Russo Ukrainian War. Day 293: Ukraine intends to continue counteroffensives in winter

 

Daily review

Article by: Zarina Zabrisky

Ukraine needs USD 1 bn to quickly restore power and heat disrupted by Russian missile strikes. Ukraine intends to continue counteroffensives in winter after the hard freeze enables maneuver warfare. Putin will not hold his traditional end-of-year press conference.

Daily overview — Summary report, December 13

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 06.00 am, December 13, 2022 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. December 12, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Situation in Ukraine. December 12, 2022. Source: ISW.

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The two-hundred-ninety-third (293) day of the heroic resistance of the Ukrainian people to a russian military large-scale invasion continues.
russian occupiers continue to carry out full-scale armed aggression against our country, they do not stop striking civilian infrastructure objects and civilian homes on the territory of Ukraine, violating the norms of International Humanitarian Law, the laws and customs of warfare.
The enemy continues to focus its efforts on conducting offensive actions in the Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Zaporizhzhia directions. In other directions, the enemy is trying to restrain the actions of units of the Defense Forces of Ukraine, shelling the positions of our troops and civilian objects along the entire line of contact, carrying out engineering equipment of defensive lines and positions.
Over the past day, units of the Defense Forces repelled the attacks of the occupiers in the areas of the settlements of Novoselivske, Stelmakhivka, Novoehorivka, Makiivka, Chervonpopivka, and Bilohorivka of the Luhansk oblast and Verkhnyokamianske, Soledar, Yakovlivka, Bakhmutske, Bakhmut, Klishchiivka, Kurdyumivka, Mayorsk, Avdiivka, and Maryinka Donetsk oblast.
During the day, the enemy launched 7 missile strikes, 5 of which hit the civilian infrastructure of the city of Kostyantynivka, Donetsk oblast, and also carried out 79 attacks from rocket salvo systems, in particular on the city of Kherson. There are civilian casualties.
There remains the threat of the enemy launching air and missile strikes on civilian infrastructure throughout Ukraine.
Kharkiv Battle Map. December 12, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Kharkiv Battle Map. December 12, 2022. Source: ISW.

In the Volyn, Polissya, Siverskyi and Slobozhanskyi directions, the situation remains without significant changes, no signs of the formation of offensive groups of the enemy have been detected.
Over the past day, the enemy carried out mortar and artillery shelling of the areas of settlements: Seredyna-Buda and Ryasne of the Sumy oblast, as well as Strelecha, Staritsa, Ohirtseve, Hatyshche, Volohivka, Okhrimivka, Chuhunivka, Ambarne, Dvorichna, Kamianka of the Kharkiv oblast.
In the Kupyansk direction, the areas of the settlements: Kislivka, Kotlyarivka, Tabaivka, Berestov of the Kharkiv region were shelled by tanks and the entire spectrum of artillery; Novoselivske, Stelmakhivka, Novoehorivka, Makiivka, Luhansk oblast.
In the Lyman direction, the enemy shelled the Terny, Yampolivka, Torske districts of the Donetsk oblast and Bilohorivka of the Luhansk oblast with tanks, mortars, barrel and rocket artillery.
Donetsk Battle Map. December 12, 2022. Source ISW. ~

Donetsk Battle Map. December 12, 2022. Source ISW.

In the direction of Bakhmut, the enemy fired tanks and artillery of various types in the areas of almost twelve settlements, in particular: Verkhnyokamianske, Vyimka, Spirne, Bilohorivka, Vesele, Soledar, Bakhmutske, Pidhorodne, Bakhmut, Chasiv Yar, Klishchiivka, Kurdyumivka, Druzhba of the Donetsk oblast.
In the Avdiivka direction, the enemy shelled the areas of almost twenty settlements with tanks, mortars, and rocket artillery, including: Zalizne, New York, Krasnohorivka, Berdychi, Vesele, Avdiivka, Opytne, Vodyane, Pervomaiske, Nevelske, Krasnohorivka, and Maryinka of the the Donetsk oblast.
In the direction of Novopavlivjka, the enemy shelled the areas of Vuhledar, Bohoyavlenka, Novoukrayinka, Prechystivka, and Zolota Nyva settlements in the Donetsk oblast from artillery of various types.
In the Zaporizhzhia direction, the enemy fired tanks and the entire range of artillery at the settlements of Vremivka of the Donetsk oblast and Zelene Pole, Novopil, Novodarivka, Malynivka, Hulyaipole, Dorozhnianka, Hulyaipilske, Charivne, Bilohirya, Mala Tokmachka, Orihiv, Mali Shcherbaki, Kamianske and Plavni of the Zaporizhzhia oblast.
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. December 12, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. December 12, 2022. Source: ISW.

