Russo Ukrainian War. Day 294: Russia rejects Zelenskyy’s proposal to withdraw troops from Ukraine

 

Daily review

Article by: Hans Petter Midttun

US finalizes plans to send Patriot missile defense system to Ukraine. Belarus started to suddenly check the combat readiness of its army. Kremlin rejects Zelenskyy’s proposal to start withdrawing Russian troops from Ukraine.

Daily overview — Summary report, December 14

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 06.00 am, December 14, 2022 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. December 13, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Situation in Ukraine. December 13, 2022. Source: ISW.

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“Over the past day, units of the Defense Forces of Ukraine repelled attacks by Russian invaders in the areas of Hryanikyvka settlements of the Kharkiv oblast; Novoselivske, Chervonopopivka, Serebryanske and Bilohorivka in the Luhansk oblast and Bilohorivka, Soledar, Bakhmutske, Bakhmut, Kurdyumivka, Nevelske, Maryinka, Pobyeda and Novomykhailivka in the Donetsk oblast.

At the same time, Russian forces launched 1 air and 11 missile strikes, 3 of them on the civilian infrastructure of Kharkiv, Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia oblast. The occupiers also launched more than 60 MLRS attacks from multiple rocket launchers.

[There remains the threat of Russia launching air and missile strikes on civilian infrastructure throughout 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.

Kharkiv Battle Map. December 13, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Kharkiv Battle Map. December 13, 2022. Source: ISW.

  • On the Siverskyi and Slobozhanskyi directions, Russian forces shelled the areas of the settlements of Leonivka, Buchka and Hai of the Chernihiv oblast; Kucherivka and Kindrativka in Sumy oblast, as well as Strilecha, Starytsa, Tykhe, Ambarne, Vilkhuvatka, Khatne, Milove, Dvorichna and Krasne in Kharkiv oblast.
  • On the Kupyansk and Lyman directions, the areas of Kupyansk, Kotlyarivka, Tabaivka, and Berestove in Kharkiv oblast were shelled by tanks, mortars, barrel and jet artillery; Novoselivske, Stelmakhivka, Myasozharivka, Hrekivka, Ploshchanka, Nevske, Chervonopopivka and Pishchane of Luhansk oblast and Novosadove Terny – Donetsk oblast.
Donetsk Battle Map. December 13, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Donetsk Battle Map. December 13, 2022. Source: ISW.

  • In the Bakhmut direction, Russian forces inflicted fire damage, in particular, near Serebryanka, Verkhnyokamyanske, Spirne, Bilohorivka, Vesele, Yakovlivka, Soledar, Bakhmutske, Bakhmut, Opytne, Klishchiivka, and Kurdyumivka of the Donetsk oblast.
  • In the Avdiivka direction, the occupiers fired tanks and artillery in the areas of almost twenty settlements. Among them are Avdiivka, Pervomaiske, Nevelske, Heorhiivka, Maryinka and Novomykhailivka in Donetsk oblast.
  • In the Novopavlivka and Zaporizhzhia directions, Russian forces inflicted fire near the settlements of Vremivka, Vuhledar, Neskuchne, Prechystivka in the Donetsk oblast and Plavni, Hulyaipole, Dorozhnyanka and Olhivske in Zaporizhzhia oblast.
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. December 13, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. December 13, 2022. Source: ISW.

  • In the Kherson direction, Russian forces continue to shell our positions and the civilian infrastructure of settlements along the right bank of the Dnipro River. More than twenty settlements were affected. In particular, Chornobayivka, Antonivka, Mykilske, Tokarivka, Novokayiry, Respublikanets, Mylove of the Kherson oblast and the city of Kherson.

[For the purpose of replenishing the losses and replenishing the units of the first army corps of the occupying forces, measures of forced mobilization were intensified in the territory of the Donetsk oblast. Therefore, in the city of Horlivka, men are subject to conscription, in particular those with the “armour” mark on their military tickets.]

[On December 11, Russian forces lost up to 60 servicemen killed and up to 100 wounded in the area of the Kadiivka settlement of Luhansk oblast as a result of the destruction of the personnel deployment point of the Russian occupation troops.]

[The defeat of Russian forces by the Defence Forces of Ukraine in the previous days in the Zaporizhzhia oblast was confirmed. Thus, in addition to the destruction of the command staff of the 58th Army in the city of Melitopol, three artillery systems, up to 10 units of military equipment of various types were destroyed in the areas of Enerhodar, Tokmak and Hulyaipole settlements, and about 150 enemy servicemen were wounded.]

In connection with a significant number of wounded invaders, the so-called “decree” of the occupying power, Hospital No. 15 in Yuvileyne settlement of Luhansk oblast and Hospital No. 3 in the city of Luhansk are transferred to the needs of the military.

On the night of December 12-13, more than 15 servicemen of the armed forces of the Russian Federation were killed in the area of Novoaidar settlement of Luhansk oblast. In the Zaporizhzhia oblast, Russian forces lost up to 100 wounded occupiers, and the ammunition depot was destroyed.

Units of missile troops and artillery of the Defense Forces of Ukraine hit 2 control points and 4 areas of concentration of enemy personnel.“

Military Updates

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst. ~

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.

Drones shot down over Kyiv, The Washington Post reports. “The sky in central Kyiv lit up with explosions early Wednesday, as air defence forces shot down more than a dozen drones, according to city officials. Mayor Vitali Klitschko said emergency services were dispatched, and the city military administration reported damage to two administrative buildings. It was not clear whether there were any casualties. Oleksiy Kuleba, the regional governor, said “the majority” of the drones were shot down.”

Ukrainian defenders witness success on the Svatove-Kreminna front, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Serhii Haidai, the Head of Luhansk Oblast Military Administration. “The situation is consistently difficult, but under control. Attacks in Bilohorivka are being repelled by our defenders. We are advancing on the Svatove-Kreminna front, and we have been successful. […]

The head of the Luhansk Oblast Military Administration has also added that Russians are terrified of the Ukrainian army’s strikes; they are accommodating in civilian houses in villages near the front, and somewhere they have even completely banished people from their settlements.”

Belarusian forces [allegedly] plan to “take under protection” assets on the border with Ukraine during army inspection, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Alexander Volfovich, State Secretary of the Security Council of the Republic of Belarus, and the Ministry of Defence of Belarus. “As part of a surprise inspection of the Belarusian army, one of the military units has been tasked to cover and take under protection an asset on the country’s southern border, that is, on the border with Ukraine.

