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 288: Zelenskyy is TIME’s 2022 Person of the Year ~~

Humanitarian 

333 children are considered missing in Ukraine, Ukrinform reports. “333 children are considered missing in Ukraine since the beginning of the full-scale war with Russia.

The Children of War children’s search portal data as of December 7, 2022: 333 children – missing, 13,112 – deported, 8,017 – found, the Ombudsman’s Office posted on Facebook.”

Kyiv mayor says ‘apocalypse’ scenario possible this winter, but urges no panic, Reuters reports. “Kyiv’s mayor warned on Wednesday of an “apocalypse” scenario for the Ukrainian capital this winter if Russian air strikes on infrastructure continue but said there was no need for residents to evacuate now, though they should be ready to do so. Kyiv might lose power, water, and heat supply. […]

The picture is bleak: the capital lacks enough heated shelters to take in all 3.6 million residents in the event of complete outages and people should be ready to evacuate if the situation worsens, Klitschko said.

He sketched out one possible scenario in which the city could be left without central heating until spring at a time when temperatures can fall as low as -15 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit). If electricity supply continues to be absent while outside temperatures remain low, we will, unfortunately, be forced to drain water from buildings, he said. Otherwise, the water can freeze and break the entire water supply network, and buildings will then be totally unfit for further use.

Klitschko urged residents to prepare emergency supplies of food and water, as well as to have clothes and documents ready for a quick departure if the heating supply is turned off. However, he said there was presently no need to evacuate as the city only had a 20% power deficit and conditions remained stable.”

Russians fired more than 1,000 times at the Ukrainian power grid – Interfax, Reuters reports. “Volodymyr Kudrytsky, chief executive of the Ukrenergo grid operator, also told a meeting arranged by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) that his officials were scouring the world for the complex equipment needed for repairs. Eight recent waves of Russian air strikes on critical infrastructure have seriously damaged the grid and led to emergency and planned outages across the country.

“These attacks represent the biggest blow to a power grid that humanity has ever seen. More than 1,000 shells and rockets were fired at electrical facilities and lines, including substations,” Interfax Ukraine cited Kudrytsky as saying.

Ukraine now has a serious shortage of generating capacity, even though consumption is down between 25% and 30% compared to the pre-war period.”

Russia’s latest attack made Ukraine’s energy system deteriorate to the previous week’s level, Ukrainska Pravda reported Tuesday. “The latest large-scale missile attack by Russian forces on the energy infrastructure of Ukraine has returned the energy system to the same level of destruction as a week before. The emergency power shutdowns continue to be implemented in Kyiv. This is reported by Serhii Kovalenko, CEO of the power supply company Yasno.

We still have emergency power shutdowns. Kyiv had about 62-67% capacity from a typical consumption level today. In fact, the last attack has returned us to the previous week’s levels. But I hope that we will be back to stabilisation schedules very soon, he posted.

Environment

More than 1,000 cultural sites in Ukraine destroyed – minister, Ukrinform reports, citing Ukraine’s Minister of Culture and Information Policy, Oleksandr Tkachenko. “Over a thousand sites of the cultural sphere. This figure includes all the infrastructure. These are mostly libraries and clubs, as you understand, but among them, there is an extremely large number of cultural heritage sites that are either damaged or completely destroyed. We face an extremely big challenge as to what to do, Tkachenko said.”

Legal 

Human rights defender says over 50,000 children have been deported from Ukraine by Russia, Ukrinform reports. “Over 50,000 children have been forcibly deported from Ukraine. The relevant statement was made by Institute of Strategic Research and Security Director, human rights defender and lawyer Pavlo Lysianskyi when presenting an analytical report on the forcible deportation of children from the temporarily occupied areas to Russia.

According to our estimates, over 50,000 children have been forcibly deported now. Our data are different [compared to other estimates – Ed.], because we tried to consider the number of families, where the occupiers deprived people of their parental rights, Lysianskyi told.”

Russian forces killed hundreds of civilians early in Ukraine war -UN report, Reuters reports. “Russian forces killed at least 441 civilians in the early days of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, the United Nations human rights office said on Wednesday, documenting attacks in dozens of towns and summary executions that it said might be war crimes.