In the Kherson direction, the enemy carried out mortar and artillery attacks on the settlements of the Kherson oblast bordering the contact line, Antonivka, Chornobayivka and the city of Kherson were the most affected.
In the Kherson direction, the command of the russian occupation forces rotates individual units. The occupiers who arrive in the temporarily occupied settlements settle in the abandoned and forcibly “vacated” by the local residents. In addition, on December 10-11, the withdrawal of occupiers from the districts of settlements of Novomykolaivka and Mykhailivka of the Kherson oblast was noticed.
russian occupiers continue to use the infrastructure of medical and sanatorium resorts in the temporarily occupied and occupied territories of Ukraine to provide qualified medical care to their wounded servicemen. So, in the city of Luhansk, one of the buildings of the occupier’s maternity hospital was converted into a military hospital. And in the city of Melitopol, the premises of a children’s sanatorium are used as a military hospital. Medical personnel from the russian federation are involved in providing medical assistance.
During the past day, the Air Force of the Defense Forces carried out 5 strikes on areas where the enemy’s personnel, weapons and military equipment are concentrated.
Over the past 24 hours, units of missile forces and artillery of the Defense Forces of Ukraine hit 2 control points and 6 areas of concentration of personnel of the russian occupiers and a fuel and oil warehouse.

Military Updates

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst. ~

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.

Russia produces 40 high-precision missiles per month –  Vadym Skibitskyi, representative of Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate, told the New York Times. According to him, while Russia’s stockpiles of its most modern, precision missiles are widely believed to be running low, Russian weapons factories built 240 precision Kh-101 cruise missiles and about 120 of the sea-based Kalibr cruise missiles since the start of the war, which works out to about 40 new missiles per month.

Russians attack Ukraine’s energy infrastructure hoping to force Ukrainians into negotiations – Ukraine Def Min Reznikov. The Russians continue their attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure as they count on Ukraine to be forced into negotiations, Ukraine’s Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov said at a briefing in Odesa on 11 December, Ukrinform reports.

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

  • On 12 December 2022, the Kremlin confirmed that President Vladimir Putin will not hold his traditional end-of-year press conference. This will be the first time in 10 years that Putin has not held the annual event, while the usual public phone-in also did not take place this year.
  • The press conference has become a significant fixture in Putin’s calendar of public engagement and has frequently been used as an opportunity to demonstrate the supposed integrity of Putin.
  • Although questions are almost certainly usually vetted in advance, the cancellation is likely due to increasing concerns about the prevalence of anti-war feeling in Russia. Kremlin officials are almost certainly extremely sensitive about the possibility that any event attended by Putin could be hijacked by unsanctioned discussion about the ‘special military operation’.

Losses of the Russian army 

Humanitarian 

2 killed, 10 wounded in Russian Uragan strike on a village near Donetsk as a result of a Russian strike with Uragan MLRS on Hirnyk, a village roughly 15 km from the front, head of Donetsk Oblast military administration Pavlo Kyrylenko informed. The injured were evacuated to a nearby hospital in the city of Selydove. Five-story buildings as well as a bank are damaged. Kyrylenko called upon residents to evacuate.

Environmental

European Energy Community to help Ukraine sue Russia for causing energy Apocalypsis. Energy Community, one of Europe’s most influential energy organizations, will help Ukraine sue Russia for damaging Ukraine’s power grid with missile strikes, state energy operator Ukrenergo informed on Telegram. Ukrenergo has signed a Memorandum with the Secretariat of the Energy Community, of which it has been a member since 2010.

