Russo Ukrainian War. Day 308: Nearly 9 million Ukrainians without electricity

 

Daily review

Article by: Hans Petter Midttun

Nearly 9 million Ukrainians without electricity. Occupiers damage over 700 critical infrastructure facilities since the start of the full-scale invasion. Group of Ukrainian soldiers killed in Bryansk Oblast.

Daily overview — Summary report, December 28

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 18.00 pm, December 28, 2022 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. December 27, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Situation in Ukraine. December 27, 2022. Source: ISW.

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Over the past 24 hours, Russian forces launched one missile attack and 33 MLRS attacks, in particular, at civilian objects in the city of Kherson.

There remains a danger of Russian forces launching air and missile strikes on the country’s critical infrastructure in the future.

Russian forces continue offensive actions in the Bakhmut and Avdiivka directions and try to improve the tactical position in the Lyman direction.

Our soldiers repelled the attacks of the occupiers in the areas of Ploshanka and Chervonopivka settlements of the Luhansk region and Spirne, Yakovlivka, Soledar, Bakhmutske, Pidhorodne, Bakhmut, Andriivka, Klishchiivka, Avdiivka, Vodyane, Maryinka, Pobieda and Zolota Niva in the Donetsk region.

The situation remains stable in the Volyn, Polissya, Siversk, and Slobozhanskyi directions, no signs of the formation of offensive groups have been detected.

In other directions, Russian forces are defending previously occupied lines, concentrating their efforts on restraining the actions of units of the Defense Forces of Ukraine.

Kharkiv Battle Map. December 27, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Kharkiv Battle Map. December 27, 2022. Source: ISW.

  • On the Siverskyi and Slobozhanskyi directions, the areas of the settlements of Mefedivka, Tovstodubov and Vovkivka in the Sumy region, as well as Hlyboke, Staritsa, Ohirtseve and Vovchansk in the Kharkiv region, were shelled.
  • In the Kupyansk direction, Russian forces shelled the areas of the settlements of Novomlynsk, Tavilzhanka, Dvorichne, Kupyansk, Tabaivka, Krokhmalne, Berestov and Pershotravneve in the Kharkiv region and Novoselivske, Stelmakhivka and Kolomiychikha in the Luhansk region.
Donetsk Battle Map. December 27, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Donetsk Battle Map. December 27, 2022. Source: ISW.

  • In the Lyman direction, Ploshanka and Dibrova in the Luhansk region, as well as Yampolivka, Torske and Hryhorivka in the Donetsk region, were affected by fire.
  • In the Bakhmut direction, the areas of the settlements of Spirne, Berestov, Bilogorivka, Soledar, Pidgorodne, Bakhmut, Chasiv Yar, Opytne, Stupochki, Klishchiivka, Andriivka, Bila Gora, Oleksandro-Shultine, Kurdyumivka, Ozaryanivka, Mayorsk and New York of the Donetsk region were shelled.
  • In the Avdiyivka direction, Russian forces fired at Vodyanyi, Pervomaisky, Maryinka, and Novomykhailivka districts in the Donetsk region.
  • In the Novopavlivskyi direction, Vugledar, Novoukrayinka, Prechistivka, Zolota Niva, Vremivka and Velyka Novosilka of the Donetsk region was damaged by fire.
  • In the Zaporizhzhia direction, shelling from tanks and MLRS was recorded in the areas of Temyrivka, Olhivske, Poltavka, Malynivka, Dorozhnianka, Biloghirya, Mala Tokmachka, Novodanilivka, Novoandriivka, Shcherbaki, Kamianske and Plavni settlements of the Zaporizhzhia region.
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. December 27, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. December 27, 2022. Source: ISW
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  • In the Kherson direction, Russian forces continues mortar and artillery shelling of populated areas along the right bank of the Dnipro River. In particular, Chervonogrihorivka of Dnipropetrovsk region was affected; Antonivka – Khersonska and the city of Kherson. There are victims among the civilian population.

On December 26, as a result of our fire damage to enemy positions in the Chaplynka area of the Kherson region, the occupiers lost about 50 servicemen killed.

