Russo Ukrainian War. Day 298: Russia’s War causes environmental calamity for Ukraine – Zelenskyy

 

Daily review

Article by: Hans Petter Midttun

Russia’s War causes environmental calamity for Ukraine – Zelenskyy. Ukraine’s National Guard Special Forces stop Russian breakthrough in Donetsk Oblast. Russians withdraw troops from 2 towns in Kherson Oblast, collaborators urged to evacuate.

Daily overview — Summary report, December 17

 

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 06.00 am, December 17, 2022 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. December 17, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Situation in Ukraine. December 17, 2022. Source: ISW.

Russian forces are trying to improve the tactical position in the Lyman direction and are concentrating their efforts on conducting offensive actions in the Bakhmut and Avdiivka directions.

Over the past day, the units of the Defense Forces repelled the attacks of the Russian invaders in the areas of more than fifteen settlements. Among them are Stelmakhivka and Serebryanske forestry in the Luhansk region and Verkhnyokamianske, Vyimka, Vesele, Bakhmut, Klishchiivka, Opytne, Pervomaiske, Nevelske and Krasnohorivka in the Donetsk region.

Over the past 24 hours, Russian forces launched 5 missile strikes and 42 MLRS attacks. The threat of air and missile strikes persists throughout Ukraine. [In particular, the civil infrastructure of the cities of Druzhkivka and Kramatorsk in the Donetsk oblast came under fire. Two Onyx-type missiles launched from the temporarily occupied Crimea in the Odesa region were successfully destroyed by air defense forces. In addition, the occupiers fired more than 10 rounds of anti-aircraft fire at the positions of our troops in various directions and at the civilian infrastructure of Kherson.]

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

Kharkiv Battle Map. December 17, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Kharkiv Battle Map. December 17, 2022. Source: ISW.

  • On the Siverskyi and Slobozhanskyi directions, the areas of the settlements of Seredyna-Buda and Vovkivka of the Sumy region and Strelecha, Hlyboke, Staritsa, Vovchansk, Volokhivka, Chugunivka, Novomlynsk and Dvorichna of the Kharkiv region were shelled.
  • In the Kupyansk direction, the districts of Berestovo, Yagidny, Kotlyarivka, and Krokhmalny of the Kharkiv region, and Novoselivskyi and Stelmakhivka in the Luhansk region, were damaged by fire.
  • In the Lyman direction, Russian forces shelled Makiivka, Ploshanka and Chervonopivka of the Luhansk region.
Donetsk Battle Map. December 17, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Donetsk Battle Map. December 17, 2022. Source: ISW.

  • On the Bakhmut and Avdiivka directions, more than fifteen settlements came under enemy fire. In particular, these are Verkhnokamianske, Spirne, Bilogorivka, Soledar, Bakhmutske, Bakhmut, Chasiv Yar, Opytne, Maryinka and Novomykhailivka of the Donetsk region.
  • Russian forces did not conduct active operations in the Novopavlivka direction. To clarify the position of our troops, the UAV was deployed in the area of Shevchenkove settlement.
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. December 17, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. December 17, 2022. Source: ISW.

  • On the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson directions, Russian forces shelled twenty-four settlements with tanks, mortars, artillery and MLRS. Among them are Biloghirya, Novodanilivka, Orihiv, Stepove, Plavna in Zaporizhzhia and Kozatsk, Tyaginka, Mykilsk, Kherson and Dniprovsk in the Kherson region.

On December 16 of this year, several areas where Russian manpower and military equipment were concentrated, as well as two of its ammunition depots in the Zaporizhzhia region, were confirmed to have been hit by fire by units of the Defense Forces. Losses of personnel amounted to more than 150 wounded servicemen, and 10 units of military equipment of various types were destroyed. Information about eliminated invaders is being clarified.

[On December 15, Russian forces lost more than 100 people wounded and a warehouse of ammunition in the areas of Tokmak and Polohy settlements. Information on eliminated occupiers is being clarified.]

The command of the occupying forces plans to introduce a 24-hour curfew in populated areas on the temporarily occupied territory of the Zaporizhzhia region. Thus, in the settlement of Chernihivka, the specified restrictions will be introduced from December 25, and in the city of Berdyansk – from December 30, 2022, to January 3, 2023.

Over the past 24 hours, Ukrainian missile and artillery units have hit 8 personnel concentration areas, 2 control points, and 4 ammunition depots of the Russian occupiers.

Military Updates

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst. ~

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.

Armed Forces of Ukraine repel Russian attacks near more than 15 settlements, Ukrinform reports. “Russian forces try to improve its tactical position in Lyman direction and focuses its efforts on conducting offensive operations in Bakhmut and Avdiivka directions, reads the report.

Over the past day, the units of the Defense Forces repelled Russian attacks in the areas of more than 15 settlements, including Stelmakhivka and Serebrianske forestry in the Luhansk region; Verkhniokamyanske, Vyimka, Vesele, Bakhmut, Klishchiivka, Opytne, Pervomaiske, Nevelske, and Krasnohorivka in Donetsk region.”

Ukraine’s National Guard Special Forces stop Russian breakthrough in Donetsk Oblast, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the press service of the National Guard of Ukraine. Another Russian breakthrough failed due to the skilful actions of National Guard special forces in the area of urban-type settlement of Velyka Novosilka, Donetsk Oblast. The occupiers suffered great losses in personnel and equipment.”

National Resistance Center reports on achievements of Ukrainian partisans in the past week, Ukrinform reports, citing the National Resistance Center. “Over the past week, a collaborator in Kherson region, as well as several locations of Russian personnel in Luhansk and Donetsk regions, were eliminated thanks to the underground. […]

Apart from fighting against traitors, the underground actively helps the Armed Forces of Ukraine eliminate enemies by reporting their location. In particular, an enemy personnel cluster was destroyed by a targeted strike in the temporarily occupied Horlivka in the Donetsk region thanks to information from the Ukrainian underground on December 12. According to preliminary data, more than 100 occupiers were killed.

It is also known that on December 13, thanks to the cooperation between the Armed Forces of Ukraine and partisans, an enemy base was destroyed in the Luhansk region. About 20 occupiers, including six officers, were eliminated. Eight pieces of equipment were also destroyed, and several dozen Russians were hospitalized with injuries of varying severity.

In the occupied territories, Ukrainian partisans continue to distribute national symbols and leaflets and help local residents. As reported, partisans took responsibility for setting fire to the Russian base in occupied Crimea.”