Legal 

Russian propaganda media and ex-President guilty of direct incitement to genocide in Ukraine, report finds. An important study carried out for Verstka Media set out to determine whether Russian state media are guilty of direct and public incitement to genocide in their coverage of events linked with Russia’s war against Ukraine.  The resounding ‘yes’ provided by media researcher Nikolai Chikishev is not new, but this is the first such Russian investigation and provides detailed and compelling evidence of attempts to dehumanize Ukrainians and deny Ukraine’s very existence as a sovereign state.  In a Facebook post about the study, Chikishev wrote that “the direct link between Russian propaganda and war crimes should be obvious and become the subject of legal analysis.  This study helps to understand where the specific guilt of propagandists lies.

Support

Slovakia ready to send MiG-29 jets to Ukraine, talks underway – Slovakia FM. In his interview with Interfax Ukraine in Kyiv, the Foreign Minister of the Slovak Republic, Rastislav Káčer said that his country is ready to supply the MIG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, although the country has still been discussing with its NATO partners “how to do it.” The transcript of the interview was published only on 12 December, but its text shows that Interfax Ukraine recorded it a few days ago, on 8 December.

Ukrainian FM doesn’t understand Germany’s hesitation to supply Ukraine tanks while supplying artillery. In his interview with the Bericht aus Berlin, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba says that so far Germany doesn’t promise to supply its tanks to Ukraine despite Kyiv’s requests to Berlin to include them in arms deliveries, according to ARD. Germany has promised Ukraine further arms deliveries, which, however, doesn’t apply to the Leopard 2 battle tanks repeatedly requested by the Ukrainian government.

New Developments

Ukraine needs USD 1 bn to quickly restore power and heat disrupted by Russian missile strikes – Prime Minister Shmyhal said during a meeting of the OECD. He said that the plan for the restoration of Ukraine after the war has three stages, but the number one priority right now is “the stage of survival – the rapid restoration of critical infrastructure and the energy sector for the winter period.”

Ukraine embassy in Greece received “bloody package,” it’s 33rd case of threatening diplomats – MFA. On the morning of 12 December, a bloody package was delivered to the Embassy of Ukraine in Greece, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry’s spokesman Oleh Nikolenko reported. According to him, the mailing address of the sender belongs to a Tesla car dealership in the German town of Sindelfingen and is the same as on the rest of the envelopes that previously arrived at Ukrainian embassies and consulates. The Greek police have started an investigation.

Assessment 

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of  December 12, 2022:

Russian forces are continuing to shape and consolidate their force composition in eastern Ukraine to bolster defenses against ongoing Ukrainian counteroffensives near the Kharkiv-Luhansk Oblast border and support limited offensive efforts in Donetsk Oblast. An independent Ukrainian analytical organization, the Center for Defense Strategies, noted on December 12 that the Russians are centralizing and systematizing the command and control of Western Military District (WMD) troops in the Kharkiv-Luhansk direction.[1] The Center noted that the 20th Combined Arms Army of the WMD is currently operating in this area in three general groupings: elements of the 144th Motorized Rifle Division near Svatove; elements of the 3rd Motorized Rifle Division on the Kreminna-Rubizhne line; and elements of the 18th Motorized Rifle Division of the 11th Army Corps in northwestern Luhansk Oblast near Troitske.[2] The Center also reported that elements of the 1st and 2nd Army Corps (troops of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, respectively), 76th Air Assault Division and 106th Airborne Division, and up to three BARS (Combat Reserve) detachments, amounting up to 15 to 17 battalions, are concentrated in this general area.[3] These troop concentrations are likely significantly degraded and understrength.