The actual number of victims in the Kyiv, Chernihiv and Sumy regions was likely to be much higher, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said in a report looking into the invasion’s start on Feb. 24 until early April, when Russian forces withdrew from the three areas.

The acts in question were committed by Russian armed forces in control of these areas and led to the deaths of 441 civilians (341 men, 72 women, 20 boys and 8 girls), the report said. There are strong indications that the summary executions documented in the report constitute the war crime of wilful killing, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said in a statement.

Through the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU), OHCHR gathered evidence from 102 towns and villages. […] The scope of the new report was limited to the Russian-controlled areas during the first days of fighting because of “the prevalence of allegations of killings of civilians in these three regions”, and OHCHR’s ability to verify and document deaths there after Russian forces pulled out.

A U.N. commission concluded in October that Russian forces were responsible for the vast majority of rights violations in the early days of the war. Many of the bodies documented in the new report bore signs that the victims might have been intentionally killed, the report found. As of the end of October, OHCHR was still trying to corroborate an additional 198 alleged killings of civilians in the three regions at the time.”

Russian invaders start to take away property in the south of Ukraine of those who evacuated, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the National Resistance Center. “Russian forces is practising a scheme to declare the property they want to extort as “unowned”. Lists of objects are constantly updated on the website of the so-called regional military administration of the occupiers. The Centre noted that the list includes property and vehicles owned by citizens of Ukraine, as well as municipal and state property.

Russian occupiers have started to form lists of properties in occupied Mariupol, the owners of which have left the city due to the occupation. The Russian invaders mark all this property as “ownerless” and add it to the special register. If the occupiers do not identify the owners of the property within a year, it shall become municipal property.”

Support 

Kuleba Calls on Berlin To Lift Ban on Leopard 2 for Ukraine, European Pravda reported Tuesday. “Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba has called on Germany to demonstrate leadership and hand over Leopard 2 tanks, Patriot systems, and Marder BMPs to Ukraine. […]

The German side has already demonstrated leadership in the supply of IRIS-T anti-missile defence systems and other important weapons. We also count on the German leadership to hand over Patriot, Leopard 2, and Marder BMPs. Any taboos cannot exist in matters of helping Ukraine with weapons to protect all of Europe from Russian armed aggression, Kuleba said.”

US ‘doesn’t object’ to Germany giving Leopard-2 tanks to Ukraine, NV.ua reports. “Washington has made it clear to Berlin that it is not opposed to the transfer of Leopard-2 battle tanks to the Armed Forces of Ukraine, which Kyiv has regularly requested, German newspaper FAZ reported on Dec. 7.

According to two well-informed sources of the publication, US President Joe Biden’s national security advisor Jake Sullivan has already told Germany his position on this issue. Back in October, in a telephone conversation with Jens Plötner, Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s foreign policy advisor, Sullivan stated that the United States would welcome the transfer of Leopard-2 tanks to Ukraine, the German newspaper said. […]

According to experts, there are strong arguments in favour of first supplying Ukraine with the Leopard-2 tanks, since they are also used by the Polish army, so maintenance of the equipment is easier to establish due to the proximity of the two countries.”

Poland will place German Patriot missiles on its territory, Reuters reports. “Poland is preparing to deploy the German Patriot air defence system on its territory after Berlin refused to place this system in Ukraine, Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said on Twitter.

Germany last month offered Poland the Patriot system to help secure its airspace after a stray missile crashed and killed two people in Poland. Polish Defence Minister later asked Germany to send the fire units to Ukraine instead.”

Hungary vetoes EU aid for Ukraine, bloc delays decision on funds for Budapest, Reuters reported Tuesday. “Hungary vetoed an 18 billion euro ($19 bln) loan to Ukraine from the European Union on Tuesday as its row with the bloc over undermining democracy rumbled on and the other 26 member states delayed a decision on releasing billions of aid to Budapest.

At an EU economics and finance ministers’ meeting in Brussels, Hungarian minister Mihaly Varga confirmed his government’s opposition to a loan for Ukraine financed by joint EU borrowing. Budapest has said it would provide bilateral help to Kyiv.”