According to Volfovich, the inspection of the leadership of the Armed Forces of Belarus is being conducted suddenly. During this inspection in Belarus, it is planned to carry out “a march over long distances, amidst an unfamiliar terrain, where the task of taking under protection various assets, engaging the firing lines, performing fire and tactical tasks will be carried out”.

Volfovich has also said that during the inspection “tasks will be set based on the analysis of the experience of the ‘special military operation’ [as Russian propaganda calls the war against Ukraine – ed.] in Ukraine”.

On 13 December, Belarus started to suddenly check the combat readiness of its army on the instructions of self-proclaimed President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko; Belarus is also moving some of the equipment closer to the border with Ukraine.”

Statement of checking combat readiness of Belarusian armed forces is made to ratchet up tensions, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “The State Border Guard Service of Ukraine (SBGS) does not see any Belarusian military units that can conduct a successful invasion; the SBGS considers the announcement made by the Belarusian Ministry of Defence on 13 December an attempt to ratchet up tensions.”

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

  • On 06 December 2022, Igor Girkin, a well-known Russian nationalist and former military intelligence officer, claimed he had spent two months embedded with a Donetsk People’s Republic battalion on the front line. He said his recent experiences had revealed a ‘crisis of strategic planning’ in Russia’s Ukraine operation.
  • Since his deployment, Girkin has also derided the Russian military’s current emphasis upon constructing extensive, positional defensive works, questioning their utility in modern warfare. His comments highlight the fraught debate about the conduct of the war which continues within Russia’s security community.
  • Rumours circulating on social media within the last 48 hours suggesting that Russian Chief of the General Staff General Valery Gerasimov could have been fired cannot be verified. However, factional tensions likely extend to the top of Russia’s military hierarchy
  • 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 feelings 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 

As of Wednesday 14 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 96000 (+740),
  • Tanks – 2970 (+4),
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 5937 (+7),
  • Artillery systems – 1931 (+0),
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 404 (+0),
  • Air defence means – 211 (+0),
  • Aircraft – 281 (+0),
  • Helicopters – 264 (+0),
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 4562 (+13),
  • Vessels/boats – 16 (+0),
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 1617 (+0),
  • Special equipment – 171 (+1),
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0),
  • Cruise missiles – 592 (+0)

Russia uses old Ukrainian missiles against Ukraine, the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine (DIU) reports. “Russia is using old Ukrainian missiles against Ukraine, the representative of military intelligence of Ukraine, Vadym Skibitsky, said in an interview with The New York Times.

These missiles were part of the weapons that Ukraine transferred to Russia in the 1990s as part of an international agreement aimed at ensuring the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. All ballistic missiles, Tu-160 and Tu-95 strategic bombers were transferred. Now, these bombers are launching Kh-55 missiles against us.

According to Vadym Skibitsky, among these missiles that the terrorist country uses against civilian objects in Ukraine are, in particular, the Kh-55 subsonic cruise missiles developed in the 1970s with a nuclear warhead. The Russians remove the warhead from these missiles and add ballast to disguise the fact that the missile is not carrying a payload.”

The ballistic missiles and Tu-160 and Tu-95 strategic bombers were transferred to Russia together with the Ukrainian nuclear arsenal as part of the Budapest Memorandum, ISW highlights. “Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom committed in return to “respect the independence and sovereignty and existing borders of Ukraine.” This agreement has generated some debate about whether or not it committed the United States and the United Kingdom to defend Ukraine, which it did not do.

There can be no debate, however, that by this agreement Russia explicitly recognized that Crimea and areas of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts it occupied in 2014 were parts of Ukraine. By that agreement Russia also committed “to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine,” among many other provisions that Russia has violated. Skibitsky noted that Russia has removed the nuclear warhead from these decommissioned Kh-55 subsonic cruise missiles, which are now being used to launch massive missile strikes on Ukraine.”

Russia has missiles for another three to five waves of attacks, Ukrinform reported Monday. “According to our calculations, they [Russians] have missiles for another three to five waves of attacks. This is if there are 80 to 90 rockets in one wave,” Vadym Skibitsky, a representative of the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, told The New York Times in an interview.

While Russia’s stockpiles of its most modern, precision missiles are widely believed to be running low, Skibitsky said that Russian arms factories had been able to build 240 precision Kh-101 cruise missiles and about 120 of the sea-based Kalibr cruise missiles since the start of the war.

The Ukrainian intelligence representative also outlined the four general directions from which Moscow is trying to penetrate Ukraine’s skies — sending missiles flying into Ukraine from the Black Sea in the south, from the area around the Caspian Sea to the southeast, from Russia in the east and from Belarus to the north. During large-scale attacks, which have featured up to about 100 missiles launched within minutes of one another, they fly in from all directions at the same time. Since October, the general said, the flight patterns of the Russian bombers have been changing, taking circuitous routes to avoid air defenses. But they do not enter Ukrainian air space, limiting their effectiveness, the article reads.

Typically, Ukrainian intelligence has about an hour after Russian bombers take off from a base to track the flights before pilots reach the fire zone and launch missiles.

Burning through ammo, Russia using 40-year-old rounds, US official says, Reuters reports. “Russia is turning to decades-old ammunition with high failure rates as it burns through its stockpiles to carry out its nearly 10-month-old invasion of Ukraine, a senior US military official said on Monday. They have drawn from (Russia’s) aging ammunition stockpile, which does indicate that they are willing to use that older ammunition, some of which was originally produced more than 40 years ago, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The United States accuses Russia of turning to Iran and North Korea for more firepower as it exhausts its regular supplies of ammunition.

The senior US military official assessed that Russia would burn through its fully-serviceable stocks of ammunition by early 2023 if it did not resort to foreign suppliers and older stocks. We assess that at the rate of fire that Russia has been using its artillery and rocket ammunition in terms of what we would call fully serviceable artillery and rocket ammunition. They could probably do that until early 2023, the official said.”

Sabotage of Ukrainian Neptune missiles at beginning of full-scale war with Russia possible, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing its article Sinking ‘Moskva’: unknown details. How the Ukrainian Neptune destroyed the flagship of the Russian fleet. “After the first combat use of Ukrainian Neptune missiles at the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Russia in February 2022, an inspection revealed the failure of one and the same part in the missiles, Defence Intelligence suggests sabotage.