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1604007800283226112

Russians withdraw troops from 2 towns in Kherson Oblast, collaborators urged to evacuate, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the Ukrainian General Staff. “Russian forces are redeploying separate units and withdrawing some of its troops from Kakhovka and Nova Kakhovka in Kherson Oblast to the area of the settlement of Nyzhni Sirohozy. The Russian military is spreading information among local residents that Kakhovka will be abandoned by Russian troops by the end of this year, therefore they suggest that locals loyal to the occupiers move to the temporarily occupied Ukrainian Crimea.”

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1604156467149524996

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

  • On 14 December 2022, the Russian Ministry of Defence announced the establishment of two ‘front line creative brigades’ tasked with raising the morale of troops deployed on the ‘special military operation’. Russian media reports that the ranks will include opera singers, actors and circus performers. This follows a recent campaign by the Russian MoD to encourage the public to donate musical instruments to deployed soldiers.
  • Military music and organised entertainment for deployed troops have a long history in many militaries but in Russia, they are strongly intertwined with the Soviet-era concept of ideological political education.
  • Fragile morale almost certainly continues to be a significant vulnerability across much of the Russian force. However, soldiers’ concerns primarily focus on very high casualty rates, poor leadership, pay problems lack of equipment and ammunition, and lack of clarity about the war’s objectives. The creative brigades’ efforts are unlikely to substantively alleviate these concerns.
  • In recent days, there has been an uptick in Russia’s campaign of long-range strikes against Ukraine’s critical national infrastructure.
  • The waves of strikes have largely consisted of air and maritime launched cruise missiles but have almost certainly also included Iranian-provided uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) being launched from Russia’s Krasnodar region.
  • Previously these UAVs had been primarily launched from locations within occupied Crimea. The change of launch site is likely due to Russian concerns about the vulnerability of Crimea, while it is also convenient for resupply from the weapons’ likely arrival point in Russia, at Astrakhan.

Losses of the Russian army 

Losses of Russian Army. Source General Staff of Ukraine. ~

Losses of Russian Army. Source General Staff of Ukraine.

As of Sunday 18 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 98280 (+590),
  • Tanks – 2987 (+2),
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 5963 (+5),
  • Artillery systems – 1948 (+1),
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 410 (+0),
  • Air defence means – 211 (+0),
  • Aircraft – 281 (+0),
  • Helicopters – 264 (+0),
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 4579 (+2),
  • Vessels/boats – 16 (+0),
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 1649 (+1),
  • Special equipment – 174 (+0),
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0),
  • Cruise missiles – 653 (+0)

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

Ukraine-run advisory platform for safe surrender seen by 1.2M Russians, Ukrinform reports. “Whole divisions of Russian Army surrender”, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Andrii Yusov, Defence Intelligence of Ukraine, “Informational resources of the Ukrainian national project “Hochu Zhit” [ “I want to live” – ed.], which gives Russian soldiers an opportunity to surrender, have been used by 1,200,000 people, most of them within the Russian Federation. […]

Currently these are not intents to surrender, but enquiries to find a way for themselves and their relatives to save their lives in this bloody unjustified war of Putin’s occupiers against Ukraine. Yusov reported that each day more than 100 people make contact through the hotline, chatbot and other means of communication of the project.”

Russia receives a new batch of Shahed drones, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “The Russian Federation has resumed strikes on Ukraine with Iranian-made Shahed kamikaze drones thanks to a new batch, but they are using them more [sparingly].”

Putin wants to gain control over the Belarusian defence industry, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the National Resistance Center and Belarusian resistance movement. “In order to continue active military operations on the territory of Ukraine, the Russian Federation has already switched their defence industry into overdrive. The Russian government plans to increase state defence orders in 2023 and is increasing the workload of its defence industry. It also became known about the Russian Federation’s plans to open its own production of Shahed-136 Iranian drones on the territory of the country.

In addition, according to the Belarusian resistance movement, the Russians are trying to gain control over the Belarusian defence industry within the framework of the activities of the “union state” with the Republic of Belarus. In particular, this topic was discussed by Sergei Shoigu, Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation, during his visit to Belarus in early December.

At the same time, the opportunity to fully use the Belarusian defence industry can become a bargaining chip during the talks between the dictators Putin and Lukashenko in Minsk, scheduled for 19 December. Putin continues to pressure Lukashenko to fully involve the Belarusian military in the war in Ukraine. At present, such a step is unlikely. The Belarusian army continues to serve Russian troops deployed in Belarus. It is possible that Lukashenko will be ready to make concessions regarding control over the country’s defence industry during negotiations with Putin.”

Humanitarian 

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1604183455608209410

The state of Ukraine’s energy system after the ninth missile strike by Russia, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the press service of Ukrenergo [ed. – is an electricity transmission system operator in Ukraine]. “The process of bringing the units of nuclear power plants, with the exception of occupied Zaporizhzhia, to the level of planned capacity continues. Thermal power plants are gradually resuming operation, and hydroelectric power plants continue to operate on schedule. Emergency recovery operations are being carried out at power facilities damaged by shelling, the report says.

The company adds that the state of power grids across the country is also complicated by weather conditions: rain and snow, frost and strong winds lead to icing of equipment. Repair teams work around the clock. 

On Friday, large-scale missile attacks by the Russian Federation on the electric power infrastructure of Ukraine resulted in the loss of more than 50% of the country’s combined energy system consumption.”

Electricity is restored for 6 million Ukrainians in one day, but there are major problems with water, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing President Zelensky. “A day after the massive Russian missile attack, electricity has been restored for almost 6 million Ukrainians, but there are still major problems with the water supply. […]

Of course, there is still a lot of work to do to stabilise the system. There are problems with the supply of heat and big problems with the supply of water. The most difficult situation is in the city of Kyiv and the oblast, Vinnytsia and the oblast, Lviv and the oblast. But there are, unfortunately, large-scale outages in many other oblasts: they include Dnipro and Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, Volyn, Zhytomyr Oblast, Zakarpattia, Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast, the city and oblast of Odesa, Poltava Oblast, Ternopil Oblast, Chernihiv Oblast, and other cities and oblasts.

The President appealed to Ukraine’s international partners to provide a reliable air defence shield.”

Nine nuclear power units operating in Ukraine’s energy system – Energoatom, Ukrinform reports, citing Ukraine’s state-run nuclear generation operator Energoatom. “On December 17, as of 18:00, all nine nuclear power units located on the territory controlled by Ukraine are operating in the power system. The capacity of one of the power units is limited to 600 MW due to the unpreparedness of the power system to accept the entire possible amount of electricity it generates, as the power infrastructure objects were again damaged as a result of yesterday’s shelling, the statement reads.”

