Russo Ukrainian War. Day 307: Russian airbase in Saratov’s Engels under attack again

 

Daily review

Article by: Zarina Zabrisky

Russian airbase in Saratov’s Engels under attack again: Russia claims “Ukrainian” UAV downed but three troops killed. Fighting has remained focused around the Bakhmut sector of Donetsk Oblast, and near Svatove in Luhansk; little territory has changed hands.

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1607153590933626881

Daily overview — Summary report, December 27

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 18.00 pm, December 27, 2022 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. December 26, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Situation in Ukraine. December 26, 2022. Source: ISW.

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The three-hundred-seventh (307) day of the heroic resistance of the Ukrainian people to a russian military large-scale invasion continues.
Over the past 24 hours, the enemy has launched 2 missile strikes and fired 44 MLRS attacks.
At the same time, units of the Defense Forces of Ukraine repelled the attacks of the occupiers in the areas of Novoselivske and Stelmakhivka settlements in the Luhansk oblast and Dilyivka, Krasnohorivka, Vodyane, Vesele, Maryinka and Pobieda in Donetsk oblast.
In the Volyn, Polissya, Siverskyi and Slobozhanskyi directions, the situation has not changed significantly, the enemy maintains a military presence along the state border, and no signs of the formation of its offensive groups have been detected.
In the Siversky direction, the Vyntorivka, Manukhivka, Ryzhivka and Vorozhba districts of the Sumy oblast were shelled.
Kharkiv Battle Map. December 26, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Kharkiv Battle Map. December 26, 2022. Source: ISW.

In the Slobozhanskyi direction, areas of the settlements of Hlyboke, Krasne, Starytsa, Ohirtseve, Novomlynsk, Dvorichne and Kupyansk of the Kharkiv oblast were affected by the fire.
On the Kupyansk and Lyman directions, the enemy shelled the areas of Berestove, Tavilzhanka, Tabaivka, Krokhmalne and Pershotravneve settlements in Kharkiv oblast with tanks, barrel and rocket artillery; Novoselivske, Stelmakhivka, Kolomiychykha, Pershotravneve and Ploschanka in Luhansk oblast and Yampolivka, Torske, Dibrova and Hryhorivka in Donetsk oblast.
Donetsk Battle Map. December 26, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Donetsk Battle Map. December 26, 2022. Source: ISW.

In the Bakhmut and Avdiivka directions, the enemy inflicted fire damage in the areas of more than 25 settlements. In particular, these are Bilohorivka, Bakhmut, Klishchiivka, Bila Hora, Kurdyumivka, Vodyane, Pervomaiske, Maryinka and Novomykhailivka of the Donetsk oblast.
Prechystivka, Zolota Nyva and Velyka Novosilka in the Donetsk oblast were affected in the Novopavlivsk direction.
In the Zaporizhzhia oblast, the districts of Temyrivka, Olhivske, Poltavka, Mala Tokmachka, Novodanylivka, Novoandriivka, and Plavni of the Zaporizhzhia oblast were shelled with mortars and barrel artillery.
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. December 26, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. December 26, 2022. Source: ISW.

In the Kherson direction, the civilian infrastructure of Berislav, Vesele, Sadove, Antonivka and Stanislav settlements of the Kherson oblast and the city of Kherson were damaged by the shelling of the occupiers.
On December 25, our soldiers struck a concentration of russian invaders near Novobilozerka, Vasylivsky district, Zaporizhzhia oblast. The enemy lost up to 100 soldiers dead and wounded. Among them are 15 employees of the Federal Security Service of the russian federation.
During the day, the aviation of the Defense Forces struck the area where the occupiers were concentrated.
At the same time, units of missile troops and artillery of the Defense Forces of Ukraine hit 4 control points and 6 areas of concentration of the enemy’s manpower.

Military Updates

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst. ~

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.

Russian airbase in Saratov’s Engels under attack again: Russia claims “Ukrainian” UAV downed but three troops killed.  Russian Telegram channels mass shared several videos reportedly from the Russian town of Engels, Saratov Oblast, showing the glow and sound of a powerful explosion allegedly at the strategic aviation air base, and an air raid siren going off.