After February’s not-quite-successful launches, a group of experts from Kyiv’s Luch (“Ray”) Design Bureau, which is the main developer of the missile, came to check them in March. They discovered a very suspicious pattern: on all the missiles, one part was damaged, due to which the missiles did not detonate as they should have.

Production of 152-mm, 122-mm shells already launched in Ukraine, Ukrinform reports- “The production of 152-mm and 122-mm shells has already been launched in Ukraine. The relevant statement was made by National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine (NSDC) Secretary Oleksiy Danilov.

Talking of good news, I can say that we have launched the production of 152-mm and 122-mm shells at our enterprises. Now the production of mines and other goods will start. This refers to thousands of units, which is already an industrial scale, Danilov told.”

Humanitarian 

Almost 4.9M IDPs registered in Ukraine – Ministry of Social Policy, Ukrinform reported Monday, citing the Ministry of Social Policy. “4,886,648 citizens have been registered as IDPs as of December 8. Among them, 3,539,376 citizens moved after February 24, 2022, of which 2,856,232 registered for the first time since the full-scale invasion, the statement reads.”

A 1,000 MW nuclear power unit has been repaired and started supplying electricity, Ukraine Business News reports. “State energy company Energoatom has connected an additional 1,000 MW nuclear power unit, which has been under repair for the past three weeks, to the power grid, the Ministry of Energy reported. It had not been in operation since November 23, when Russia succeeded in disrupting the integrity of Ukraine’s energy system with a missile strike. On the night of December 13, after repairs, it was put into operation.

All nine power units of the domestic nuclear power plants located on the territory controlled by Ukraine are working, commented Minister Herman Galushchenko. However, six power units of the Zaporizhzhia NPP, controlled by the Russian occupiers, are constantly consuming about 100 MW for their own needs from the energy system of Ukraine instead of generating electricity.”

OHCHR recorded 17,362 civilian casualties in Ukraine as of 12 December. 6,755 were killed (including 424 children) and 10,607 injured (including 781 children).

Environmental

Damages caused by war may reach $700B by year-end, Ukrinform reports, citing “Damages caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine may reach $700 billion by the end of the year. Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal said this at the forum on the resilience and reconstruction of Ukraine.

The Prime Minister noted that according to the estimates of the Ukrainian authorities, which were carried out together with the World Bank, the amount of damage caused to Ukraine’s economy came to $350 billion as of June 1. By the end of the year, this amount will obviously double. We understand this, as the destruction continues, Shmyhal said.

The Prime Minister emphasized that all sectors of Ukraine’s economy are suffering because of the war. As reported, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal earlier stated that the fall in Ukraine’s GDP could reach 50% next year if Russia continues its terror.”

The GDP of Ukraine may fall to 50% if Russia continues attacking infrastructure, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “Denys Shmyhal, the Prime-Minister of Ukraine, has reported this at the Ukraine’s economic resilience and reconstruction forum in Paris, as cited by Interfax-Ukraine media outlet.

The Ukrainian economy may contract about 35-40%. If Russia continues its terrorist activity aimed at our infrastructure, then we can lose 10% more, which will correspond to 50% of our GDP, – Shmyhal concluded.”

Legal 

154 cases of sexual violence by the Russian military has been recorded in Ukraine, Ukrinform reports. “Since the beginning of the full-scale military aggression of the Russian Federation, prosecutors have recorded 154 facts of conflict-related sexual violence. Six servicemen of the Russian Federation have already been served with notice of charges. Indictments against two persons have been sent to court, one person has been convicted, the press service of the Prosecutor General’s Office informs.

As noted, new facts of conflict-related sexual violence are being established in the de-occupied territories. Joint mobile groups of prosecutors, international experts, and psychologists work there.”

No surprise that Iran [denies] supply of weapons to Russia, there will be consequences for supporting war, European Pravda reports. “Ukrainian experts have provided Tehran with the evidence of Russia’s strikes in Ukraine by Iranian drones. We are not surprised by yet another objection from Iran regarding the supply of weapons to Russia. During the technical meeting, Ukrainian experts provided the Iranians with the sufficient evidence. We have hundreds of recorded facts of shelling of Ukraine by Iranian-made drones, Oleh Nikolenko, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said to “European Pravda.

No matter how Tehran does its best to get away with it, the Ukrainian side has made it clear: the consequences of supporting the war in Ukraine are much more extensive than the benefits it will receive from supporting Russia, Nikolenko added.”

443 children were killed, 855 children injured – the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine reports as of December 13. 2,719 educational establishments are damaged as a result of shelling and bombings, 332 of them are destroyed fully. 52,825 crimes of aggression and war crimes, and 18,510 crimes against national security were registered.

Support

Russia preparing major offensive in new year, Kyiv says, as Ukraine pleads for artillery, generators, The Globe and Mail report. “Appearing via video link at the Paris conference, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his country needed an extra €800-million ($1.15-billion) to survive the winter and €1.5-billion ($2.16-billion) to fix the long-term damage to the power system. He made a plea for diesel generators to keep the lights on. […] Currently, there are 12 million [disconnected]. And every day we expect new Russian strikes. That’s why the generators have become as important as armour to protect the population.

Mr. Kuleba in effect admitted that Ukraine is depleting its weapons stockpiles alarmingly fast as the missile and artillery assaults on both sides continue. He made a plea not only for long-range missiles but for the 155mm field artillery that is one of the mainstays of Ukraine’s ground forces for both defensive and offensive action.

The weapon we need most is more of the 155mm howitzers, he said. This war is largely an artillery war, and Russia still dominates on the battlefield on the amount of cannons it is using and the number of shells these cannons are firing. To help stop the expected Russian offensive in January or February, Mr. Kuleba said, Ukraine needs the 155mm weapons to destroy Russian targets in occupied Ukrainian territories.”

US finalizing plans to send Patriot missile defense system to Ukraine, CNN reports. “The Biden administration is finalizing plans to send the Patriot missile defense system to Ukraine that could be announced as soon as this week, according to two US officials and a senior administration official. The Pentagon’s plan still needs to be approved by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin before it is sent to President Joe Biden for his signature. The three officials told CNN that approval is expected.