Environmental

Zelensky Says Russia’s War Causing Environmental Calamity For Ukraine, Reuters reported on 14 December. “Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday that the environmental harm from Russia’s war will affect millions of people for years and urged New Zealand to take leadership in diplomacy to address the damage.

Speaking to the New Zealand parliament – just the second foreign leader to do so – Zelenskyy said by video link from Ukraine that Russian attacks have contaminated the country’s oceans and 3 million hectares (7.4 million acres) of forest.

Dozens of rivers are polluted, hundreds of coal mines are flooded, dozens of the most dangerous enterprises, including chemical ones have been destroyed by Russian strikes, he said, according to translation provided by the parliament. All this … will have a direct impact on millions of people, he said, referring to leaks of hazardous chemicals and contamination from mines and munitions.

You cannot rebuild the destroyed nature, just as you cannot restore the destroyed lives, Zelenskyy added. Zelensky urged New Zealand, a staunch supporter of Kyiv, to lead efforts at the United Nations and elsewhere to restore Ukraine’s environmental security and clear mines.”

Legal 

More than 49,000 proceedings initiated over crimes committed by the Russian military in Ukraine, Ukrinform reports. “Since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, investigators of the National Police of Ukraine have initiated 49,219 criminal proceedings over crimes committed by service members of the armed forces of the Russian Federation and their accomplices in the territory of Ukraine,” the National Police of Ukraine posted on Telegram.

In particular, 37,699 proceedings have been opened under Art. 438 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (Violation of laws and customs of war); 9,134 – Art. 110 (Encroachment on the territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine); 2,198 – Art. 111-1 (Collaborationism); 103 – Art. 111 (High treason); 37 – Art. 113 (Subversion), and others

Russians target humanitarian aid headquarters in outskirts of Kherson: one person died and more are injured, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Deputy Head of the President’s Office Kyrylo Tymoshenko. “Russians have shelled a settlement from mortars [on Saturday]. Humanitarian aid headquarters were hit in the result. One woman died from injuries received, and two people are in the hospital. Russian forces strike has damaged a school, a hospital and a church.”

450 children were killed, 863 children injured, 13,613 deported by foe forces, and 331 reported missing – the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine reports as of December 18. 3,126 educational establishments are damaged as a result of shelling and bombings, and 337 of them are destroyed fully. 51,161 crimes of aggression and war crimes and 18,585 crimes against national security were registered.

Support

UK confirms sending Ukraine Brimstone 2 precision-guided missiles, Ukrinform reports. “As part of its aid package, the UK has provided Brimstone 2 missiles, a precision-guided missile, to the Ukrainian Armed Forces. This aid has played a crucial role in stalling Russian advances, the UK’s Ministry of Defence posted on Twitter.

As reported, the latest British Brimstone 2 precision-guided missiles have double the range of the previous design provided to the Armed Forces of Ukraine earlier. This system essentially allows a missile to scan the battlefield and select the most appropriate target while screening out civilian vehicles or less important military equipment.”

The US has committed more than $19.3B in security aid to Ukraine since Feb 24, Ukrinform reports, citing Pentagon press secretary, Brigadier General Pat Ryder. “Since 2014, the United States has committed approximately $22.1 billion in security assistance to Ukraine and more than $19.3 billion since the beginning of Russia’s unprovoked and brutal full-scale invasion on February 24th, he said.

He assured that to meet Ukraine’s evolving battlefield requirements, the US will continue to work closely with our allies and partners to provide Ukraine with key capabilities and assistance, to include training.”

Ukraine receives the first shipment of equipment from the US Department of Energy, Ukrinform reports, citing the Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister, Communities, Territories and Infrastructure Development Minister, Oleksandr Kubrakov. “Ukraine has already received the first shipment of necessary equipment from the US Department of Energy. This shipment is part of the $53 million aid announced by American partners last month, Kubrakov wrote.

In his words, American partners are among the leaders in assisting Ukraine with the restoration of energy infrastructure. Since the Russian full-scale invasion started, the United States has provided more than $145 million in order to repair and maintain Ukraine’s power grids only. The priority list is remaining unchanged: generators, transformers and other equipment required for the restoration of energy infrastructure.

In the near future, Ukraine is also [expecting] to receive power equipment as part of cooperation with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which has already sent equipment worth about $25 million.”

New Developments

  1. Russia’s defence minister visits troops involved in Ukraine operation, ministry says, ReutersRussia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu inspected the country’s troops involved in Moscow’s “special military operation” in Ukraine, the defence ministry said on Sunday. The head of the Russian military flew around the areas of deployment of troops and checked the advanced positions of Russian units in the zone of the special military operation, the ministry said.”
  2. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia accuses Moldova of oppressing Russians, Ukrainska PravdaThe Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia accused the official Chișinău of oppressing the Russian national minority after the decision to revoke the broadcasting licenses of six TV channels that spread propaganda about the war in Ukraine. […] On the evening of 16 December, the commission on emergency situations, which has been operating in Moldova since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, suspended the licenses of six TV channels. Among them: TV6, Orhei TV, Primul in Moldova, Accent TV, NTV Moldova and RTR Moldova.

According to the order of the commission, the decision to suspend the licenses was made in order to protect the national information space and prevent the risk of disinformation and attempts to manipulate public opinion. It is stated that the channels spread false information during the coverage of the war in Ukraine.”

  1. On 16 December, Putin discussed the war with the country’s military leaders all day – Kremlin, Ukrainska PravdaOn Friday, the President worked at the joint headquarters of the branches of military forces involved in the special military operation during the whole day. According to the report, Putin inspected the work of the headquarters, listened to a report on the course of military operations [the so-called “special military operation” is the term Russian authorities use to call war against Ukraine – ed.], and held a general meeting and separate meetings with commanders.”

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1604228441594888192

Assessment 

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of  December 17, 2022:

Ukrainian Counteroffensives in Eastern Kharkiv Oblast-Western Luhansk Oblast.