Uniforms for military women are being tested in Ukraine. Uniforms and underwear for military women are currently being tested in several brigades, after which the clothes will be approved as official, Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov wrote on Facebook.

28 military clashes and 225 artillery shellings took place in Bakhmut. Bakhmut, Avdiyivka, and some parts of Luhansk Oblast are currently the main hot spots of Russo-Ukrainian war, the spokesman of the Eastern Group of Ukraine’s Forces, Colonel Serhiy Cherevatyi, said on Ukrainian national television.

Iran and China have not supplied any missiles to Russia — Ukraine’s spy chief. Head of Ukraine’s Intelligence Kyrylo Budanov said in an interview for Liga net that neither Russia nor Iran have supplied any missile to Russia so far. He also said that China hasn’t supplied any weapons for Russia “and will not supply them, as far as we understand.”

Russia’s MiG-31K aircraft knocked out of action after catching fire in Belarus – Belarusian OSINT group.  An engine of one of Russia’s four Mikoyan MiG-31K aircraft stationed on the Machulichy airfield in Belarus caught fire on December 25 which rendered it inoperable “in the near future,” according to the monitoring group Belaruski Hayun referring to its sources. The MiG-31Ks are capable of carrying the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal hypersonic missiles.

Russia’s MiG-31K aircraft knocked out of action after catching fire in Belarus – Belarusian OSINT group. An engine of one of Russia’s four Mikoyan MiG-31K aircraft stationed on the Machulichy airfield in Belarus caught fire on December 25 which rendered it inoperable “in the near future,” according to the monitoring group Belaruski Hayun referring to its sources. The MiG-31Ks are capable of carrying the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal hypersonic missiles.

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

  • Over the last 48 hours, fighting has remained focused around the Bakhmut sector of Donetsk Oblast, and near Svatove in Luhansk. Russia continues to initiate frequent small-scale assaults in these areas, although little territory has changed hands.

 

  • To the north, elements of Russia’s 1st Guards Tank Army were probably amongst the Russian forces recently deployed to Belarus. This formation was likely conducting training before its deployment and is unlikely to have the support units needed to make it combat-ready.

Losses of the Russian army 

Losses of the Russian Army. Source General Staff of Ukraine, Ukrinform. ~

Losses of the Russian Army. Source General Staff of Ukraine, Ukrinform.

Humanitarian 

11 Kherson residents killed, 64 injured in Russia’s shelling of Kherson on December 24, the head of Kherson Oblast Military Administration Yaroslav Yanushevych.

Six Soviet and Russian monuments were dismantled in Ukraine’s Dnipro, including monuments to Pushkin and Gorky. Monuments to Russian and Soviet writer Maxim Gorky and soviet pilot Valeriy Chkalov were dismantled in central-Ukrainian Dnipro on 26 December. Earlier, monuments to Russian poet Alexandr Pushkin and Soviet pioneer Volodia Dubinin were also dismantled in Dnipro and two other are already planned to be dismantled.

One third of Ukrainians now celebrate Christmas on 25 December, not 7 January. Six years after Ukraine started marking Christmas as an official state holiday on 25 December, in line with the majority of the world’s Christians, in addition to the Julian-calendar date of 7 January, over a third of Ukrainians now hold celebrations on the day.

Environmental

Mykolaiv lives with water system destroyed for nine months. For eight months, the south-Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv withstood bombardments from Russian troops that tried to reach the key port city of Odesa. Its water system is destroyed, universities were shelled, and enterprises stopped. But Mykolaiv’s spirit is unbroken, its mayor tells Euromaidan Press. The world understands that Ukrainians are totally different from Russians and that Russia is a weak country, mayor Sienkievych believes.

Russian invasion made Ukraine stronger – mayor of strategic city Mykolaiv

Legal 

Four Russian invaders sentenced to 11 years for torturing hostages in the Kharkiv oblast. Four Russians, two of them from a Russian military intelligence [GRU] special forces unit, have been sentenced to 11 years for abducting Ukrainians in the Kharkiv oblast and torturing them. The four men were charged with war crimes (Article 438 of Ukraine’s Criminal Code) and Article 28 § 2 (crimes committed as a group by prior conspiracy).  All four men admitted the charges. 