[In connection with significant losses of personnel, there is an increase in the number of desertions of Russian servicemen and their leaving combat positions in the Luhansk oblast. In order to maintain control over the situation, the Russian military leadership increased the number of patrols to detain and return deserters to units.]

In the temporarily occupied Sevastopol, the invaders intensified their agitation for military service under a contract in the armed forces of the Russian Federation.

Over the past day, units of missile troops and artillery of the Defense Forces of Ukraine hit the control post, 7 areas of concentration of manpower and military equipment, and 2 ammunition warehouses, as well as an important military object of the occupiers.

Military Updates

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst. ~

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.

Unconfirmed reports of Russian losses of strategic bombers at Engels Airbase, Defence Express reports. “The first unconfirmed information about the losses of Russians at the Engels air base of the Russian strategic aviation has already appeared. In particular, according to activist and journalist Volodymyr Zolkin, who is known for numerous videos with captured Russians, five Tu-95MS aircraft were damaged at once, 17 Russians died, another 26 were injured, three of them were in serious condition, as well as the “control tower” was destroyed as a result of the explosions on December 26.

He also noted that the source of information is quite reliable, but there are no satellite or other images that could confirm or refute this information.

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1608081582287458307

Group of Ukrainian soldiers killed in Bryansk Oblast, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing MeduzaRIA Novosti and Yevhen Karas, serviceman from the Armed Forces of Ukraine. “Yurii Horovets, Maksym Mykhailov, Taras Karpiuk and Bohdan Liahov, four Ukrainia n servicemen, were killed on the territory of the Russian Federation while performing a combat mission.

The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) announced on 26 December that they had killed four Ukrainians who were allegedly trying to enter the territory of Bryansk Oblast in order to carry out “sabotage and terrorist acts.”

The Russian security services reported that the killed men had foreign weapons, including SIG Sauer submachine guns, communication and navigation devices, and four bombs with a total capacity of about 40 kg in TNT equivalent.”

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1607665035161083906

Two convoys of Russian military equipment were spotted moving towards Berdiansk, Ukrinform reports, citing the Advisor to Mariupol Mayor, Petro Andriushchenko. “In the temporarily occupied city of Mariupol, two convoys of Russian military equipment have been spotted moving towards the Zaporizhzhia region’s Berdiansk. According to Andriushchenko, the first convoy left the city around 01:30 p.m. It consisted of about 50 military equipment units, namely tracked vehicles, such as T-62 tanks on carriages. {…]The second convoy left around 03:00 p.m. It also included about 50 military equipment units, such as tanks and infantry fighting vehicles on carriages, trucks with ammunition loads and personnel.

The Melitopol frontline section continues to be reinforced, which is partially confirmed by the numerous talks of the occupiers in the city, Andriushchenko concluded. A reminder that Russian invaders are gradually transforming the temporarily occupied city of Mariupol into a military base.”

Ukraine’s border guards do not see forming of an offensive group in Belarus, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Andrii Demchenko, Spokesperson for the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine. “The situation on the Belarusian front fully remains under control, although it is somewhat tense, especially in the information field. Unfortunately, Belarus does not stop supporting Russia in the war it unleashed against our state…

Belarus and Russia are constantly exacerbating the situation, placing such an emphasis on this front… At the same time, the creation of the necessary offensive group, which would be ready at the moment to invade Ukraine from this direction, is currently not reported. […]

Kyrylo Budanov, the Head of the Ukrainian Chief Intelligence Directorate, has explained that Russians utilise “carousel” tactics in Belarus to hold Ukraine under pressure. Budanov stated that there was no data indicating an immediate threat from Belarus.