Ukraine has been calling for the US to send the advanced long-range air defense system that is highly effective at intercepting ballistic and cruise missiles as it comes under a barrage of Russian missile and drone attacks that have destroyed key infrastructure across the country. It would be the most effective long-range defensive weapons system sent to the country and officials say it will help secure airspace for NATO nations in eastern Europe.”

According to Defence News, the US plan to send one Patriot battery. Having considered supplying the system for months, the decision was triggered by the Russian attacks on critical civilian infrastructure.

Great Britain named conditions for Ukraine to receive long-range weapons. Mil.in.ua reports. “The condition under which Ukraine can receive long-range weapons from Great Britain has become known. The British Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace said he would be open to supplying Ukraine with longer-range weapons systems if Russia continues to strike civilian infrastructure. He said this during a hearing in Parliament, while answering questions from former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, according to The Guardian.”

Germany announces what military equipment it will provide to Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing  Die ZeitZN.ua, quoting Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, Chair of the Defence Committee in the German Bundestag. “More self-propelled howitzers have been transferred to Ukraine. We are talking about 24 units. Six or seven Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft guns will also be provided.

The representative of the Bundestag noted that she personally advocates transferring modern Leopard and Marder tanks to Ukraine, but the government still has not supported this initiative. According to Strack-Zimmerman, providing them now is really necessary and she no longer sees any reason not to do it.”

Italian arms supplies to Ukraine will stop with peace talks, Reuters reports. “Arms supplies from Italy to Ukraine will stop as soon as peace talks on ending the Russian invasion begin, the Italian defence minister told parliament on Tuesday, as lawmakers endorsed a government decision to extend military aid throughout 2023.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has repeatedly pledged to keep supporting Ukraine, despite frictions within her rightist ruling coalition and a divided public opinion on the issue of arms supplies.”

Zelenskyy lists six things that Europe can do to ease winter in Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has asked European countries to help Ukraine overcome the energy crisis caused by Russia’s bombing this winter. He named six priority needs.

  • First. We require several categories of equipment: Transformers, equipment for restoring high-voltage networks, gas turbine and piston engines.
  • Second. At least until the end of this heating season in Ukraine, we require emergency support from the European energy system.
  • Third. Same as with the IAEA observation missions, which are agreed to be sent to all nuclear power plants in Ukraine, we call on the European Union to send special missions to critical energy infrastructure facilities that are involved in Ukraine’s energy supply and on which the stability of our entire region directly depends.
  • Fourth. We require support to purchase about 2 billion cubic metres of gas.
  • Fifth. Another practical result of this conference can be an agreement on financing a project for the purchase of LED lamps for Ukraine.
  • And sixth. We require a special permanent coordination mechanism – the Paris mechanism. Which will allow us to provide timely and effective responses to every challenge of the Russian energy terror.”

Earlier, Prime Minister of Ukraine, Denys Shmyhal, said that Ukraine needs US$1 billion for a quick recovery of the critical infrastructure to go through the winter period.”

The scope of the fast recovery plan includes 50,000 objects worth EUR 12B, Ukrinform reports, citing President Zelensky. “Since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion, hostilities have directly affected 11 regions of Ukraine, more than 50,000 objects need fast restoration. In total, hostilities directly affected the territory of eleven regions. The scope of our Fast Recovery Plan, which covers other regions as well, is more than 50,000 objects and more than 12 billion euros, he said.”

Germany to pledge additional 50 mln euros in winter aid for Ukraine, Reuters reports. “Germany will approve another 50 million euros ($52.68 million) in winter aid for Ukraine in response to Russian attacks on energy infrastructure there, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said at a donors’ conference in Paris on Tuesday. […]

Baerbock said Germany was working to deliver generators, blankets and heating fuel to Ukraine over Christmas, as Russia’s pummelling of power facilities causes power shortages in many parts of the country.”

The G7 will meet Ukraine’s urgent financial needs, Ukraine Business News reports. “The G7 countries are intensifying their efforts to meet Ukraine’s urgent financial needs, according to a statement based on the consultations among the leaders of the G7 countries. […] At the same time, it is emphasized that the International Monetary Fund should play a central role in these efforts. The G7 countries also stated that they firmly support providing immediate financial stability for Ukraine, its recovery, and reconstruction.”

European Peace Facility will be increased by €2 billion, Mil.in.ua reported Monday. “The EU Council will increase contributions to the intergovernmental European Peace Facility by €2 billion. These funds should go to support Ukraine and other partners who need military assistance. This is stated on the website of the Council of European Union.

“The Council today reached a political agreement with a view to ensuring the financial sustainability of the European Peace Facility (EPF). The Council decided in particular to increase the overall financial ceiling by €2 billion (in 2018 prices) in 2023, with the possibility of a further increase at a later stage. The total increase of the EPF overall financial ceiling until 2027 would be up to €5.5 billion (in 2018 prices),” the statement reads.

New Developments 

  1. Kremlin rejects Zelenskyy’s proposal to start withdrawing Russian troops from Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing RIA Novosti. “Dmitry Peskov, the Russian President’s Press Secretary, has said that the Kremlin does not accept President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s proposal to start withdrawing Russian troops from Ukraine on Christmas Day. […] This (Zelenskyy’s proposal to withdraw Russian troops – ed.) is out of the question. Peskov said that the Ukrainian side needs to accept the realities that have developed over all this time. […] Peskov stated that these realities indicate that new subjects have appeared in the Russian Federation, and they appeared as a result of the referendums that took place in these territories. Without taking into account these new realities, any progress is impossible, Peskov said.”
  2. Ukraine’s MFA on Explosions in Russia: “Let Russians Draw Their Own Conclusions“, European PravdaI understand that the media want to know what is going on in Russia. But let the Russians themselves think, evaluate, and draw conclusions from what is going on in their own country. We are fighting against an enemy that is much stronger than us, which is true. But also, a very insidious enemy who manipulates reality at every opportunity and hits us from where we cannot reach him. We are not going to lose the war and let them get what they want. We will do everything that is not prohibited by international law and use the right for self-defence to defend our country, TF1 Infoquotes [Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs,] Dmytro Kuleba.
  3. Donors pledge millions to get Ukraine through winter, The Washington PostDozens of countries and international organizations threw their weight and more than 1 billion euros (dollars) in aid pledges behind an urgent new push Tuesday to keep Ukrainians powered, fed, warmed and moving as winter approaches. An international donor conference in Paris quickly racked up substantial promises of financial and in-kind support, a defiant response to sustained Russian aerial bombardment of critical infrastructure that has plunged millions of Ukrainian civilians into deepening cold and dark.”
  4. EU struggles to break gas price cap impasse, ReutersEuropean Union energy ministers meeting in Brussels on Tuesday struggled to agree on a bloc-wide cap on gas prices after months of infighting over whether the measure can ease Europe’s energy crisis. Responding to repeated requests from some countries, the European Commission proposed a price cap last month as the latest EU response to the economic upheaval caused by Russia cutting gas deliveries to Europe this year, leading to energy price spikes.”
  5. The UK sanctions Russian military commanders and Iranian businessmen, ReutersBritain on Tuesday said it had sanctioned 12 Russian military commanders implicated in missile strikes on Ukrainian cities as well as Iranian businessmen involved in the production and supply of military drones used in the attacks.”
  6. Russian Duma embarks on “cleansing” Russian language of Western words, Ukrainska Pravda reports citing Radio Liberty. “The State Duma of Russia has adopted amendments to the federal law “On the State Language” in the first reading, which will protect it from the excessive use of foreign words.