New US-Ukrainian network to promote awareness of Russian colonialism’s crimes past and present. The US National Endowment for Democracy, Ukrainian journalist Maksym Eristavi, and Kyiv’s independent Zaborona news agency have created Volya Hub. It is an online platform where journalists and other content creators from countries previously or currently colonized by Russia can tell their stories.

Russian Army destroys church in Kherson Oblast  on Christmas Day. “The only Kyselivka village (Kherson Oblast) church was fully destroyed by Russian shelling. The Hague Convention IV protects religious buildings during hostilities, but for Russian war criminals there is no God, nor any respect for religion,” the minister wrote on Twitter.

Support

Poroshenko, the 5th President of Ukraine, continues donating to front Artillerymen of the 45th brigade, fighting near Bakhmut, recently got drones, winter uniforms, gas stoves, and water heater; said all this was timely and relevant. Poroshenko’s foundation is one of the largest in Ukraine. 

New Developments 

Ukraine Ambassador to the US: priority for 2023 is to give Russia the status of a terrorist state.  In an interview with Suspilne, Ukrainian Ambassador to the USA Oksana Markarova said that the key priority for 2023, which the entire diplomatic corps is working on, is to give Russia the right status. “Of course, we understand that it is not a sponsor of terrorism. This status was once invented specifically for countries that provide assistance to terrorist organizations on their or other territories. And Russia itself is a terrorist. That is, it is a country that has a regular army, a government, a president, so to speak, the chosen one. They are all war criminals. They are all engaged in aggression and terrorism,” the diplomat said.

Ukraine initiates a complex process to expel Russia from the UN Security Council. According to the statement of Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign affairs, the Russian Federation has never gone through the legal procedure to be admitted to membership in the United Nations and therefore illegally occupies the seat of the USSR in the UN Security Council.

Ecumenic Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew sends a message to Ukraine on Christmas Day. Ecumenic Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew in his Christmas message to Ukraine has said that the Great Church of Christ admires the courage of the Ukrainian people in the face of Russian aggression, UkrInform reported.

Putin has already lost the war, like Hitler in 1943 – European Commission vice president. Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission, believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin is in the same position as Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler in 1943 – when he already lost the war, but it was far from over.

Assessment 

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of  December 26, 2022:

Russian President Vladimir Putin did not offer to negotiate with Ukraine on December 25 contrary to some reporting. Putin, in a TV interview, stated that he does not think that the war is approaching a “dangerous line” and noted that Russia has no choice but to continue to defend its citizens, before stating that Russia “is ready to negotiate with all parties” involved in the conflict.[1] Putin did not explicitly state that Russia was ready to negotiate directly with Ukraine, instead maintaining his false narrative that Ukraine – which he simply called the “the other side” – had violated Russia’s pre-invasion diplomatic efforts. Putin’s discussions of negotiations have focused on putative discussions with the West rather than with Ukraine, and reflect his continual accusations that Ukraine is merely a Western pawn with no real agency.[2] This statement was not a departure from that rhetorical line. Putin also stated that he thinks Russia is “operating in a correct direction,” which indicates that he has not set serious conditions for negotiations and still wishes to pursue his maximalist goals.

Putin’s December 25 statement is a part of a deliberate information campaign aimed at misleading the West to push Ukraine into making preliminary concessions. The Kremlin did not publish the full transcript of Putin’s interview on its official website in contrast with its normal pattern, possibly to facilitate the misrepresentation of Putin’s full statement originally broadcasted in Russian and highlight his vague statement on negotiations.[3] The Kremlin’s use of the interview clip on the Christmas holiday may also be a response to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s recent speech at the US Congress amidst the holiday season.[4] The Kremlin has been intensifying this information campaign throughout December.

Putin is likely concerned over the lack of support for his war in Ukraine among elites and may be setting information conditions for the nationalization of their property. Putin pointed out that there are people in Russia who act solely in their self-interest when responding to a relatively positive interview question on his sentiments toward Russians’ commitment to the war.[5] Putin added that 99.9% of Russians would sacrifice everything for the “motherland.” Putin’s instant criticism of some members of society suggests that he is focused on those who do not fully support the war rather than on those who do. Putin made similar statements last week, noting that some businessmen who drain Russia’s money aboard are a “danger” to Russia.[6] Putin’s statements are also consistent with the Russian State Duma’s preparations to introduce a bill to increase tax rates for Russians who had left the country after the start of the “special military operation,” likely as a form of punishment for evading the war effort.[7] The Kremlin will likely use funds generated through the tax to fund its war in Ukraine.