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

  • In recent days, Russia has likely reinforced the Kremina sector of its frontline in Luhansk Oblast, as it comes under continued pressure from Ukrainian operations.
  • Kremina has been relatively vulnerable since Ukrainian forces advanced through the town of Lyman, to the west, in October.
  • Russia has constructed extensive new defences in the area and will likely prioritise holding the line here. The area is logistically important for Russia’s Donbas front and it is also a significant town in Luhansk Oblast. The Kremlin claims that the ‘liberation’ of this area is a core justification for the war
  • 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 

As of Wednesday 28 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 103770 (+550),
  • Tanks – 3017 (+1),
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 6037 (+13),
  • Artillery systems – 1999 (+1),
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 418 (+0),
  • Air defence means – 212 (+0),
  • Aircraft – 283 (+0),
  • Helicopters – 267 (+0),
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 4660 (+8),
  • Vessels/boats – 16 (+0),
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 1707 (+0),
  • Special equipment – 179 (+0),
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0),
  • Cruise missiles – 653 (+0)

“Candidate” from Wagner Group Head and Commander of the Russian army in Ukraine heads western troops of Russia, Ukrainska Pravda reported 26 December, citing the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine (DIU). “Evgeniy Nikiforov, a candidate from the axis of Surovikin-Prigozhin [commander of the Russian army in Ukraine and head of Wagner Group – ed.], became the commander of the troops of the Western Military District of the Russian Federation instead of Sergei Kuzovlev from the axis of Shoigu-Gerasimov [Russian Defence Minister and his First Deputy, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation – ed.]. […]

Prior to this appointment, Nikiforov held the position of Chief of Staff: First Deputy Commander of the Eastern Military District. Intelligence sources know that General Nikiforov is currently at the command post of the West troop grouping in the city of Boguchar, Voronezh Oblast.

The formal reason for Kuzovlev’s dismissal was the failure of preparations for the offensive on the Lyman front. However, in fact, this is a manifestation of an internal political struggle in the top leadership of the Russian Federation: a person from the Shoigu-Gerasimov axis is being replaced by a candidate from the Surovikin-Prigozhin axis.”

The occupier in the interception complains that the Russian army has stopped paying for injuries, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the Ukrainian Defence Intelligence. “In the latest call intercepted by Ukrainian intelligence, an occupier says that the Russian leadership has stopped paying funds to the occupiers who were injured. Also, the Russian Federation is refusing to dismiss mercenaries after the end of their contracts.”

Eight Russian conscripts detained near Moscow after fleeing from Luhansk with weapons, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the Russian Telegram channel Baza. “Eight conscripted men have been detained near Moscow after leaving Luhansk Oblast with weapons; a serviceman from Kamchatka [Russia’s Far East – ed.] has been sentenced to 1.8 years in prison for refusing to participate in hostilities in Ukraine, and two local residents have been killed during their arrest in Kabardino-Balkaria [a subject of the Russian Federation, part of the North Caucasus Federal District – ed.] – those killed had allegedly been preparing an attack on the military registration and enlistment office.”

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

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

Humanitarian 

Ukraine recovers bodies of 42 fallen defenders, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the press service of the Ministry for Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories. “The bodies of 42 dead soldiers were brought back to Ukraine on 27 December. The operation was carried out with the cooperation of Oleg Kotenko, Commissioner for Persons Missing Under Special Circumstances, and a number of law enforcement agencies of Ukraine.

A total of 869 bodies have been recovered since the beginning of the work of the Commissioner’s Office.”

Zelensky: power shortages persist, nearly 9 million Ukrainians without electricity, Reuters reported 26 December. “Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Monday that power shortages were persisting, with nearly nine million people remaining without electricity.

Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address that power workers repairing the grid after repeated Russian attacks had reconnected many people over Christmas but problems remained. Naturally, shortages persist. Blackouts are continuing, he said.”

950,000 Ukrainian refugees registered in Poland, Ukrinform reports, citing Deputy Chairman of the Polish Development Fund (PFR), Bartosz Marczuk. “He said that according to the PESEL database (identification code in Poland), as of today, there are 950,000 war refugees from Ukraine in Poland, which is 400,000 fewer than in the summer. Given that before the war there were 1.2-1.3 million Ukrainians in Poland, the total number of Ukrainian citizens staying in Poland today is 2.3 million.

According to him, 90% of war refugees from Ukraine who stay in Poland are women and children. In total, those who arrived in Poland after February 24 make up 2.5% of the total population of Poland. […] Marczuk said that about 60-70% of adult refugees from Ukraine (320,000 out of 450,000) had already been employed in Poland.”