Assessment 

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of  December 13, 2022:

Belarusian forces remain unlikely to attack Ukraine despite a snap Belarusian military readiness check on December 13. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko ordered a snap comprehensive readiness check of the Belarusian military on December 13. The exercise does not appear to be cover for concentrating Belarusian and/or Russian forces near jumping-off positions for an invasion of Ukraine. It involves Belarusian elements deploying to training grounds across Belarus, conducting engineering tasks, and practising crossing the Neman and Berezina rivers (which are over 170 km and 70 km away from the Belarusian-Ukrainian border, respectively). Social media footage posted on December 13 showed a column of likely Belarusian infantry fighting vehicles and trucks reportedly moving from Kolodishchi (just east of Minsk) toward Hatava (6km south of Minsk). Belarusian forces reportedly deployed 25 BTR-80s and 30 trucks with personnel toward Malaryta, Brest (about 15 km from Ukraine) on December 13. Russian T-80 tanks reportedly deployed from the Obuz-Lesnovsky Training Ground in Brest, Belarus, to the Brest Training Ground also in Brest (about 30 km from the Belarusian-Ukrainian Border) around December 12. Russia reportedly deployed three MiG-31K interceptors to the Belarusian airfield in Machulishchy on December 13. These deployments are likely part of ongoing Russian information operations suggesting that Belarusian conventional ground forces might join Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. ISW has written at length about why Belarus is extraordinarily unlikely to invade Ukraine in the foreseeable future.

Ukrainian officials continue to assess that Belarus is unlikely to attack Ukraine as of December 13. The Ukrainian General Staff reiterated on December 13 that the situation in northern Ukraine near Belarus has not significantly changed and that Ukrainian authorities still have not detected Russian forces forming strike groups in Belarus. The Ukrainian State Border Guard Service reported that the situation on the border with Belarus is under control despite recent Belarusian readiness checks.

Russian milbloggers accused the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) of engaging in performative “excessive reporting” instead of addressing systemic issues with the Russian military and Russian operations in Ukraine. A prominent Russian milblogger discussed the “vicious practice of photo reports” in the Russian military and noted that Russian soldiers are often made to dress in statutory uniforms and appear on camera to propagate a sense of preparedness and professionalism instead of actually preparing for combat missions. The milblogger emphasized that such demonstrations are purely theatrical and create a false sense of coherency in the Russian Armed Forces without actually addressing substantive issues with logistics, communications, and basic provision of units. Several other milbloggers amplified this discussion and accused Russian authorities of engaging in “excessive reporting” in order to inundate the information space with photo and video artifacts that aim to “justify the existence” of the Russian MoD and create a guise of success for Russian operations in Ukraine. One source emphasized its discontent with such “excessive reporting” and called the Russian MoD “the Ministry of Camouflage and Selfies.” Russian milbloggers continue to leverage their platforms and notoriety to launch nuanced critiques at the Russian MoD in a way that continues to indicate a growing rift between the bureaucratic practices of the MoD and the realities faced by Russian soldiers on the ground and reported on by a slate of Russian military correspondents. Such discourse allows prominent voices in the nationalist information space to advocate for substantive change while undermining the MoD establishment.

Senior Israeli officials stated that Iran seeks to limit the range of missiles it plans to provide Russia. Axios reported on December 12 that Iran fears international backlash from providing Russia with long range missiles to use in the war in Ukraine and noted that United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution 2231 passed in 2015 prevents the transfer or receipt of Iranian ballistic missiles with a range over 300 kilometers and a payload over 500 kilograms until October 2023. Axios noted that violating this resolution could result in a “snapback” mechanism that reimposes UN sanctions against Iran. […]

Russia continues to use concepts of terrorism as a legal framework for domestic repression. Independent Russian outlet Meduza noted on December 13 that Russia has been expanding the concept of terrorism under Russian legislation over the course of the last two decades, and as recently as December of this year the State Duma proposed new amendments to the Russian Criminal Code that equate sabotage with an act of terrorism. Meduza amplified an investigation by another independent Russian outlet, Novaya Gazeta, that noted that the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) has transitioned from focusing on defining Islamist militant activity in the Caucasus as terrorism to orienting terrorism around the concept of Ukrainian “saboteurs.” FSB Head Alexander Bortnikov relatedly claimed on December 13 that there has been an increase in “terrorist” activity within Russia in 2022, which he related to Ukrainian Security Services (SBU) supposedly operating with Western support. Russian authorities seem to be weaponizing the backdrop of the war in Ukraine to justify expansions of terrorism legislation under the guise of protecting domestic security. Such measures likely afford Russian security authorities greater latitude in cracking down on domestic dissent. As ISW has previously reported, Russian authorities have taken similar steps to use legal frameworks to broadly define individuals and actions as dangerous to Russian security and have recently proposed new bills on expanding the definition of “foreign agents” and the punishment for crimes considered to be sabotage.