Turkish company ready to supply electricity to Ukraine with floating power plants, Ukrinform reports, citing Turkey’s Anadolu news agency. “Turkey’s Karpowership is planning to supply electricity to Ukraine via Moldova and Romania by placing its floating power plants there.

We are negotiating a capacity of about 300-400 megawatts. Power ships can start the supply of electricity within a month after technical, commercial and safety details are finalized, Karpowership Managing Director Zeynep Harezi told. Initially, power ships were supposed to have been located near Odesa. But, as there are no safety guarantees, a decision was made to consider electricity supplies via third countries.”

New Developments 

  1. Putin claims seizure of Azov territories “significant result” of war for Russia, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing RIA Novosti. “Of course, it appears to be a long process, but the new territories are a significant result for Russia; the Sea of Azov has become an inland sea. Even Peter the Great fought for access to the Sea of Azov; and most importantly, the people who live there are now with us, and there are millions of them. This is the most important result [of the special operation – ed.]. At the same time, Putin has acknowledged that there is a war, although Russian propaganda calls it a special military operation“.
  2. S. Senate Committee approves resolution recognizing Russian actions in Ukraine as genocide, Ukrinform reports. “The United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations has endorsed a resolution recognizing Russian actions in Ukraine as a genocide. The relevant statement was made on the Committee’s website on Wednesday. This resolution condemns the active genocide against the Ukrainian people, calls on the US government to work with our allies to prevent future acts of genocide, and supports investigations to bring these terrible crimes to justice.”
  3. Putin claims Russia fights for its national interests using “peaceful means”, Ukrainska PravdaRussian dictator Vladimir Putin has said that his country would fight for its national interests by “peaceful means”, but if it failed, it would do so by all available means“.
  4. Pope compares Russia’s war against Ukraine to Nazi ‘Operation Reinhardt’, Ukrinform reports, citing ANSA. “Pope Francis has compared Russia’s war against Ukraine to “Operation Reinhardt,” the extermination plan carried out by the Nazis against Polish Jews during World War II.”
  5. Putin on the nuclear threat: We are not crazy, but Russia’s strategy is counter-strike, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing RIA Novosti. “Regarding the threat of nuclear war. This threat is growing, and there is no point in denying it. As for the fact that Russia will not use it [nuclear weapons – ed.] first under any circumstances, if it [Russian – ed.] does not use it first under any circumstances, it follows that it will not be the second to use it either, because the options for using [nuclear weapons] in the event of a nuclear strike on our territory are very limited, [President Putin, said]. Putin said that Russia considers nuclear weapons as a means of defence and that its strategy is built around a “counter-strike”: if Russia is attacked, it strikes back.”
  6. European Commission proposes the ninth package of sanctions against Russia, UkrinformThe European Commission has proposed the ninth package of sanctions against Russia. President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said this in a statement. First, we are proposing to add almost 200 additional individuals and entities to our sanctions list […]. [It] also proposes introducing sanctions against three additional Russian banks, including a full transaction ban on the Russian Regional Development Bank. In addition, the [Commission] is imposing new export controls and restrictions, particularly for dual-use goods. Also, [it] prepared measures to cut Russia’s access to all sorts of drones and unmanned aerial vehicles. The ninth package envisages taking four additional Russian channels off the air and all other distribution platforms. [The Commission] also proposes further economic measures against the Russian energy and mining sector, including a ban on new mining investments in Russia.
  7. Russian Foreign Ministry apparently ready to talk about security guarantees for Russia, Ukrainska Pravda reported Tuesday, citing RIA Novosti, quoting Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs. “If and when we hear that the West truly has [any] interest in it, we will return to the topic. But, just as with the dialogue regarding strategic stability that was unilaterally terminated by the US, we are not chasing anyone and we are not asking about anything. People should draw their own conclusions based on what is happening. And when they confirm that they are ready for more reasonable and balanced dialogue, then we will not hold things up…
  8. Kremlin again talks about “goals of special operation”, but wants “long-lasting peace“, Ukrainska Pravda reported Tuesday. “We do not see the prospect of negotiations with Ukraine now, to resolve the situation, the goals of the Russian special operation must be achieved… The fact that the result of what is happening should be an equitable and long-lasting peace: we can agree with this. As for the prospects of negotiations, we do not see them now, [Dmitry Peskov, Press Secretary of the President of the Russian Federation, said].”
  9. Ukraine’s MFA Confirms 31 Cases of Threats To Ukrainian Diplomats in 15 Countries, European PravdaThe Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Dmytro Kuleba, said that Ukrainian diplomats still receive threats. It has been 31 cases in 15 countries. […] We have already had 31 cases in 15 countries in total: Austria (1), Vatican (1), Denmark (1), Spain (5), Italy (4), Kazakhstan (1), the Netherlands (1), Poland (6), Portugal (2), Romania (2), USA (1), Hungary (2), France (1), Croatia (1), Czech Republic (2), Kuleba wrote.”
  10. West presses U.N. chief to inspect drones used by Russia in Ukraine, ReutersThe United Nations is examining “available information” about accusations that Iran supplied Russia with drones, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, as he faces Western pressure to send experts to Ukraine to inspect downed drones. […] Britain, France, Germany, the United States and Ukraine say the supply of Iranian-made drones to Russia violates a 2015 U.N. Security Council resolution enshrining the Iran nuclear deal.”

Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the spirit of Ukraine become TIME’s 2022 Person of the Year.

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1600475209303310336

Assessment 

https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-december-7*

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of  December 7, 2022:

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

Russian forces are likely increasing the pace of their counterattacks in eastern Kharkiv and western Luhansk Oblast. Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Serhiy Cherevaty stated on December 7 that Russian forces are preparing a counteroffensive operation in western Luhansk Oblast, part of which would include operations in the direction of Kupyansk. Cherevaty stated that Ukrainian forces are actively countering Russian counterattacks in the Svatove area as well as elsewhere. A Russian milblogger claimed on December 6 that Russian forces conducted counterattacks along the entire line of the Svatove-Kreminna front. […] Russian forces may be preparing for an increased pace of spoiling counterattacks in eastern Kharkiv and western Luhansk Oblast in order to preempt Ukrainian forces from increasing the pace of their eastern counteroffensive as conditions become more conducive for mechanized maneuver warfare in eastern Ukraine due to the winter.

Russian forces continued to defend their positions in the direction of Svatove amidst Russian claims of continued Ukrainian counteroffensive operations on December 7. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces are defending in the direction of Kupyansk. A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces continued limited attempts to break through in certain areas of the front in eastern Ukraine using small groups of forces. The Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces are preparing to attack Russian positions along the Lyman-Peryshi-Synkivka line. A Georgia-based open-source intelligence organization forecasted that Ukrainian forces are likely planning to surround Svatove and not assault it head-on. ISW does not make assessments about specific future Ukrainian operations.

Russian forces conducted limited counterattacks as Ukrainian forces reportedly continued counteroffensive operations in the Kreminna area on December 7. The Ukrainian General staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled a Russian assault on Bilohorivka (12 km south of Kreminna). A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces attacked Ukrainian positions in the direction of Chervonopopivka (6km north of Kreminna) and that Ukrainian forces withdrew from strongholds southwest of Ploshchanka (17km northwest of Kreminna). Another Russian milblogger claimed that elements of the Russian 144th Guards Motorized Rifle Division of the 20th Guards Combined Arms Army are slowly advancing in the vicinity of Kreminna. A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted assaults within 21km northwest of Kreminna near Ploshchanka and Chervonopopivka as well as along the Makiivka-Ploshchanka highway. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces continued routine indirect fire along the line of contact in eastern Kharkiv and western Luhansk oblasts.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is setting conditions for a protracted war of conquest in Ukraine. During a meeting with the Russian Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights (HRC), Putin remarked that the “special operation” in Ukraine can be a “lengthy process” and that the acquisition of new territory is a significant result of this process for Russia. Putin compared himself favorably with Russian Tsar Peter the Great by noting that Russia now controls the Sea of Azov, which Peter the Great also fought for. This invocation of Russian imperial history explicitly frames Putin’s current goals in Ukraine as overtly imperialistic and still maximalist. Putin is conditioning Russian domestic audiences to expect a protracted, grinding war in Ukraine that continues to seek the conquest of additional Ukrainian territory.