Hundreds of Russian cyberattacks on Combined Heat-and-Power Plants (CHPP), regional power plants prevented – SBU, Ukrinform reports. “This year, the Security Service neutralized hundreds of Russian cyberattacks on and cyber incidents at Ukrainian energy facilities, of which almost 30 could become critical. That’s according to the head of the SBU Cyber Security Department, Ilia Vitiuk.

Missile strikes on Ukrainian energy facilities are often accompanied by cyberattacks. Such a scenario was expected, so none of them was effective, Vitiuk noted.

According to the official, since October, Russian systemic cyberattacks have been taking place on the energy infrastructure of Ukraine. Previously, Russian forces also attacked the electronic networks of the country’s energy facilities, although not so massively. There were also specific attempts to shut down power and destroy the digital infrastructure of individual regional energy companies and CHPPs. Fortunately, we were able to prevent this, said the head of the SBU Cyber Security Department.”

UN says at least 6,884 civilians were killed in Russia’s war against Ukraine, Ukrinform reports. “The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has recorded 17,831 civilian casualties in Ukraine as of December 26, including 6,884 killed and 10,947 injured since the beginning of Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine.

OHCHR believes that the actual figures are considerably higher, as the receipt of information from some locations where intense hostilities have been going on has been delayed and many reports are still pending corroboration»

Environmental

Occupiers damage over 700 critical infrastructure facilities, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Yevhenii Yenin, First Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs. “702 critical infrastructure facilities have been hit since the beginning of the invasion. These include gas pipelines, electrical substations, bridges and others.

In general, according to Yenin, more than 35,000 targets were destroyed in Ukraine as a result of Russian attacks. The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces says the threat of Russian aircraft and missile attacks on critical infrastructure facilities remains throughout Ukraine.

Ukraine calls on the world to sanction Russia’s nuclear industry, Ukrinform reports. “Ukrainian Energy Minister German Galushchenko has called on the international community to introduce sanctions against Russia’s nuclear industry and give up Russian nuclear fuel. He said this at a meeting with the heads of diplomatic missions of the Group of Seven states and the EU Delegation in Kyiv, Ukraine’s Energy Ministry reported.

It is very important today to give a signal about the readiness to abandon it [nuclear fuel] after a specific period of time. It’s possible. Other manufacturers can increase their production to replace Russian nuclear fuel, Galushchenko said.

He noted that negotiations are ongoing under IAEA auspices regarding the creation of a demilitarized zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. […] Russian troops captured the ZNPP on March 4. The invaders have placed military equipment and ammunition at the station, constantly shelling both the surrounding area and the station itself, destroying power lines and causing external power outages. Moreover, Russian forces blame the Ukrainian Armed Forces for this shelling.

The Ukrainian authorities say in order to restore nuclear safety and security, Russia must completely withdraw its troops and equipment from the plant. Since October 10, the Russians have fired more than 1,000 missiles and drones at Ukrainian energy facilities. The Ukrainian energy system has already survived nine waves of massive terrorist attacks. Hourly and emergency power outages are introduced throughout Ukraine due to damage to energy facilities.”

Legal 

Occupiers force children in Luhansk Oblast to obtain Russian citizenship, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Luhansk Oblast Military Administration. “The Russian occupiers are forcing residents of temporarily occupied Luhansk Oblast to obtain Russian citizenship for their children, blackmailing them with dismissal from work or deprivation of social benefits.”

Constitutional Court declares the law to rename UOC-MP constitutional, Ukrinform reports, citing the court’s press service. “Ukraine’s Constitutional Court has recognized as constitutional the law “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations,” which provides for the renaming of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP).

According to the report, the law obliged religious associations to reflect their affiliation with a religious organization outside of Ukraine, to which it is a member, by mandatorily reproducing the full statutory name of such a religious organization in its name.

Also, the law established restrictions on the access in wartime of clerics, religious preachers, and mentors of religious organizations, the management centre of which is located outside Ukraine in a state recognized by law as having carried out military aggression against Ukraine and temporarily occupying part of its territory of Ukraine to the units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and other military formations of Ukraine in the places of their deployment or other military formations of Ukraine in the places of their deployment or other restrictions provided by the law.”