Ukrainian forces reportedly continued counter-offensive operations along the Svatove-Kreminna line on December 17. A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted assaults in the direction of Sofiivka, Luhansk Oblast (21km northwest of Svatove). Luhansk Oblast Head Serhiy Haidai stated that Ukrainian forces are advancing near Svatove and that the Svatove area is currently one of the most active sections of the front.  A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted assaults in the direction of Russian positions near Terny, Donetsk Oblast (17km northwest of Kreminna) and Nevske, Luhansk Oblast (18km northwest of Kreminna). A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces also conducted an assault in the direction of Holykove (10km north of Kreminna) in order to gain control of the R-66 highway (Svatove-Kreminna highway) and push Russian forces across the Krasna River.  Luhansk Oblast Head Serhiy Haidai reported that Ukrainian forces are also advancing near Kreminna. Russian troops conducted limited counterattacks to regain lost positions near Kreminna. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian assaults near Ploshchanka (17km northwest of Kreminna), Chervonopopivka (6km northwest of Kreminna) and Dibrova (5km southwest of Kreminna).

Ukrainian forces reportedly continued to strike Russian rear areas in Luhansk Oblast on December 17. Russian and social media sources claimed that Ukrainian forces struck Russian rears areas in Lantrativka (57km northeast of Svatove), Shchastia (78km southeast of Kreminna), and Kadiivka (60km southeast of Kreminna).  

The Kremlin is likely attempting to depict Russian President Vladimir Putin as a competent wartime leader and to rehabilitate the image of the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) by publicizing Putin’s meeting with the joint headquarters of the Russian Armed Forces. The Kremlin announced on December 17 that Putin worked at the joint headquarters of the services of the Russian Armed Forces throughout the day, heard reports on the progress of the “Special Military Operation” in Ukraine, and held a meeting with the joint headquarters and a separate meeting with commanders. The Russian MoD and media published footage of the meeting with the joint headquarters that showed that Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Army General Valery Gerasimov, Russian Defense Minister Army General Sergei Shoigu, and the Commander of the Joint Group of Forces in Ukraine Army General Sergei Surovikin were in attendance. Images and video of the event provided by the Russian MoD preclude the identification of other notable officers (such as military district or army commanders) present, however. The Kremlin likely publicized the meeting to present Putin as being thoroughly engaged with the planning and execution of the war in Ukraine following recent prominent criticism of his role in leading the war effort by figures in the ultra-nationalist pro-war community. One prominent milblogger even questioned whether “Putin finally showed public interest in the special military operation” at their suggestion to do so.

The Kremlin also likely publicized Putin’s meeting with the joint headquarters to rehabilitate the image of the Russian MoD in response to the pro-war community’s routine criticism of the Russian MoD. The Kremlin likely consciously publicized Gerasimov’s, Shoigu’s, and Surovikin’s attendance at the meeting with Putin to present the Russian MoD as an organized, unified, and effective war-fighting institution and to shield the top commanders of the Russian Armed Forces from further criticism. The Russian MoD has taken great care in the past months to affirm Gerasimov’s continued role as Chief of the General Staff for a similar reason- in the absence of tangible Russian victories against Ukraine, Russian military leadership seeks to present a picture of a functional and seamless chain of military command. The Kremlin is likely attempting to rehabilitate the image of the Russian MoD to counterbalance the growing influence of pro-war ultra-nationalist figures, primarily that of Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov and Wagner Group Financier Yevgeny Prigozhin, and their parallel military structures. The Kremlin will likely continue to attempt to shield the Russian MoD from criticism while still facilitating the growing influence of these ultra-nationalist pro-war figures. This effort is unsustainable and will likely continue to generate conflict between the Russian MoD and the ultra-nationalist pro-war community. […]

A New York Times (NYT) investigation of Russian military documents supports ISW’s longstanding assessments about how flawed Russian planning assumptions and campaign design decisions plagued Russia’s invasion of Ukraine from its onset. […]. The NYT acquired and published logbooks, timetables, orders, and other documents of elements of the 76th Airborne Division and 1st Guards Tank Army related to the early days of the war on December 16. The documents demonstrate that Russian military planners expected Russian units to be able to capture significant Ukrainian territory with little to no Ukrainian military opposition. The documents indicate that elements of the 76th Airborne Division and Eastern Military District were ordered to depart Belarus and reach Kyiv within 18 hours against little resistance; Russian planners placed OMON riot police and SOBR Russian National Guard (Rosgvardia) special police elements (essentially a Russian SWAT equivalent) within the first column of a maneuver element of the 104th Air Assault Regiment of the 76th Airborne Division. Riot police are not suitable lead elements for a large maneuver force in a conventional force-on-force war because they are not trained to conduct combined arms or mechanized warfare. The decision to place riot police in the lead column is a violation of Russian (or any normal) doctrine and indicates that Russian planners did not expect significant organized Ukrainian resistance. A separate set of orders indicates that Russian planners expected unsupported elements of the Russian 26th Tank Regiment (of the 47th Tank Division, 1st Guards Tank Army) to conduct a mostly uninhibited, 24-hour dash from Ukraine’s border with Russia to a point across the Dnipro River, about 400 kilometers away. Ukrainian forces destroyed elements of the 26th Tank Regiment in Kharkiv Oblast, hundreds of kilometers short of its intended destination on March 17.

The NYT investigation also supports ISW’s assessments that Russian strategic commanders have been micromanaging operational commanders’ decisions on tactical matters and that Russian morale is very low. The investigation supported existing reporting that Russian soldiers in Belarus did not know they were going to attack Ukraine until February 23—the day before the invasion—and that some soldiers did not know about the invasion until one hour before the invasion began. A retired Russian general told the NYT that the lack of a unified Russian theater command meant there was “no unified planning of actions and command [and control].” A Ukrainian pilot told the NYT he was amazed that Russian forces did not conduct a proper air and missile campaign at the beginning of the war to target Ukrainian airfields—as Russian doctrine prescribes. The NYT reported a Russian tank commander deliberately destroyed a Rosgvardia checkpoint in Zaporizhzhia Oblast over an argument and that many Russian soldiers sabotaged their own vehicles to avoid combat. […]

Ongoing Russian offensive operations around Bakhmut are further driving a wedge between forces of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner Group troops. DNR Head Denis Pushilin claimed on December 17 that both DNR and Wagner units are closing the “pincers” on Ukrainian troops in Bakhmut. Several milbloggers responded to Pushilin’s claim and categorically denied that DNR troops have anything to do with fighting in Bakhmut, emphasizing that offensive efforts in this area are exclusively led by the Wagner Group. The disparities between Pushilin’s claims, which represent the official DNR line, and statements made by Prigozhin and other prominent voices in the Russian information space suggest that there is a continued and growing divide between the DNR and the Wagner Group. During battles for settlements south of Bakhmut in October, Prigozhin denied any involvement by DNR or conventional Russian troops in the capture of Ivanhrad. Prigozhin has also previously been remarkably clear-eyed about the slow and grinding pace of Wagner advances in the Bakhmut area, which directly contrasts with exaggerated claims made by Pushilin and other Russian sources. Wagner’s role in operations around Bakhmut will likely continue to contribute to divides between various factions in the Russian military and discredit DNR authorities and the forces that they command.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) assesses that the Kremlin is not serious about negotiations with Ukraine […]. CIA Director William Burns told PBS NewsHour on December 16, “Most conflicts end in negotiations, but that requires a seriousness on the part of the Russians in this instance that I don’t think we see… it’s not our assessment that the Russians are serious at this point about a real negotiation.” ISW has consistently assessed that Russian President Vladimir Putin is not interested in negotiating seriously with Ukraine and retains maximalist objectives for the war.[23]