The Russian information space responded positively to Putin’s assertions and set further conditions for the protraction of the war, with one milblogger comparing Ukraine to Syria and noting that Russian forces did not start meaningfully experiencing victories on the battlefield until years into the operation. ISW has previously observed that the Kremlin has been setting information conditions for the protraction of the war in Ukraine since the summer following Russian forces’ dismal failures to secure and retain their primary objectives This informational conditioning is fundamentally incompatible with any discussions regarding a ceasefire or negotiations. Putin seems unwilling to risk losing domestic momentum by halting his offensive operations even briefly, let alone to pursue an off-ramp short of his full objectives, which, as he is making increasingly clear, appear to include the reconstitution of the Russian Empire in some form.

Putin notably is using the Russian HRC as a means to consolidate political power in a way that is fundamentally incompatible with basic principles of international human rights law. As ISW previously reported, Putin changed the composition of the HRC on November 17, removing Russian human rights activists who were critical of Kremlin censorship and installing political and proxy officials as well as a prominent Russian military correspondent. The use of a domestic human rights body to advocate and set conditions for the perpetuation of a genocidal war in Ukraine undermines statements made by the Kremlin on Russia’s purported commitment to human rights.  Putin’s comment accusing the West of using human rights to violate state sovereignty undermines a central premise of the international effort to protect human rights.

Putin reiterated Russia’s formal position on the use of nuclear weapons in a statement to the Russian HRC on December 7 with no noteworthy changes. Putin claimed that the threat of nuclear war is growing, but that Russia will not be the first to employ nuclear weapons. Putin added, however, that if Russia is not the first to initiate the first use of nuclear weapons, it will also not be the second to do so, because the “possibility of using [a nuclear weapon] in the event of a nuclear strike on [Russian] territory is very limited.” Putin reiterated that Russian nuclear doctrine is premised on self-defense and stated that any Russian nuclear use would be retaliatory. Putin also emphasized that Russia is not “crazy” and is acutely aware of the power of nuclear weapons but will not “brandish” them. Putin’s statements support ISW’s previous assessment that while Russian officials may engage in forms of nuclear saber-rattling as part of an information operation meant to undermine Western support for Ukraine, Russian officials have no intention of actually using them on the battlefield.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg stated that the Russian military seeks an operational pause in winter 2022-2023 to regain the initiative and conduct a counteroffensive in spring 2023, partially supporting ISW’s prior assessment. Stoltenberg told the Financial Times on December 7 that Russia seeks to “freeze” the fighting in Ukraine “at least for a short period of time so they can regroup, repair, recover… [a]nd then try to launch a bigger offensive next spring.” Stoltenberg‘s statement supports ISW’s assessment that an operational pause would favor Russia by depriving Ukraine of the initiative. An operational pause this winter would likely prematurely culminate Ukraine’s counter-offensive operations, increase the likelihood that Ukraine loses the initiative, and grant degraded Russian forces a valuable three-to-four-month reprieve to reconstitute and prepare to fight on better footing.

Putin continues to seem unwilling to pursue such a cessation of fighting, however. The Russian military is continuing offensive operations around Bakhmut and is—so far—denying itself the operational pause that would be consistent with best military practice. Putin’s current fixation with continuing offensive operations around Bakhmut and elsewhere is contributing to Ukraine’s ability to maintain the military initiative in other parts of the theater. Ukraine’s continued operational successes depend on Ukrainian forces’ ability to continue successive operations through the winter of 2022-2023 without interruption.

Russian forces used Iranian-made drones to strike Ukrainian cities for the first time in three weeks, likely as a result of Russian forces having modified the drones for colder weather. Ukrainian Air Force Command Spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat stated on December 7 that Russian forces resumed the use of Iranian-made loitering munitions after a three-week break and suggested that Russian forces had faced complications using the drones due to icing issues in colder weather. Ukrainian Southern Command Spokesperson Natalia Humenyuk stated on December 7 that Russian forces resumed the use of the Iranian-made drones intending to exhaust Ukrainian air defenses in various areas of activity and open areas of the front in Ukraine. Russian and Ukrainian sources reported that Russian forces deployed Shahed-136 drones in attacks on Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Poltava, Zhytomyr, and Zaporizhzhia Oblasts. Russian forces have likely modified the drones to operate in colder weather conditions and will likely increase their use in Ukraine in the coming weeks in support of their campaign against Ukrainian critical infrastructure. ISW has previously reported that Russian forces are increasingly reliant on Iranian-made weapon systems due to the depletion of the Russian military’s high-precision weapons arsenal.