ISW has previously observed WMD elements operating throughout Kharkiv Oblast prior to the sweeping Ukrainian counteroffensives in September that ultimately drove Russian troops back to the current line along the Kharkiv-Luhansk Oblast border.[4] Russian and Ukrainian reporting has additionally suggested that there is a high concentration of mobilized personnel operating on this axis, likely in order to fill gaps in WMD units that have been degraded over the course of ongoing Ukrainian counteroffensives in northeastern Ukraine.[5] BARS-13 and BARS-16 detachments have been particularly active along the Svatove-Kreminna line.[6] Elements of the Central Military District (CMD) have previously been observed in the Sievierodonetsk-Lysychansk area.[7] The observation that elements of the Russian Airborne Forces (VDV) are operating in Luhansk Oblast suggests that they redeployed away from the west (right) bank of Kherson Oblast, where ISW previously reported they were operating prior to the massive Russian withdrawal from the right bank.[8] The current force composition of the Russian contingent in eastern Kherson is unclear. Elements of the Russian Southern Military District (SMD) likely maintain a presence in occupied Kherson and Zaporizhzhia Oblasts.[9]

Wagner Group fighters, supported by elements of the 1st and 2nd Army Corps, are largely responsible for driving offensive operations in Donetsk Oblast, particularly around Bakhmut and the western outskirts of Donetsk City. ISW has previously reported the role of Wagner Group forces in securing minor gains around Bakhmut over the last few months.[10] Troops of the 6th Regiment of the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) 2nd Army Corps have been active northeast of Bakhmut in the Soledar area.[11] ISW has additionally observed the prevalence of groupings of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) 1st Army Corps in the Donetsk City–Avdiivka area, particularly the “Sparta” and “Somalia” battalions, which have claimed gains along the western outskirts of Donetsk City in areas such as Pisky, Vodiane, and Marinka. DNR elements have notably been active in this area since 2014. Russian sources reported that DNR troops, elements of the Russian Eastern Military District (EMD), and the 155th Naval Infantry Brigade and 40th Separate Naval Infantry Brigade of the Pacific Fleet were responsible for costly offensive operations southwest of Donetsk City in the Vuhledar-Pavlivka area in November.[12]

The cost of the Russian war in Ukraine will likely continue to undermine Russian President Vladimir Putin’s geopolitical campaigns worldwide. The UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) reported on December 11 that Putin signed a law allocating over nine trillion rubles (approximately $143 billion) for defense, security, and law enforcement for the 2023 budget. That amount is about 8 percent of Russia’s 2021 gross domestic product according to the World Bank.[13] The UK MoD assessed that Russia’s defense spending significantly increased and will represent over 30% of Russia’s entire 2023 budget.[14] Putin is thus continuing to drain his budget into his war in Ukraine and may need to defund other international or domestic campaigns in the process. ISW has long assessed that Russian forces have been moving equipment and personnel from other conflict zones such as Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh and may deprioritize other combat and soft-power engagements in favor of sustaining a protracted war in Ukraine.[15]

Putin is seemingly still unwilling to sacrifice his geopolitical initiatives in the short-term, however, and risks facing a financial predicament in which he will not be able to balance maximalist goals in Ukraine with his global power projection campaigns. Putin, for example, has continued attempts to reestablish Russia’s position in Central Asia by unsuccessfully proposing to create a trilateral union among Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan in late November and during a meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on December 9.[16] Putin’s continued spending on regional soft-power initiatives has already upset a few prominent pro-war milbloggers, who had criticized the Kremlin for reportedly allocating almost six billion rubles (about $95.5 million) for the development of Russian-language schools in Tajikistan while failing to provide for Russian forces on the battlefield.[17] The milbloggers added that the Kremlin is not effectively leveraging its soft power in Tajikistan, which further brings the necessity of such spending into question.