Family of eight shot dead in occupied Makiivka, the youngest was 1 year old, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Novosti Donbasa, RIA NovostiTASSRBC and Petro Andriushchenko, Adviser to the Mayor of Mariupol. “A family of eight people, including four children, has been shot dead in temporarily occupied Makiivka, Donetsk Oblast. The occupation authorities claimed that the killers were common thieves, who had already been apprehended, but Petro Andriushchenko, Adviser to the Mayor of Mariupol, suggests that the murder was committed by mercenaries from the Wagner Group [Russian private military company – ed.].

Petro Andriushchenko, Adviser to the Mayor of Mariupol, reported on his Telegram feed that the occupiers do not agree on many things and that the mass murder could have been committed by Wagner Group mercenaries. According to Andriushchenko, this crime was openly ethnic in nature, as a family of Roma ethnicity had been killed. In addition, all those killed had bullet wounds to the head from close range. Andriushchenko noted that the residents of Makiivka themselves reported that the crime was committed by the military.”

Police open over 53,000 cases on Russian crimes in Ukraine, Ukrinform reports, citing the press service of the National Police of Ukraine. “Since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, investigators of the National Police of Ukraine have initiated 53,190 criminal proceedings based on the facts of crimes committed on Ukrainian territory by servicemen of the armed forces of the Russian Federation and their accomplices, the report said.

It added that of this number of cases, 41,614 were opened under Article 438 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (violation of the laws and customs of war), 9,162 under Art 110 (encroachment on the territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine), 2,226 under Article 111-1 (collaborative activity), 103 under Article 111 (treason) and 37 under Article 113 (sabotage) of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.”

Support

Italy Considers Air Defence Systems for Ukraine, European Pravda reports. “Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has held a telephone conversation with the Prime Minister of Italy Giorgia Meloni. […] Mrs. Meloni informed that the issue of providing air defence systems to protect Ukrainian skies is being considered. We discussed Peace Formula, Zelenskyy tweeted.

It is currently unclear which air defence systems Italy is going to hand over to Ukraine, but the media reported in November that Italy considered SAMP/T and Aspide systems as part of a new aid package.”

Kyiv Struggling To Keep Captured Weapons In The Fight, The Hill reports. “Ukrainian troops are using tanks and other weapons captured from Russia, but keeping them operating is becoming a major issue. Twitter is filled with videos and images of Russian tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and other equipment captured by Ukraine over the past 10 months of full-on war. Those images often depict the equipment – colloquially referred to as “trophies” –  being used by Ukrainian troops. But Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that due to several factors, Ukraine is struggling to put some of that equipment back into the fight.

Using a captured Russian BMP-3 as a jumping-off point for its story, The Washington Post reported that it and other captured equipment is stuck in hangars like the one at this repair site as brigades struggle to find the parts needed to repair them. The unit here, a maintenance battalion for the 14th Separate Mechanized Brigade, has been unable to find the parts it needs for the BMP-3. Speaking about that particular vehicle, the commander of one maintenance squadron told the newspaper that it’s obvious it should be fighting the enemy and not sitting in a hangar.

Chief among the challenges Ukraine faces in restoring captured equipment is a lack of spare parts and a centralized spare parts database that disparate units can use to find those parts in vehicles captured by other units. Ongoing power shortages are also affecting repair facilities, as is a Ukrainian proclivity to ‘hoard’ war bounty.

A press officer for the 14th Brigade, the only brigade that has fought on all major front lines in the country since the start of Russia’s invasion, joked that it’s in the Ukrainian nature to collect and hoard prized possessions, the Post reported. It’s not always as easy as merely asking another brigade for its identical trophy tank or vehicle.

According to the Oryxspioenkop open source intelligence site that uses photographs to verify destroyed and captured weapons on both sides of this conflict, there have been 64 BMP-3 variants captured by Ukraine. The actual number is likely significantly greater, but these are visually confirmed. All told, Ukraine has captured more than 2,000 tanks, armored vehicles, and other weapons since Feb. 24, according to Oryxspioenkop.