Russian efforts to pressure Belarus into joining the war in Ukraine may be causing internal friction in the Belarusian military. The Ukrainian General Staff reported on December 7 that soldiers of the Belarusian border service and the Belarusian Armed forces are growing increasingly dissatisfied with the activities of the Belarusian military-political leadership due to the threat of Belarus entering the war in Ukraine.  ISW has previously assessed that Russian Defense Minister Army General Shoigu met with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Belarusian Defense Minister Major General Viktor Khrenin on December 3 to place further pressure on Belarus to support Russia‘s offensive campaign in Ukraine. ISW has also previously reported that Belarusian officials, including Lukashenko and Khrenin, have used rhetoric to support an ongoing Russian information operation aimed at fixing Ukrainian forces on the Belarusian-Ukrainian border with the threat of Belarus entering the war. Russian pressure and the participation of Belarusian officials in the ongoing Russian information operation may be causing unease among Belarusian military personnel. ISW continues to assess that Belarus is highly unlikely to enter the war in Ukraine due to domestic factors that constrain Lukashenko’s willingness to do so.

Key Takeaways

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin is setting conditions for a protracted war of conquest in Ukraine.
  • Putin is using Russia’s Human Rights Council to consolidate power while rejecting principles of international human rights law.
  • NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg made comments supporting ISW’s previous assessments that an operational pause in the winter of 2022-2023 would favor Russia.
  • Russian forces used Shahed-136 drones in Ukraine for the first time in three weeks.
  • Russian efforts to pressure Belarus into joining the war in Ukraine may be causing friction in the Belarusian military.
  • Russian forces are likely increasing the pace of their counterattacks in eastern Kharkiv and western Luhansk Oblast.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations in the Bakhmut and Avdiivka-Donetsk City areas.
  • Russian forces continued defensive operations and the reorientation of their forces in eastern Kherson Oblast.
  • Independent Russian media sources indicated that mobilization efforts will continue despite statements from Russian officials to the contrary.

Russian occupation authorities are likely transforming Mariupol, Donetsk Oblast, into a rear military and logistics base for Russian forces.“

Ukraine strikes more boldly, seeing little room for Russia to escalate, The New York Times reports. “Flame and dense smoke billowed over a Russian airfield on Tuesday after what appeared to be a third drone strike in two days by Ukraine at a military base on Russian soil, signalling a bolder phase of Ukrainian attacks enabled by longer-range weapons and unconstrained by fear of reprisal. After nine months of Russian bombardment of their towns and cities, Ukrainians cheered the taste of payback and the demonstration that their side could now reach deep into Russia, theoretically capable of hitting Moscow if it chose. The assaults also showed millions of Russians for the first time that they, too, might be vulnerable.

Ukraine’s new long-range striking ability came into focus on Monday with attacks on air bases some 300 miles from the nearest Ukrainian territory, demonstrating the ability to evade Russian air defenses and hit with precision. Both the Russian government and a senior Ukrainian official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to convey sensitive information, said they were carried out by Ukraine using drones.

If Russia assesses the incidents were deliberate attacks, it will probably consider them as some of the most strategically significant failures of force protection since its invasion of Ukraine,” Britain’s defense ministry said in an intelligence assessment released on Tuesday. On Tuesday, an explosion ignited fuel tanks near an air base in the Kursk region of southwestern Russia, about 80 miles from Ukraine. Russian officials said it was another drone attack but did not explicitly blame Ukraine.

The subject remains sensitive enough for Ukraine’s government to assiduously avoid any public acknowledgment of responsibility for the strikes. But there is a widespread sense among officials and civilians that, short of nuclear escalation, there is little more Russia can do to Ukraine in retaliation that it is not already doing, with its waves of strikes on the country’s energy grid and other infrastructure. […]

Western analysts agreed that there was little risk of escalation by Moscow. Russia has already escalated, said Robin Niblett, former director of Chatham House, the London research institution, “by destroying Ukrainian infrastructure to try to change the strategic context of the war, force Ukraine to the negotiating table and warn Europeans that it becomes more expensive day by day to rebuild Ukraine.”