Key Takeaways

  • Belarusian forces remain unlikely to attack Ukraine despite a snap Belarusian military readiness check on December 13.
  • Ukrainian officials continue to assess that Belarus is unlikely to attack Ukraine as of December 13.
  • Senior Israeli officials stated that Iran seeks to limit the range of missiles it plans to provide to Russia in order to avoid triggering UN “snapback” sanctions. […]
  • Russia continues to use concepts of terrorism as a legal framework for domestic repression.
  • Russian forces conducted limited counterattacks near Svatove and Kreminna.
  • Russian forces made marginal advances within Bakhmut and continued ground assaults near Avdiivka and Vuhledar.
  • Russian forces may be withdrawing from certain areas south of the Dnipro River as they continue fortifying rear positions in occupied Kherson Oblast.
  • Likely Ukrainian actors downed a bridge in Melitopol, Zaporizhzhia Oblast amid increased reports of Ukrainian strikes against Russian military assets near Melitopol within the past few days.

The Wagner Group is continuing efforts to use recruits from Russian prisoners to generate combat power.

Russia may launch major offensive in early 2023 – FM Kuleba, Ukrinform reports, citing The Globe and Mail. “Russia is preparing to mount a major offensive in the first couple of months of 2023. According to Kuleba, Russia has been unable to regain momentum after Ukrainian forces took back control of Kherson in November. But Putin will insist on a breakthrough shortly.

I think the Russian capability to conduct a large offensive may be restored somewhere by the end of January, February, but that is what they are trying to do. In the best-case scenario [for Russia], taking the mobilization, the conscription they have announced, and the training of new conscripts and the movement of heavy weapons across the country, they definitely still keep hopes that they will be able to break through our lines and advance deeper in Ukraine, Kuleba told.

In his words, Ukraine’s immediate concern is restoring electricity across the country, following six missile attacks that had been launched by Russia since October 10, 2022. The aim [of Russia – Ed.] is to destroy the Ukrainian energy system and leave millions of people without access to power, water and heating amid freezing temperatures. Putin hopes that without power, water and heating, Ukrainians will stop resisting and accept Russian ultimatums, but this is a grave miscalculation. Russian missile terror will not break Ukraine down, Kuleba stressed.”

Kuleba urges West not to school Ukraine on strike tactics, Ukrinform reported Monday. “Ukraine is grateful to its Western partners for their help but does not understand schooling on the issue of whether it can strike enemy targets posing a direct threat. Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Dmytro Kuleba, said this in an interview with the “Bericht aus Berlin” show on ARD.

When asked by the moderator whether Ukraine was behind the recent drone attacks on Russian military bases, Kuleba did not answer directly: As the Minister of Foreign Affairs, I cannot comment on what is happening on the territory of Russia, the diplomat said. At the same time, he recalled that it is from these airfields that bombers take off, firing missiles at the energy system of Ukraine and killing Ukrainians.

There is no need school Ukraine on morality, Kuleba said, responding to those in the West, including in the United States, who criticize possible Ukrainian strikes targeting Russian territory. I don’t understand what it means when they say Ukraine is playing with fire. Putin came to destroy us – as a state, as a nation. If a murderer came to your house and tried to kill you, and then your neighbor said: ‘Don’t play with fire, you don’t need to provoke him,’ then you would probably say your neighbor has lost their mind, the minister said, citing a clear example.

Commenting on the regular mass air attacks of the Russian Federation, Kuleba admitted the possibility of a complete blackout, considering such a scenario realistic. At the same time, the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not expect a mass exodus of Ukrainians from the country due to the difficult situation this winter. Those living in cities are more likely to move to the countryside, where it is possible to use wood stoves.

To cope with the energy crisis, Ukraine needs non-military aid, especially generators and transformers, the top diplomat said. […]

Regarding weapons, Kuleba said that Kyiv “does not understand the reasoning” behind Germany’s hesitation to provide Leopard-2 main battle tanks amid ongoing supplies of other types of weapons, including modern ones. The minister admitted that Germany had promised Ukraine further supplies of weapons as the latest agreements concern, first of all, air defense systems, such as the state-of-the-art Iris-T SAMS and Gepard anti-aircraft tanks. But the list does not include Leopard-2 MBTs, which the Government of Ukraine has repeatedly requested.

“Such a decision has not been made yet, there are no commitments. But we are working on it,” the minister assured. He is convinced that no one is interested in prolonging the war due to insufficient arms supplies to the Armed Forces.”

Fierce claims to Crimea highlight slim chance of Russia-Ukraine peace deal, The Washington Post reported Sunday. After nine months of death and destruction, the key to Russia’s war against Ukraine lies in the craggy, sea-swept peninsula of Crimea — with its limestone plateaus and rows of poplar trees — which Russia illegally annexed in 2014. It was in Crimea in February 2014, not February 2022, that Russia’s invasion and occupation of Ukraine began. And Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky insists that only by retaking Crimea will the war end, with Ukraine defeating its Russian invaders.

“Its return will mean the restoration of true peace,” Zelensky declared in October. “The Russian potential for aggression will be completely destroyed when the Ukrainian flag will be back in its rightful place — in the cities and villages of Crimea.”

But for Russian President Vladimir Putin, the annexation of Crimea has become a pillar of his legacy, which would crumble if he loses the peninsula. Putin has indicated that any effort by Ukraine to retake Crimea would cross a red line that he would not tolerate.

Ukraine’s hope of recapturing Crimea long seemed a far-fetched fantasy, but Kyiv’s recent battlefield victories and Moscow’s missteps have suddenly made it seem plausible — maybe dangerously so.

The West, while backing Ukraine, fears that any Ukrainian military incursion into Crimea could incite Putin to take drastic action, potentially even the use of a nuclear bomb. Some Western officials hope that a deal relinquishing Crimea to Russia could be the basis for a diplomatic end to the war. Ukrainians dismiss that idea as dangerously naive, while Russians say they will not settle for what is already theirs.

The unwavering claims to Crimea illustrate the intractability of the conflict, and it is hard to imagine the fight over the peninsula will be resolved without further bloodshed. […]

And following Kyiv’s liberation of Kherson — which Moscow vowed would be “Russia forever” — Russian officials have stepped up their rhetoric. Former president Dmitry Medvedev promised a “judgment day” in the event of any attack on Crimea, while a member of Russia’s parliament warned of a “final crushing blow.” […]

The refusal by either side to back down threatens to turn the war into a decades-long conflict, much like the territorial standoffs over the West Bank and Gaza, Nagorno-Karabakh, or Kurdistan. […]

For eight years, the fate of Crimea was overshadowed by the war in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region that was stoked by pro-Russian separatists. But Zelensky started formulating a de-occupation and reintegration plan for Crimea long before Russia’s full-scale invasion in February.