But even with all these challenges, repairing the equipment provided by the US and its allies can sometimes be even more difficult. The weapons that are coming from the US, they are mostly coming from stockpiles, so they are not new, said Daria Kaleniuk, executive director of the Anti-Corruption Action Center in Ukraine. Sending damaged weapons to Poland is a huge delay and a big frustration for the Ukrainian military, Kaleniuk told the newspaper. […]

None of this should be a surprise really as Ukraine is now operating the most diverse arsenal of weaponry on the planet, with a mix of legacy Soviet-era and locally developed gear, new materiel donated by allies, and other weapons captured on the battlefield and regenerated for use. Just the complex supply chain tied to each item, often running through different countries, is daunting to even comprehend. Just how long some of the equipment, especially unfamiliar systems, can be sustained after it is worn-down in the field has long been up for debate.

Poland provides $9B in aid to Ukraine since the war started, Ukrinform reports, citing Deputy Chairman of the Polish Development Fund (PFR), Bartosz Marczuk. “Since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Poland and the Poles have provided Ukraine and the Ukrainians with PLN 35-40 billion ($8-9 billion) in aid.

He said that approximately PLN 10 billion (about $2.3 billion) had been provided in weapons and another PLN 10 billion (about $2.3 billion) was assistance from ordinary Poles. In addition, PLN 6 billion (about $1.4 billion) was allocated from Poland’s budget to help Ukrainians, and aid from local self-government bodies and non-governmental organizations amounted to about PLN 10 billion ($2.3 billion).

New Developments 

  1. Next year should be decisive – Zelensky, Ukrainska PravdaPresident Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Ukraine is preparing its Defense and Security Forces for next year and that it should be a crucial year. […] The President called the main goals — the liberation of Ukraine from Russian forces, as well as the restoration, repatriation of Ukrainians who have fled, further rapprochement of the state with key partners, opening new opportunities for Ukraine in the world.”
  2. Russia’s Medvedev predicts war in West, ReutersFormer Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, an arch loyalist of Vladimir Putin given a new job this week, predicted war between Germany and France next year and a civil war in the United States that would lead to Elon Musk becoming president. In his list of predictions for 2023, published on his personal Telegram and Twitter accounts, he also foresaw Britain rejoining the EU, which would in turn collapse.”
  3. Ukraine expects to convene a summit discussing the “peace formula” before the end of February, Ukrainska Pravda reported on 26 December, citing APand European Pravda. “The government of Ukraine aims to hold the previously announced “peace formula” summit proposed by Kyiv by the end of February 2023, with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres being considered as the mediator. [Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba] stated that Ukraine will do everything possible to win the war in 2023, adding that diplomacy always plays an important role: Every war ends in a diplomatic way. Every war ends as a result of the actions taken on the battlefield and at the negotiating table.”
  4. Ukraine wants to hold peace summit on UN platform, without Russia – Kuleba, UkrinformUkraine wants to hold a peace summit at the UN site in late February, while Russia is not invited to attend as the Kremlin does not seek peace and must first be held accountable for war crimes. This was stated by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Dmytro Kuleba, who spoke in an interview with theAssociated Press. The United Nations could be the best venue for holding this summit because this is not about making a favour to a certain country, he said. This is really about bringing everyone on board, said Kuleba.”
  5. Russia’s Lavrov: West and Ukraine want to destroy Russia, ReutersThe United States and its NATO allies together with Ukraine want to defeat Russia “on the battlefield” in order to destroy it, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the state TASS agency in remarks published Monday. The actions of the countries of the collective West and (Ukrainian President Volodymyr) Zelenskyy under their control confirm the global nature of the Ukrainian crisis, Lavrov said” [ignoring that the Western was forced into action because of Russia’s unjust and unprovoked war – me].
  6. Russia’s Lavrov: Either Ukraine fulfils Moscow’s proposals or our army will decide, ReutersMoscow’s proposals for settlement in Ukraine are well known to Kyiv and either Ukraine fulfils them for their own good or the Russian army will decide the issue, TASS agency quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying. Our proposals for the demilitarization and denazification of the territories controlled by the regime, the elimination of threats to Russia’s security emanating from there, including our new lands, are well known to Russian forces,” the state news agency quoted Lavrov as saying late on Monday. The point is simple: Fulfil them for your own good. Otherwise, the issue will be decided by the Russian army.”
  7. Russia is not a peace-loving state, so it does not meet the UN’s main criterion, Ukrinform reports, citing Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal. “Russia has not been a peace-loving state for a long time, and therefore it does not meet the main criterion of the UN. It cynically abuses its right of veto in the Security Council. It blocks decisions that oppose its aggressive policy. Therefore, Ukraine legitimately raises the question of excluding Russia not only from the Security Council but also from the UN, Shmyhal said. […] Ukraine [has] initiated a complex process aimed at depriving Russia of its status as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and expelling it from the UN.”
  8. Russia bans oil export for countries who implement price cap, Ukrainska PravdaVladimir Putin, the President of Russia, signed a decree which bans the trade of Russian oil and oil products if the countries who are buying them include a price cap in the contract. Earlier, it was reported that Moscow could cut oil production to 500,000-700,000 barrels per day in response to G7 countries’ restrictions for the export of Russian oil. Income from oil is a major part of the Russian budget.”
  9. Ukraine accomplished “everything possible” to implement EU requirements, European Pravda reports, citing Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Olha Stefanishyna. “The government of Ukraine believes that all steps have been taken to implement the seven requirements of the European Commission, which are needed to assess Kyiv’s success in joining the EU. She reminded that the European Union, upon Ukraine’s request, agreed to early assess the seven requirements, which is supposed to happen in the spring of 2023. That is why we expect that in early March, we will assess our steps together with the European Union and get ready to start accession negotiations,” Stefanishyna noted.”
  10. Orbán’s Statements Demonstrate Pathological Contempt for Ukraine and Political Short-sightedness, European PravdaUkraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has commented on the latest statements of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán that Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine will end if the US stops assisting Kyiv with weapons. The statements of the Prime Minister of Hungary demonstrate a pathological contempt for Ukraine and the Ukrainian people, who resist Russian aggression, as well as his own political short-sightedness. After all, Ukraine’s defeat in the war, which Viktor Orbán indirectly calls for, would lead to a direct threat of Russian aggression for Hungary and Hungarians, the Ministry of Foreign Affairshas stated.”