Kyiv has sought since early in the war to take the fighting to Russia. Within a month of the invasion in February, the Ukrainian military staged a helicopter assault on fuel depots in Russia, prompting the first Russian air raid alarm since World War II. Explosions at ammunition warehouses, railroad bridges, fuel depots and military bases inside Russia and Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine followed. But those attacks were launched at fairly close range, no more than a few dozen miles.

In October, the Ukrainian state weapons manufacturer, Ukroboronprom, said it was finalizing development of a drone with a range of more than 600 miles and a 165-pound warhead. And on Sunday — a day before two distant Russian bases were hit — the company said it had completed testing of the new weapon. […]

Though the attacks this week do not appear to have diminished Russia’s military capacity significantly, Ukraine’s determination to strike inside Russia could pose a challenge for the Western allies, which are determined not to be drawn into a shooting war with Russia.

We have neither encouraged nor enabled the Ukrainians to strike inside of Russia, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said at a news conference on Tuesday. […] The United States and other NATO countries have consistently declined to provide Kyiv with Western weapons that could reach targets far into Moscow’s territory, like the ATACMS missile, which has a range of up to 190 miles, with much higher speed and more explosive power than a drone. The allies have also been unwilling to provide Ukraine with the modern Western tanks and fighter jets it has requested.

But Ulrich Speck, a German foreign policy analyst, said that Russian threats to ratchet up the war, particularly with nuclear weapons, have rung increasingly hollow. World leaders friendly to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, including President Xi Jinping of China and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, have warned against it, and US officials have threatened unspecified dire consequences if the Kremlin takes that step. NATO and Washington, Mr. Speck said, have accepted that the Ukrainians are driving this forward, and over time, fear of Russian escalation has receded. […]

Mick Ryan, a retired Australian Army officer, wrote on the Substack blogging platform of Ukraine’s new readiness to attack inside Russia: “It is not, as some are sure to claim, an escalation. But it is a necessary political and military measure for Ukraine to limit the humanitarian harm of Russia’s brutal drone and missile attacks.” […]

Ukrainian officials do not believe Russia has the capacity to escalate its conventional military assault on their country in response, and in fact hope that attacks on Russian soil will degrade that ability, said Mr. Zagorodnyuk, the former defense minister. The consideration, from what I can see, is that Russia will use any available means, regardless of our responses, in order to coerce Ukraine into submission, he said. That is their strategic plan.

Ukrainian Defence Intelligence Chief’s opinion: Russian propagandists are preparing Russia for defeat, as it is a foregone conclusion, Ukrainska Pravda reported on Tuesday. “Kyrylo Budanov, Chief of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine, has said that Russian propagandists have changed their rhetoric and now criticise the Russian generals and discuss their unwillingness to lose the war. According to Budanov, Russia’s defeat is a foregone conclusion. […]

I think you have seen that over the last three months, the rhetoric of all Kremlin propagandists has changed dramatically. First, they started to cautiously criticise their leadership, then – the top generals, and now they have reached the point where [their – ed.] victory is out of the question, [they’re thinking about how] just not to lose, but everyone understands that this is impossible. Their defeat is already obvious.

Once again, there will be some more difficult times, but the Russian defeat is a foregone conclusion and they themselves are well aware of it. According to Budanov, Ukraine, according to his preliminary forecasts, “is moving on schedule”.

Budanov said that there have always been two warring camps in Russia: those whose views are more liberal and those who support the pro-Russian dictatorship. According to the head of intelligence, Russia is currently divided not only into liberals and non-liberals, but the invaders are starting to split on the principle of which group will come to power next.”

The US, amid war escalation concerns, respects Ukraine’s sovereignty, Reuters reports. “The United States has made clear to Ukraine its concerns about any escalation of the war with Russia, but it respects Ukrainian sovereignty, including decisions about how Kyiv uses weapons supplied by Washington, the White House’s national security spokesman said.