Putin has consistently weaponized invocations of the negotiation process to isolate Ukraine from partner support. Putin has routinely framed Ukraine as refusing concessions and likely seeks to use any ceasefire and negotiation window to allow Russian troops time to reconstitute and relaunch operations, thus depriving Ukraine of the initiative. A ceasefire agreement that occurs soon enough to allow Russian forces to rest and refit this winter is extremely unlikely. Russia and Ukraine are currently opposed to one another on the terms of any such agreement, and it is highly unlikely that Russian and Ukrainian officials will agree to a ceasefire, let alone implement one, for some months.  Russian forces will likely not have the opportunity to pause Ukrainian winter counter-offensives and reset before spring.

Key Takeaways

  • The Kremlin is likely attempting to increase perceptions of Putin’s competence and of that of the Russian Ministry of Defense by publicizing Putin’s meeting with the joint headquarters of the Russian Armed Forces and Putin’s appearances at non-military events.
  • A New York Times investigation of Russian military documents from early in the war supports ISW’s longstanding assessments about how flawed Russian planning assumptions and campaign design decisions plagued Russia’s invasion of Ukraine from its onset.
  • Ongoing Russian offensive operations around Bakhmut are further driving a wedge between forces of the Donetsk People’s Republic and Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner Group troops.
  • The US Central Intelligence Agency assesses that the Kremlin is not serious about negotiations with Ukraine, agreeing with a longstanding ISW assessment.
  • Ukrainian forces conducted counterattacks near Svatove and Kreminna and continue to strike Russian rear areas.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations near Bakhmut and Avdiivka-Donetsk City.
  • Ukrainian officials warned that Russian forces may be attempting to draw Ukrainian forces into a trap on the east (left) bank of the Dnipro River.
  • Russia may be conducting an information operation falsely connecting ongoing negotiations on the demilitarization of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant to a prospective future Ukrainian counteroffensive in Zaporizhzhia Oblast.

Several Russian sources denounced a military commissar’s claim that Russian authorities will extend the service period for conscript soldiers. An extension of the legal mandatory service period would not be necessary to keep current conscripts in the field, however, as all former conscripts are reservists, and all reservists are already eligible for mobilization.“

CIA: China concerned about Russia’s failures in Ukraine, Kremlin’s nuclear rhetoric, Ukrinform reports, citing Voice of America. “CIA Director William Burns believes that the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as well as the failure of their initial plan and the subsequent nuclear rhetoric, caused concern on the part of China’s leader Xi Jinping. I don’t think any foreign leader has paid more careful attention to that war and Russia’s poor military performance than Xi Jinping has, as he thinks about his own ambitions in Taiwan and elsewhere, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency said in an interview with PBS.

According to him, it’s been interesting to watch the Chinese leadership’s reaction to the war in Ukraine, because a few weeks before the start of the invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping met at the Winter Olympics in Beijing and declared boundless friendship.

However, as Burns noted, the limits of this partnership became apparent within a few weeks – Beijing is not supplying weapons to Russia. So, it turns out that there actually are some limits to that partnership, at least in terms of President Xi’s reluctance to supply the kind of military assistance to Putin that he’s asked for in the course of the war in Ukraine, the CIA director said.

When asked what worries the leadership of the Central Intelligence Agency most about this conflict, Burns replied that it is the Kremlin’s nuclear rhetoric. […] He added that he met with the head of Russian intelligence, Sergei Naryshkin. According to Burns, Moscow is trying to intimidate the West, but he insists that at the moment American intelligence analysts don’t see any clear evidence today of plans to use tactical nuclear weapons.

We have made very clear, the president has made very clear to the Russians what the serious risks of that would be. I think it’s also been very useful that Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Modi in India have also raised their concerns about use of nuclear weapons as well. I think that’s also having an impact on the Russians,” Burns said.”

Eight takeaways from The Times’s investigation into Putin’s war, The New York Times reports. “Secret Russian battle plans, intercepts, and interviews with Russian soldiers and Kremlin confidants revealed new details of how Vladimir Putin botched his invasion of Ukraine. A team of New York Times reporters investigated one of the central questions of the war in Ukraine: Why has Russia bungled its invasion so badly? The story — based on secret battle plans, intercepts and interviews with Russian soldiers and Kremlin confidants — offers new insights into President Vladimir V. Putin’s state of mind, the stunning failures of his military, and US efforts to prevent a direct war with Russia. Here are eight takeaways from the report.

Reached by phone inside Russian hospitals, wounded soldiers described being sent to war with little food, training, bullets or equipment — and watching about two-thirds of their platoon get killed. Materials recovered from battlefields point to the military’s lack of preparation: a map from the 1960s, a Wikipedia printout on how to operate a sniper rifle, a wildly optimistic timetable for Russia’s invasion. In interviews, one soldier recalled asking how to use his rifle just before heading off to battle […].

Many of the people closest to Mr. Putin fed his suspicions, magnifying his grievances against the West. A former confidant compared the dynamic to the radicalization spiral of a social media algorithm: They read his mood and they start to slip him that kind of stuff. Mr. Putin planned the invasion in such secrecy that even Dmitri S. Peskov, his spokesman, said in an interview that he learned of it only once it had begun. Anton Vaino, Mr. Putin’s chief of staff, and Aleksei Gromov, Mr. Putin’s powerful media adviser, also said they did not know in advance, according to people who spoke to them about it.

The United States tried to stop Ukraine from killing a top Russian general. American officials found out that Gen. Valery Gerasimov was planning a trip to the front lines, but withheld the information from the Ukrainians, worried that an attempt on his life could lead to a war between the United States and Russia. The Ukrainians learned of the trip anyway. After an internal debate, Washington took the extraordinary step of asking Ukraine to call off an attack — only to be told that the Ukrainians had already launched it. Dozens of Russian soldiers were said to have been killed. General Gerasimov wasn’t one of them.