The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) officially denied rumors that Russian Chief of the General Staff Army General Valery Gerasimov has been or soon will be replaced, although it stopped short of offering the kind of credible support for this denial that it has provided to demonstrate that Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu is still on the job. A prominent Russian media aggregator circulated a claim on December 11 that Gerasimov may soon be replaced.[18] The claim reportedly originated with unidentified Russian milbloggers, and some Russian sources either amplified the claim or cautioned their audiences to not engage with such rumors.[19] The Russian MoD directly denied Gerasimov’s resignation or replacement, called the claims a Ukrainian “fake,” and provided links to images that supposedly show Gerasimov carrying out official duties over the last few weeks.[20] The Russian MoD has previously displayed similar sensitivity to reports of Gerasimov either resigning or being replaced and directly responded to refute such claims, as ISW reported in July.[21] This concerted effort to prove Gerasimov is still functioning as Chief of the General Staff suggests that Russian MoD is attempting to present Russian military leadership as present and engaged in Russian military affairs and to counteract reports of massive disruptions and incoherencies in Russian command structure due to widespread failures in Ukraine.[22] Despite this apparent interest in maintaining Gerasimov’s reputation, the Russian MoD has failed to provide video evidence of his activities, which it has consistently done with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and should be able to do easily for the chief of the general staff.[23]

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov stated that Ukraine intends to continue counteroffensives in winter 2022–2023 after the hard freeze enables maneuver warfare, supporting an ISW assessment.[24]Reznikov stated on December 11 that Ukraine will resume counteroffensives after the “ground is firmer” during the winter when responding to a question about US Director for National Intelligence (DNI) Avril Haines’s forecast that Ukraine is likely to conduct counteroffensives in the spring rather than the winter.[25] Reznikov previously stated on December 6 that Ukraine needs artillery ammunition, armored vehicles, tanks, and combat aircraft to support Ukrainian counteroffensives.[26]

Senior US government officials may be correcting their assessments about Ukraine’s ability and intent to conduct counteroffensive operations this winter. Voice of America National Security Correspondent Jeff Seldin reported that an unnamed senior US military official stated that, “We know the Ukrainians can fight and fight well under these [winter] conditions” on December 12.[27] DNI Haines previously mistakenly identified the optimal window of opportunity for Ukraine to conduct more counteroffensives as the spring rather than winter on December 3.[28] ISW previously assessed that Ukraine likely seeks to conduct successive operations through the winter of 2022–2023.[29]

The UK MoD assessed that Russia still likely aims to retain control over all its occupied Ukrainian territory, supporting ISW’s recent assessment that the Kremlin likely maintains its maximalist objectives in Ukraine.[30]The UK MoD assessed that Russian military leadership still intends to make additional advances within Donetsk Oblast but that current Russian military strategy is highly unlikely to allow Moscow to accomplish that goal.[31] ISW previously assessed that Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov’s December 8 statements defining Russian territorial goals as controlling all of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia oblasts remain maximalist given his restatement of Putin’s February 24 goals of “demilitarization” and “denazification” of Ukraine, which would inhibit Ukraine’s ability to resist future Russian military or subversion campaigns.[32]

Key Takeaways

  • Russian forces are continuing to shape and consolidate their force composition in eastern Ukraine to bolster defenses against ongoing Ukrainian counteroffensives near the Kharkiv-Luhansk Oblast border and support limited offensive efforts in Donetsk Oblast.
  • The cost of the Russian war in Ukraine will likely continue to undermine Russian President Vladimir Putin’s geopolitical campaigns worldwide.
  • The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) officially denied rumors that Russian Chief of the General Staff Army General Valery Gerasimov has been or soon will be replaced, although it stopped short of offering the kind of credible support for this denial that it has provided that Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu is still on the job.
  • Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov stated that Ukraine intends to continue counteroffensives in winter 2022–2023 after the hard freeze enables maneuver warfare, supporting an ISW assessment.
  • Senior US government officials may be correcting their assessments about Ukraine’s ability and intent to conduct counteroffensive operations this winter.
  • Russian forces continued limited ground attacks near Svatove and Kreminna as Ukrainian forces struck rear areas in Luhansk Oblast.
  • Russian forces continued ground attacks in the Bakhmut and Avdiivka–Donetsk City areas and conducted defensive operations southwest of Donetsk City.
  • Ukrainian forces continued to target Russian military assets and logistics hubs along critical ground lines of communication (GLOCs) in southern Ukraine.
  • Russian forces are fortifying the northern beaches of Crimea along the Black Sea coast.
  • Russian forces may lack sufficient infrastructure to support their troops in Crimea.

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