Assessment 

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of  December 27, 2022:

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

Russian forces reportedly repelled Ukrainian attacks on the Svatove-Kreminna line on December 27. Multiple Russian sources reported on December 27 that Russian forces—including elements of the 144th Motorized Rifle Division and its 254th Motorized Rifle Regiment which previously operated in the Izium area—repelled Ukrainian attacks on the Svatove-Kreminna sector. One prominent Russian milblogger reported that Ukrainian forces captured a Russian strongpoint near Chervonopopivka (about 5 km northwest of Kreminna), where ISW assesses Ukrainian forces have likely advanced since at least December 23. Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces are regrouping and deploying reinforcements from Kharkiv Oblast to resume offensive operations on the Kreminna-Svatove line and Kreminna City, although ISW cannot confirm this report.

Ukrainian forces have likely made larger gains in northeast Ukraine than ISW has previously assessed. Kharkiv Oblast Administration Head Oleh Synehubov stated on December 27 that Russian forces occupy 1.6 percent of Kharkiv Oblast. ISW’s control of terrain assessment as of December 26 had Russian forces occupying about 1.747 percent of Kharkiv Oblast (a difference of about 46 square kilometers). Ukrainian forces likely captured Dvorichna, Novomlynsk, and Tavilzhanka in northeastern Kharkiv Oblast and Kolomiychikha in Luhansk Oblast given that both Russian and Ukrainian sources reported Russian shelling against these settlements on December 27. ISW has updated its maps accordingly.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that the Kremlin will continue to pursue a military solution to the war until the Ukrainian government capitulates to Russia’s demands. Lavrov stated in a December 27 interview with Russian state news wire TASS that Ukraine and the West are “well aware of Russia’s proposals on the demilitarization and denazification” of Ukrainian-controlled territory and that the Russian military will settle these issues if Ukraine refuses to accept these proposals. Russian demands for “de-militarization” aim to eliminate Ukraine’s ability to resist further Russian attacks, while the demands for “denazification” are tantamount to calls for regime change in Ukraine. Lavrov added that Ukraine and the United States must recognize Russia’s seizure of occupied Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson oblasts. Lavrov stated that US-controlled Ukraine and the United States are responsible for prolonging the war as they could “put an end to [Ukraine’s] senseless resistance.” Lavrov’s invocation of a military settlement for the war in Ukraine that achieves Russia’s original war aims follows Russian President Vladimir Putin’s deliberately vague statements that Russia is open for negotiations on December 25. ISW assessed that Putin’s comments were not an offer to negotiate with Ukraine and indicated that he has not set serious conditions for negotiations.