A senior Russian official told the C.I.A. director, William J. Burns, last month that Russia would not give up, no matter how many of its soldiers were killed or injured. One NATO member is warning allies that Mr. Putin might accept the death or injury of as many as 300,000 Russian troops — roughly three times his estimated losses so far. Before the war, when Mr. Burns warned Russia not to invade Ukraine, another senior Russian official said Russia’s military was strong enough to stand up even to the Americans.

Days into the invasion, Mr. Putin told Israel’s leader that the Ukrainians had turned out to be “tougher than I was told.” But, he warned the leader, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, we are a big country and we have patience. Earlier, in October 2021, during his first meeting with Mr. Bennett, Mr. Putin had railed against President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine: What kind of Jew is he? He’s an enabler of Nazism.

Invading Russian soldiers used their cellphones to call home, enabling the Ukrainian military to find and kill them. Phone intercepts obtained by The Times showed the bitterness Russian soldiers felt toward their own commanders. They’re preparing you to be cannon fodder, one soldier said. Another described a commander warning him he could be prosecuted for leaving his position, only for the commander to flee when shelling began. […]

The day of the invasion, Mr. Putin set a trap for Russian business tycoons, putting them on television “to tar everyone there,” as one of them described it. Indeed, the businessmen present were all hit by Western sanctions in the months that followed. Even so, another billionaire at the Kremlin that day, Andrey Melnichenko, was defiant, insisting sanctions would not make Russian tycoons turn against Mr. Putin. […]

Mr. Putin’s fractured armies have sometimes turned on each other; one soldier said a tank commander deliberately fired on a Russian checkpoint. Mr. Putin divided his forces into fiefs, some led by people who are not even part of the military, such as his former bodyguard, the leader of Chechnya and a mercenary boss who has provided catering for Kremlin events, Yevgeny Prigozhin. In an interview after being captured by Ukraine, one Russian soldier said he had been in prison for murder when Mr. Prigozhin recruited him. Later, after he was returned to Russia in a prisoner swap, a video emerged of his execution by sledgehammer.”

“There will be no surprises”: Ukraine’s Defence Intelligence tell how they will know about new major offensive of Russia, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Andrii Yusov, the representative of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine (DIU). “The defence forces of Ukraine are preparing for all possible scenarios of a new major offensive by Russia; currently no Russian forces strike group has been observed. A representative of the Defence Intelligence was asked to comment on the statement of Oleksii Reznikov, the minister of Defence of Ukraine, who stated that Russian forces are preparing for a major new offensive in February of next year. Journalists asked what indications intelligence has that this offensive would take place. […]

As of now, we do not see (such a “striking force”), but this does not mean that there is no such threat. If there is this threat, then Ukraine, both through its own efforts and due to the exchange of data with our partners, in particular NATO countries, in the first place, will definitely have this information.

But first of all, we rely on our own data. And as of now, the Ruscists [Russian soldiers] are not ready for a new major offensive. Although you and I should understand that we have been living in conditions of a full-scale offensive since 24 February. And it is not about a new offensive, but tentatively about new operations within the framework of this major offensive.

According to Yusov, Putin and his regime have already sent all the best, most combat-ready, most elite and ready-to-use manpower and equipment to be disposed of in Ukraine, and it has been destroyed by the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”

Commander of Southern Operational Command: Putin can mobilise millions, we have to be ready, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the Commander of Southern Operational Command, Major General Andrii Kovalchuk. “Kovalchuk does not rule out the possibility that the Russian President can order a full mobilisation in Russia, and millions of men will be sent to the front. […] At the same time, the General Major believes that Ukraine can handle such a large-scale invasion. 

Undoubtedly yes. I believe that our position and that of our partners have to be adamant. If Putin carries out a full mobilisation, our partners are ready to provide us with all the means to stop not an army of 300,000 men, but of one million. He implied that Western weapons have to become even more deadly in order to respond to such an expansion of the Russian military. 

We need more collective weapons – not a rifle or a machine gun, nor basic ammunition but cluster munition. […] The media outlet notes that the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is one of 100 countries that signed an international Convention which prohibits the usage of cluster munition. Dozens of countries have not signed it yet, including the United States of America. 

Kovalchuk also said that Ukraine is getting ready for a possible Russian invasion from the North. We are considering the possibility of an invasion from Belarus at the end of February, maybe later… We are getting ready. We are conducting surveillance. We are monitoring where they cluster their personnel and equipment, he said.”

A Biden admin official recently told members of Congress that Ukraine has the military capability to take back Crimea, NBC News reports. “A Biden administration official recently told members of Congress that Ukraine has the military capability to retake Crimea, but some officials are concerned any large-scale offensive that threatens Russia’s hold on the peninsula could push Vladimir Putin to use nuclear weapons, say two US officials familiar with the matter. […]

Asked about the response, a US official said that Ukraine has no near-term objective to retake Crimea and that a military offensive is not imminent but did acknowledge that Ukraine has shown resilience and perseverance throughout the war. Administration officials say they believe three recent deadly drone strikes against Russian military bases were carried out by Ukrainians, although they say it’s still not clear whether the Zelenskyy government ordered them directly.

Washington and other governments have provided Kyiv with more powerful weapons, including HIMARS artillery, that have inflicted serious damage on Russian forces. US and Western perceptions of Ukraine’s armed forces have changed since the February invasion […]. Senior US military officers and Western governments say Ukraine has shown ingenuity and grit in fighting a larger, better-armed military and quickly incorporated new weapons systems provided by NATO members. The Ukrainians continue to shock the world with how well they’re performing on the battlefield, a US official said. 

The Biden official’s apparent confidence in Ukraine’s abilities comes as the administration debates whether to grant the continued requests of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s government for more powerful weaponry, like ATACMS missile systems and tanks, and as Ukraine says Russia is preparing to send 200,000 fresh troops to attack Kyiv. […]

No Ukrainian offensive in Crimea is believed to be imminent, officials and experts say, mainly because the current fight does not support it. Ukraine is struggling and has lost some ground around Bakhmut in the east. The two sides are in a virtual standstill there, and US officials assess that based on where the Ukrainian troops and battlefield lines are now, the Ukrainian military will move northeast in the coming months, rather than south to Crimea. […]

Some administration officials, however, are privately discussing what could happen if Ukraine launches an offensive into Crimea, which Russia has held since 2014, and US officials are concerned Putin could feel backed into a corner. Putin may react more strongly to Crimea, a US official said. A central concern is that a real threat to Russian control could push Putin to use a dirty bomb or other nuclear device, one former and two current officials said. That’s the red line, a former US official said. Three US officials stressed that the U.S. has not seen any indications that Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon or a dirty bomb right now.