We have been consistent on our concerns over escalation. We have not encouraged them to do that,” John Kirby told reporters on Wednesday, after apparent Ukrainian drone strikes on two airbases deep inside Russia. Kirby added the principle behind the war in Ukraine was one of sovereignty, and unlike the Russians, we respect Ukrainian sovereignty.

When we give them a weapons system, it belongs to them. Where they use it, how they use it, how much ammunition they use to use that system, those are Ukrainian decisions, and we respect that, he said. He said the United States has had conversations with Ukraine about accountability of weapons systems and made clear US concerns about escalating the war. But in the end these are Ukrainian decisions that they have to make.”

Ukrainian Defence Minister: Additional mobilisation is not a question now, Ukrainska Pravda reported Tuesday. “Oleksii Reznikov, Minister of Defence of Ukraine, has stated that there is currently no need of having another wave of mobilisation in Ukraine. What we do need – and we do not hide it, we say this to our Western partners, too – we need weapons. Starting with artillery, shells for it, armoured vehicles, tanks, aircraft, everything. 

This is how Reznikov replied to a question whether Ukraine was going to intensify the mobilisation in relation to a possible second wave of mobilisation in Russia. The Defence Minister has also assumed that the Kremlin will look for new tactics and change the commanders of the army again.”

 

  1. Consequences and what to do? 

Hans Petter Midttun: “We are not enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders,” Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, said at a daily news briefing. “We are not encouraging Ukraine to strike beyond its borders.” Drones struck an oil facility near an air base in Russia on Tuesday, a local official said, just a day after Ukraine used drones to hit two military bases deep inside the country, one of the most brazen attacks of the nine-month war. The strikes inside Russian territory have raised fears that the war might escalate.” “The United States has made clear to Ukraine its concerns about any escalation of the war with Russia”.

Nearly nine years after peace was disrupted and Russia started a low-intensity war in Ukraine, we have seen it escalate into a full-scale war. More importantly – as the West refuse to do what is needed to stop the war – it continues to escalate.

The Russian invasion on 24 February was not the last step in the escalation ladder. Russia has since escalated its Hybrid War against the West, weaponised food to blackmail the world into concessions, and not least, started massive destruction of the Ukrainian energy sector to cause an even bigger humanitarian disaster.

The media’s focus on the fear of escalation is in a sense a reflection of the US and NATO strategic messaging. President Biden and NATO General Secretary, Jens Stoltenberg, have repeatedly stressed that the west cannot intervene according to the UN Responsible to Protect doctrine for the risk of a broader confrontation (that already exists) and argue that they cannot provide Ukraine with long-range fire over the fear of escalation of the conflict.

The Ukrainian strikes on Russian territory have, however, already occurred. Repeatedly. Ukraine has also conducted several attacks inside the occupied territories that Russia has illegally annexed and has claimed as theirs. Russia has been exposed to many Ukrainian operational and strategic surprises already with more to come.

This raises the intriguing question: What now?

If Biden and Stoltenberg’s assessment is correct, we will see an escalation. If they are wrong, however, we should see the delivery of long-range fire.

Most experts and analytics argue that short of a nuclear strike, Russia has already “done it’s worse”. It is trying to destroy critical civilian infrastructure to turn a humanitarian catastrophe even more so. It is conducting genocide and trying to eradicate the Ukrainian nation. It is exposing mankind to Nuclear Blackmail. What more can it do?

President Biden and NATO General Secretary Stoltenberg’s concern for further escalation is linked to the risk of a military confrontation between Russia and NATO.

Simultaneously, both the US and NATO are highlighting the Russian shortcomings, its reduced stockpiles of ammunition, its inability of producing new weapons and munition, and its many military flaws and failures.

In my humble opinion, the West cannot continue arguing the risk of escalation as the basis for its reluctance to deliver the tools Ukraine needs to defeat and evict the Russian forces from its territory. Especially in light of the Russian obvious shortcomings. Its failure to escalate after the Ukrainian strikes against targets inside Russia should effectively put an end to the US and NATO concerns.

Their assessment was wrong. It is time to deliver the long-range fire Ukraine has been asking for.

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