Ukrainian intelligence reported that a Wagner Group-linked Russian officer was appointed commander of the Russian Western Military District (WMD). The Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reported on December 26 that former Chief of Staff of the Eastern Military District Lieutenant General Evgeny Valerivich Nikiforov was appointed as the new commander of the WMD and that Nikiforov is commanding the Russian western grouping of forces in Ukraine out of a command post in Boguchar, Voronezh Oblast.[8] The report states that Nikiforov replaced Colonel General Sergey Kuzovlev as WMD commander (November – December 2022) because Nikiforov is a member of the internal Russian silovik alliance formed by Commander of the Russian Armed Forces in Ukraine Army General Sergey Surovikin and Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin. Ukrainian intelligence previously reported that Prigozhin formed an alliance with Surovikin and that both Prigozhin and Surovikin are rivals of Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu.[9]

Nikiforov has previous experience commanding Wagner Group elements in Donbas from 2014 to 2015. A Bellingcat investigation found that Wagner founder Dmitry Utkin reported to Nikiforov – among other Russian military intelligence officials – when Nikiforov was the Chief of Staff of the Russian 58th Combined Arms Army in 2015.[10] A Ukrainian State Security Service (SBU) investigation found that Nikiforov ordered Utkin and his Wagner Group to destroy a Ukrainian Il-76 transport plane on June 14, 2014.[11]

Ukrainian strikes on legitimate military targets far in the Russian rear continue to be points of neuralgia for the Russian milblogger community. Russian sources began reporting explosions near the Engels Airbase in Saratov Oblast on the night of December 25 and the morning of December 26.[12] The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) stated that Russian air defense shot down a Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that was approaching the Engels airfield at low altitude and that the wreckage of the UAV killed three Russian servicemen.[13] Several prominent Russian milbloggers latched onto the Russian MoD report on the incident as an opportunity to criticize domestic Russian air defense capabilities and question Russian authorities’ handling of and response to reported Ukrainian strikes deep in the Russian rear. One Wagner Group-affiliated milblogger questioned why Russian air defense only “miraculously” prevents strikes “exactly above the airfield/military unit” and noted that the Engels airfield is 500km into Russian territory.[14] Former militant commander and prominent Russian milblogger Igor Girkin sarcastically congratulated Russian air defense for activating before striking the airbase and questioned why Russia is allowing Ukrainian drones so deep into its territory.[15] Several Russian milbloggers also criticized the technical capabilities of Russian air defense and electronic warfare systems and voiced their concern over Russian authorities’ inability to protect critical Russian infrastructure.[16] Prominent voices in the pro-war information space will likely continue to seize on perceived attacks on Russian domestic security to criticize Russian military capabilities and leadership and call for escalated actions against Ukraine.

Key Takeaways

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin did not offer to negotiate with Ukraine on December 25 contrary to some reporting.
  • Putin is likely concerned over the lack of support for his war in Ukraine among elites and may be setting information conditions for the nationalization of their property.
  • Ukrainian intelligence reported that a Wagner Group-linked Russian officer was appointed commander of the Russian Western Military District (WMD).
  • Ukrainian strikes on legitimate military targets far in the Russian rear continue to be points of neuralgia for the Russian milblogger community.
  • Russian and Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations along the Svatove-Kreminna line.
  • Ukrainian sources reported that Ukrainian troops are fighting near Kreminna.
  • Russian sources claimed that Russian forces made limited gains northeast of Bakhmut.
  • Russian forces continued ground attacks on the western outskirts of Donetsk City.
  • Ukrainian military officials indicated that Russian forces may be concentrating some unspecified forces for offensive or demonstration operations in Zaporizhzhia Oblast and that Russian forces are attempting to conduct small-scale reconnaissance-in-force operations to reach right-bank Kherson Oblast.
  • Russian officials and nationalists began to criticize the Kremlin’s lenient migration and passportization policies for Central Asian migrants.
  • Russia is continuing efforts to consolidate control of occupied territories in Ukraine through the manipulation of citizenship procedures.

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