In addition, a real fight for Crimea would include heavy battlefield losses on both sides and taking it back would be a daunting task for Ukrainian forces because of the heavy Russian military presence and the difficult geography, military experts say. Bloody battles were fought over the area in the Russia civil war and World War II. […] Russia has up to 70,000 troops defending the peninsula’s northern approaches, and they are dug in, two US officials said. […]

If Ukraine made more advances against Russian forces in eastern and southern Ukraine, it could be better placed to eventually strike at Crimea, experts and a US official said.”

 

  1. Consequences and what to do? 

The cold snap has brought total economic defeat for Putin, Matthew Lynn argues in The Telegraph. “The temperatures have plunged to minus 10 or even lower. Cold air is sweeping across the Continent from the east. We have all had to turn up the heating, and there may well be more freezing weather to come during January and February. This should have been the week when the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, sat back in his chair in the Kremlin, poured himself a stiff vodka, and toasted the success of his plan to bring Europe to its knees by turning off its energy supplies. Soft, self-indulgent Western Europeans were never likely to be able to withstand the hardship of power cuts. Within weeks, they would have been forced to capitulate. 

True, there have been some bottlenecks, electricity prices soared to all-time highs at the start of the week and coal generators had to be put on standby in case they were needed. And yet despite the freeze, the lights stayed on, and the factories just about kept running. 

In reality, this was the week when Putin’s master plan unravelled. He has played the energy card, it has failed and he can’t play it again. And the Russian autocrat has trashed his country’s only industry of any significance with nothing to show for it. 

Much of the UK was covered in snow and ice. Half of France was turned white, while in parts of Germany the temperatures dropped to minus 20C. Even for December, as anyone who has ventured outside will testify, it has been exceptionally cold, putting huge amounts of pressure on the demand for electricity and gas. If that wasn’t enough, the wind dropped, slashing the amount of power it generated, and the cold snap meant solar was practically useless as well. 

It was the moment when Putin’s plan should have started to work. With the Continent freezing, and with blackouts and emergency rationing put in place, Europe’s leaders would be getting desperate to turn the Russian supplies back on. Amid backroom diplomacy, and frantic negotiation, weapon supplies to Ukraine would be stopped, financial assistance would be curbed, and very quickly the country would be forced into a humiliating peace treaty, with Volodymyr Zylensky put on trial for war crimes, and a puppet regime installed in Kyiv. Energy was meant to be the ultimate weapon in this war – and one no democratic government could resist. 

The script has not gone according to plan. True, it has been a difficult week for power supplies. On Monday as the freeze set in, back-up supplies of electricity hit an eye-watering £6,000 per megawatt hour, the highest level ever recorded. In Britain, two coal-fired power plants were put on stand-by just in case they were needed to keep the lights on, while France switched a coal-fired plant back on at the end of November to help with supplies (while also warning that it might have to cut off supplies to the UK). It was, without question, the tightest week the European energy market has yet seen

And yet, here is the important point. The system may have creaked, but it did not collapse. The lights stayed on. The factories were still running. The malls are open, and homes are still heated even if it costs a lot more than it did a year ago. […] True, we still have to get through January and February, traditionally the two coldest months of the year, and there may still be power cuts and rationing. But this was the week when the system was tested during extreme weather conditions. And it just about passed.

For Putin and the Russian government that is a catastrophe. […] The energy card was meant to bully Europe into withdrawing its backing for the Ukrainian government. But it could only be played once. Now that it has failed, Russia can’t bully anyone with it again. The threats are completely hollow.

Even worse, he has trashed his economy in the process. Oil and gas were hardly incidental to Russia. Along with some mines, energy was its only industry of any significance. It accounted for 19pc of GDP in 2019, and for almost half of the Kremlin’s tax revenues. […] And now, it isn’t even going to be a major energy exporter any more. 

No one wants to rely on a producer who might threaten to cut off supplies at any moment. Its energy industry might stagger on for a few more years, but it has no real future. […] As the weather warms up next week, that will become painfully clear – and his corrupt, murderous regime will be in deep trouble. 

Russia is destroying Ukraine’s economy, raising costs for US and allies, The Washington Post reported on Thursday. “Two months of relentless missile and drone attacks by Russia have decimated Ukraine’s critical infrastructure and blown a hole in projections for the country’s war-ravaged economy. Before those strikes, Kyiv expected to need at least $55 billion in foreign assistance next year to meet basic expenses — more than the country’s entire annual prewar spending. Now, with its energy systems severely battered, and more Russian attacks likely, some officials believe Ukraine could end up needing another $2 billion a month, and political leaders have begun trying to brace Western supporters for such worst-case scenarios.

What do you do when you can’t heat your house, you can’t run your shops, factories or plants, and your economy is not working? said Oleg Ustenko, an economic adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky. We are going to be requiring more financial assistance, and Putin is doing this to destroy unity among allies.

At a closed-door meeting last week at the National Bank of Ukraine, which now has a military checkpoint just outside its headquarters, central bank officials pondered what might happen if Russia’s attacks intensify. People could flee Ukraine in droves, taking their money with them, potentially crashing the national currency as they seek to exchange their Ukrainian hryvnia for euros or dollars.

The Ukrainian government could be left without international reserves to pay for critical imports and unable to meet its foreign debt obligations — a doomsday scenario known as a balance-of-payments crisis.

One dire scenario predicted that Ukraine’s economy could contract by another 5 percent next year, on top of the 33 percent contraction this year, according to a person familiar with the bankers’ report who spoke on the condition of anonymity because it was not public. Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, at an international donor conference in Paris on Tuesday, said the contraction next year could reach 9 percent depending on the severity of continued Russian attacks.

As Russian President Vladimir Putin persists with his 10-month-old war, Ukraine’s survival hinges as much on outside economic aid as on donated weapons, and Putin now seems intent on making such help so costly that Kyiv’s Western backers give up.

Before the infrastructure attacks began on Oct. 10, Ukrainian officials were optimistic that Western financial aid would allow them to close most, if not all, of their enormous budget gap in 2023. The European Union and United States collectively have pledged to send more than $30 billion to Ukraine next year, though not all of that money is formally approved. […] Some aid promised for this year was slow to materialize, forcing Kyiv to print money and devalue its currency to ensure its economy remained competitive, contributing to a spike in inflation of more than 20 percent.