In 2021, his government established an annual summit called the Crimea Platform, intended to keep Crimea in the international spotlight. Tasheva, a Crimean Tatar, became Zelensky’s representative to Crimea in April, and now leads a team of 40 people working on a blueprint for reversing the annexation. […] An estimated 100,000 residents fled Crimea after Russia’s annexation, but the vast majority stayed and were joined by hundreds of thousands of Russians encouraged to settle there. […]

Tasheva said the Crimeans who stayed “had the right to do so” and that after de-occupation, efforts would be made to distinguish between those who actively collaborated with the Russian authorities and those who perhaps voted for annexation but became what Tasheva calls “victims of propaganda.” […]

Rory Finnin, an associate professor of Ukrainian studies at the University of Cambridge, said a compromise was unlikely. The idea that somehow Ukraine should just go back to the status quo post-2014 is foolish because all that will happen is another escalation, Finnin said. It is hard to imagine Ukrainians being comfortable with giving up this territory, knowing this means the abandonment of millions of people. The moral and geopolitical stakes of such an abandonment are grave.

Russia, too, is intent on maintaining its grip on Crimea, raising concerns among Western officials about the extreme measures Putin might take to hold it. Nikolay Petrov, a senior research fellow at Chatham House, the London-based policy institute, said that Putin relinquishing Crimea was “absolutely out of the question” […].

In a recent interview, Lord David Richards, a former chief of staff of the British army, said Ukraine would risk nuclear war to defend Crimea. If you rub Putin’s nose in it, he can do something very silly, Richards told Times Radio. He can use tactical nuclear weapons. Still, some Western officials hold out hope that a deal on Crimea could be the key to ending the war, and said they believed that Zelensky and his advisers were more open to potential concessions than their rhetoric has suggested.

During initial peace talks in March, Kyiv signaled it would be open to separate negotiations on the status of Crimea, raising the possibility that Zelensky might be open to treating Crimea differently than other Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine that he insists must be returned. […]

Still, many believe that the war that began in Crimea must end with Crimea.

“The question of Crimea, which I thought before the war would take decades to resolve, today is unambiguous,” said Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former Russian oil tycoon and longtime Putin critic. “It is difficult to imagine a real end to the war without the return of Crimea to Ukraine.”

Retired Lt. General predicts when Russia will lose Crimea, Newsweek reports. Ben Hodges predicted on Monday that Ukraine’s army will be able to seize control of the occupied Crimea peninsula by August 2023 as the war-torn country continues to counter Russia’s ongoing invasion.

In light of the report, which Newsweek was not able to independently verify, Hodges wrote on Twitter that Ukraine will “continue to pound” Russian headquarters and lines of communication over the next few weeks through February. This is so that Ukraine can set the conditions for freeing Crimea from Russian control, which Hodges described as the “decisive phase of the campaign. I expect them to liberate Crimea by August, tweeted Hodges, who is also the former commanding general of US Army Europe. […]

Explosions were reported last week in Crimea, after which the governor of Sevastopol, the peninsula’s largest city, said that Russian forces shot down a drone over the Black Sea.

This is only one instance of reported explosions on the peninsula in recent months amid the war in Ukraine. A series of explosions rocked a Russian airbase in Crimea in August, and several days later, another series of blasts hit an ammunition depot in Crimea and caused it to catch fire.

Additionally, an explosion in October damaged the Kerch Strait Bridge that connects Russia to the Crimean Peninsula and acts a key supply route for Putin’s troops. Moscow blamed Ukraine for the blast, though Ukraine has not formally taken responsibility.”

Supplies of food and water – a likely deadly challenge as winter is taking grip, as assessed by @ChrisO_wiki, an independent military history author and researcher. “Many observers have noted the difficulties that the Russians face in coping with winter in Ukraine, including deficiencies in clothing, discipline, and leadership. But there’s another critical factor worth highlighting; namely supplies of food and water. […]

Let’s consider what a soldier needs in cold weather. The US Army says: “Depending on your exertion level, Soldiers should consume between 4,500 and 6,000 calories and 3.5 to 5 quarts of water per day. Light infantrymen will require the upper end of that scale.” The US Army provides soldiers with Meals, Cold Weather (MCW) – versions of the usual Meals, Ready to Eat (MRE). Normal MREs are designed for temperate and hot environments. MCWs provide extra calories for coping with cold environments.

Russia’s equivalent of the MRE is the IRP-P (“individual daily diet”). […] They come in 7 options [and] the contents vary slightly but all offer around 4,800 calories. This is about 20% less than the US Army recommends for light infantrymen in winter. Russian troops, especially in the east, are under a lot of stress – they are being constantly harassed by the Ukrainians even when they are not facing direct attacks or carrying out assaults in places like Bakhmut. So, it’s safe to assume they need a lot of calories.

Personal accounts from Russian troops and intercepted phone calls published by the Ukrainians show that the Russians have had problems with food logistics since the war started. […]

The consequences for the troops are dire. A reduction in combat effectiveness is certain at the very minimum. Hunger weakens the body and makes a person unable to sustain effort for long. But it can be lethal in winter, especially if combined with poor weather protection. Hypothermia is very likely among people who are poorly dressed for winter conditions or lack adequate shelter from the cold – problems faced by many Russians on the front lines, some of whom say they even lack shovels to make foxholes. It has drastic effects on food needs.

The body’s response to mild hypothermia is to induce shivering. This is a very effective way of warming up, but it uses a lot of calories. It consumes around 100 calories every 15 minutes, leaving a person tired and hungry. Moderate hypothermia can induce excessive hunger.

Because the Russian soldiers on the front line often appear to be poorly prepared for winter conditions, it’s certain that they will need a lot more food than usual. But as we’ve already seen, they didn’t appear to have enough even before the weather got cold. […]

A further winter factor that is likely to cause increased casualties on both sides is that blood doesn’t coagulate as fast in the cold, leading to more shock cases, while wounds are vulnerable to frostbite and increase the risk of hypothermia. Efficient medical evacuation could reduce these risks, but Russia seems to have been remarkably bad at dealing with casualties and the places where the fighting is fiercest (such as around Bakhmut and Svatove) are not conducive to quick evacuations.