But this help, even if it does come through, is intended only to keep the country afloat day-to-day. It doesn’t remotely begin to address the hundreds of billions in damage wrought by the war. Russia’s invasion has destroyed hospitals, ports, fields, bridges and other parts of the country’s critical infrastructure. Agricultural exports have been decimated, despite an international accord to maintain some grain shipments. Huge swaths of Ukrainian industry are now in occupied territory. As much as one-third of the country’s forests have been destroyed.

In September, United Nations officials estimated that nearly 18 million Ukrainians needed humanitarian aid. With the country on the brink of a financial cliff, some advisers to Zelensky in recent weeks weighed asking Western governments to finance direct cash payments to Ukrainian citizens, according to two people familiar with the internal talks.

Now, with energy systems decimated, Kyiv and its partners face a head-splitting challenge. Key pillars of the economy — coal mining, industrial manufacturing, information technology — cannot function without electricity or internet service. The World Bank has warned that poverty could explode tenfold. Unemployment, already close to 30 percent, is likely to climb further. […]

The dire assessments reflect something Ukrainian officials and their Western supporters do not like to admit aloud: The Kremlin has made Ukraine’s economy a pivotal theater of the war — one in which Moscow is arguably having far more success than on the front lines, where its troops have struggled. […]

Mining and manufacturing — which make up roughly one-fifth of Ukraine’s economy — are among the hardest-hit sectors. Two of the country’s biggest steel plants, located in the industrial southeast, shut down last month because of blackouts. Dozens of coal miners had to be rescued after a power failure trapped them underground. […]

Ongoing internet outages could also wreak financial havoc. Information technology, for example, has emerged as a pillar of Ukraine’s economy, and was the only sector to have grown over the past year, said Mykhailo Fedorov, a vice prime minister who oversees digital transformation. Yet due mainly to the recent attacks, the internet connectivity rate is down to 35 percent of its prewar level. Ukrainians are importing Starlink terminals for internet via satellite, but there are unlikely to be enough to manage widespread outages. And the internet disruptions impair not just the IT sector but basic public and private financial services, such as pension payments, mobile banking, tax collection and digital sales.

The biggest economic threat, however, is not a loss of connectivity but a loss of people. A lack of heat and water service during winter could set off a mass population exodus. Kyiv has already warned residents to be prepared to leave if its heat goes offline amid freezing temperatures. In that scenario, the city would have no choice but to cut off water to prevent pipes from freezing and rupturing. […]

Ukrainian Finance Minister Sergii Marchenko was already in the midst of asking Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen for billions in aid when he first alerted her to Russia’s bombing of infrastructure. At the time, on Oct. 16, it appeared that the United States and Europe could help stave off an economic disaster in Ukraine. The Biden administration was helping to close a significant portion of Ukraine’s budget deficit. The E.U., while behind on pledges, was also providing aid. […]

After Ukraine halted Russia’s assault on Kyiv last spring, the immediate emergency stabilized. By summer, Western officials had even started talking about forcing Russia to pay for postwar reconstruction, which the World Bank estimated would cost $350 billion. Ukrainian officials talked up a modern-day “Marshall Plan” that would also forge closer economic ties to the West. […]

As the humanitarian needs grow, Ukrainian economic officials have sounded out Western officials about the potential for an income support program to provide roughly $50 per person per month — at a cost of $12 billion over six months, one person familiar with the matter said. They found a cool reception, however, from Western officials who were already wary of appearing to support too much aid for Ukraine, the person said.

After the energy attacks, some experts argue the West may be doing too little, not too much. We’re already giving them just enough to avoid hyperinflation, said Jacob Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. But there’s clearly a risk of a more serious economic contraction, and the only way to stop that will be to provide more financial assistance. But, Kierkegaard added, I don’t know if the will is there.”

Hans Petter Midttun: Two articles – one potential failure, one potential success – but both highly recommended reading. Even more important, both are extremely relevant for the understanding of the war.

“Russia is destroying Ukraine’s economy, raising costs for US and allies”  and “The cold snap has brought total economic defeat for Putin”.

Both support my assessments over the last 10 months. The was isn’t going to be decided on the battlefield alone.

The full-scale invasion on 24 February did not mark the beginning of the war. It marked the start of a new phase in a more than 8-year ongoing hybrid war. It was the same war, the same aggressor, using the same means to achieve the same strategic aim and objectives.

Entering a new phase, Russia’s parallel and synchronized use of both military and non-military shifted in scope and scale. Contrary to the first 8 years, the military means became its primary line of efforts, while the non-military tools took a supporting role. We experienced both a horizontal escalation across all tools being employed as well as a vertical escalation in the military sphere.

But it is still a hybrid war where all tools available to Russia are being employed to defeat Ukraine. Hypothetically, the defeat could have been achieved on the battlefield. Russia, however, never had the capability to both invade and occupy all of Ukraine.  Its 9-year-long effort to defeat Ukraine has, therefore, always been connected to its ability to destroy the basis for Ukrainian statehood.

It has used diplomacy, politics, economy, energy, information, security (terrorism, crime and cyber) and even religion to undermine its victim.

Ukraine is presently unable to finance the running of the state. If the destruction of critical infrastructure continues, it might need a staggering 6,5 billion USD in financial support from its international partners every month to survive. The ongoing maritime blockade supports the Russian efforts to break Ukraine economically. It is further supported by its massive destruction of residential buildings, schools, health facilities, industrial enterprises, trade, agricultural areas and facilities, culture, administrative buildings, environment ….and recently, critical infrastructure.

Russia is attempting to increase the scope and scale of what so far has been seen as the biggest refugee crisis since the second world war to further dismantle the Ukrainian economy. Additionally, it helps change the Ukrainian demography to its advantage.

While Europe so far has withstood the hardship of power cuts the risks to existing energy infrastructure persist. Amore crucially, the Russian energy war has a huge impact on European resilience. As repeatedly stressed, raised costs of living, food and energy insecurity, spreading famine, recession, inflation and ever-increasing interest rates, increase the likelihood of social unrest, increased extremism, riots globally, and ultimately the potential fall of governments. The political landscape in the USA and Europe will – as in the 1930s – most likely be changed by political forces seeking to exploit the voters’ frustration. All of this will impact the West’s ability to support Ukraine financially in the medium to long term.

This is one of the reasons I do not understand NATO’s strategy on Ukraine. The longer the war lasts, the higher the costs for Ukraine and the West, and the more likely Russia is to succeed.

This is why the war needs to be resolved quickly rather than later.

My previous assessment stands: Russia’s war with Ukraine affects billions. NATO could end it in a moment.

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