Winter puts more stress on logistics more than any other environment. As USMC Colonel John C. Scharfen has written, “Cold weather poses special logistical problems that require more of everything – more rations, more fuel, more transport, more maintenance…” This of course is true of both sides in this war. But Russia seems to be in a worse place. This is something that the Ukrainians can and most likely will take advantage of.”

 

  1. Consequences and what to do? 

Ukrainians decided what victory over Russia should be like, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the Rating sociological group. Since the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion, the conviction that Ukraine’s victory in the war is the liberation of all its territories, including Crimea and occupied Donbas, has increased (from 74% in March to 85% in November 2022). Only 9% chose the option of returning only the territories that Ukraine controlled until 24 February 2022. […] No more than 5% support the continuation of hostilities on the territory of Russia.

The survey results indicate that the number of those who support restoration of Ukraine’s status as a nuclear state has increased (from 47% in 2019 to 53% in 2022).

Ukraine’s accession to NATO (61%) and Russia’s nuclear disarmament (50%) are the most frequently supported measures by respondents to deter future attacks on Ukraine. Ukraine’s accession to the EU and guarantees from Western partners regarding the supply of weapons to Ukraine as deterrence methods are supported by 34% of respondents. […] Only 8% support signing peace agreements with Russia as a method of deterring aggression.”

Hans Petter Midttun: Two days ago, I reiterated a previous point: “The massive Russian attacks on critical civilian infrastructure might prove to be a strategic mistake. The change in strategy has forced the West to act (against its natural inclination to remain disengaged). […] Western resolve has also strengthened. Sitting idle and watching Russia trying to increase a humanitarian catastrophe into something worse, becomes progressively more difficult. We might find that they will finally be forced to give Ukraine the tools it needs to defeat Russia and evict its forces from Ukraine. The West has given Ukraine the means to stop (not evict) Russia on land. The next step would be to deny Russia the ability to attack Ukraine from the sky.”

Recent events have proven the validity of the assessment. The expected decision to supply Patriot missile defence system to Ukraine will be made against the backdrop of the Russian attacks on critical infrastructure. It is a purely defensive system that will improve Ukraine’s ability to defend itself against cruise and ballistic missiles, but not stop or degrade Russia’s ability to launch them.

The attacks on critical infrastructure starting on 10 October, have forced the UK to consider supplying long-range strike weapons. Asked about the possible supply of longer-range missile systems to Kyiv to destroy or damage drone launch sites, the  UK defence minister, Ben Wallace, replied:

“I constantly review the weapons systems we could provide. We too have in our armour potential weapons systems that are longer and should the Russians continue to target civilian areas and try and break those Geneva conventions, then I will be open-minded to see what we do next.”

The drones are presently being launched from the Russian Federation, the Republic of Belarus, occupied territories, and the Sea of Azov. The statement made by Wallace is very much in line with his predecessor, James Heappey, who in late April said it was “not necessarily a problem” for Ukraine to use UK-supplied arms against military targets in Russia. He stressed that the Ukrainian military strikes to disrupt supply lines were a legitimate part of war. Obviously, taking out the weapon carriers before launch is no less legitimate and immensely more effective.

Even President Marcon is making statements that might commit France to change its approach towards Russia and its warfighting in Ukraine. He has condemned the missile and drone strikes as war crimes.

Russia has chosen a cynical strategy, aiming to destroy civilian infrastructure in order to put Ukraine on its knees, Macron said. The objective is clear: Respond to military defeats by spreading terror among civilians, try to break the back as it can’t maintain the front.”

The pressure on Germany to deliver the Leopard 2 main battle tank – providing Ukraine with an advantage on the battlefield – is mounting as Russia is destroying the Ukrainian energy sector from a safe distance. But it will not be the only country feeling the pressure. The importance of supplying Ukraine with long-range fire, combat aircraft, modern western-made tanks, artillery and air defence is increasing by the day.

That said, Ukraine’s need for western defence aid is no less crucial in 2022 than it was in 2014 or the subsequent years between. If supplied during the first 8 years of the low-intensity war, the full-scale invasion might never have happened. Ukraine would have established a credible deterrence and the West would have demonstrated the will and ability to uphold its commitments.

If provided immediately after 24 February – acknowledging that some of the systems would require substantial training – would also have helped demonstrate Western resolve. More crucially, it would have stopped Russia from destroying residential buildings, schools, health facilities, industrial enterprises, trade, agricultural areas and facilities, culture, administrative buildings, environment ….and recently, critical infrastructure. Russia has been killing civilians and destroying civilian infrastructure since the very start of the full-scale war. I have previously argued why I believe that 150-200,000 civilians might have been killed since 24 February.

The West has been watching the atrocities and destructions from a safe distance, arguing that the supply of weapons enabling strikes against legitimate targets inside Russia might escalate the war into an open confrontation between NATO and Russia.

I have repeatedly explained why the argument is hollow. Russia’s warfighting in Ukraine is only a part of a Russian-induced broader confrontation with the US, NATO, and the EU. The Russian Federation has underlined as much in its strategic documents, strategic messaging and narrative, and not least, its actions.

Western reluctance is more likely linked to the fact that the systems Ukraine urgently needs consist of highly sensitive technology. Any foreign military sales or donations have several preconditions, including the unrelenting demand that the technology at all times must be protected according to the standards of the country providing it.

While Ukraine conducted many far-reaching reforms during the 8 years leading up to the last invasion, enabling it to defeat Russia on the battlefield, it did not do enough to build the integrity needed to become eligible to obtain western, high-tech, and sensitive defence systems.

Despite the ongoing, ruthless war, however, the reform process continues. Additionally, Ukraine is demonstrating integrity on an impressive scale daily. The likelihood of it receiving all the tools it needs increases by the day. More importantly, however, we don’t really have a choice. Either we ensure a Ukrainian victory, or we all suffer the consequences.

Deploying NATO forces into the theatre to close the sky would alleviate any security concerns the West might have. It would allow NATO member states to ensure the security and safety of the systems themselves.

When holding countries, organisations, and individuals accountable after Russia has been defeated, however, it is important to remember all of them who delayed, stopped or sabotaged the reform process in 2014-21.

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