Lavrov stated that Russia is unable to work on any agreements with the West due to its provocative actions in Ukraine and elsewhere. Lavrov stated that the United States and its NATO allies are pursuing “victory over Russia on the battlefield” in Ukraine “as a mechanism for significantly weakening or even destroying” the Russian Federation. Lavrov nonsensically accused US military officials of planning a decapitation blow against the Kremlin that included killing Russian President Vladimir Putin. Lavrov also accused the United States and NATO members of being de facto parties to the war in Ukraine and of engaging in dangerous nuclear signaling. Lavrov argued that Russian officials are unable to maintain normal communications or work on any proposals or agreements with the United States under these conditions, as the United States seeks to inflict strategic defeat against the Russian Federation. Lavrov stated that Russian officials are ready to discuss security issues in the context of Ukraine and in a broader, strategic plan, but only when American officials “realize the defectiveness of the current course” and return to “building mutually respectful relations on the basis of the obligatory consideration of legitimate Russian interests.”

The Kremlin will likely continue to focus its grievances against the West and ignore Ukraine as a sovereign entity in support of ongoing information operations that seek to compel the West to offer preemptive concessions and pressure Ukraine to negotiate. The Kremlin routinely portrays Ukraine as a Western pawn that lacks any actual sovereignty in order to disqualify Ukrainian officials from future direct negotiations and instead frame negotiations with Russia as being the responsibility of Western officials. The Kremlin routinely highlights its grievances with the West over the war in Ukraine instead of its grievances with Ukraine itself to capitalize on the Western desire for negotiations and create a dynamic in which Western officials feel pressed to make preemptive concessions to lure Russia to the negotiating table. The Kremlin will routinely depict Ukrainian officials as needlessly prolonging the war while reiterating its war aims in an attempt to influence Western officials to pressure Ukraine to negotiate on terms more favorable to Russia. ISW continues to assess that the Kremlin is not interested in serious negotiations that would produce a final settlement to the war in Ukraine, but instead seeks a temporary cessation of hostilities that would allow it to refit and replenish its military for further offensive campaigns against Ukraine.

The Kremlin is increasingly integrating select milbloggers into its information campaigns, likely in an effort to regain a dominant narrative within the information space. A prominent Russian milblogger involved in combat in occupied Donetsk Oblast gave a nearly 20-minute interview to a Russian federal channel pushing key Kremlin narratives on mobilization and support for the war effort. The milblogger explained that Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) forces recruited him out of prison in Horlivka, Donetsk Oblast in 2014, and accused mobilized men who complain to their wives about mobilization and poor conditions on the frontlines of being weak. The milblogger also made a sexist remark that Russian women are making emotional appeals and urged them to refrain from complaining about their husbands’ problems. The milblogger criticized Russians who have left the country in protest of the war, stating that those Russians lacked respect for their society and its interests. The milblogger downplayed reports of poor frontline conditions, noting that these conditions are solely the fault of local commanders. These statements are consistent with recent acknowledgments by Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) of problems with mobilization and generating support for the war that likely aim to prepare the Russian society for a protracted war. This milblogger had also previously revealed that the Kremlin is now offering to collaborate with the milbloggers.

The Kremlin has also intensified its efforts to coopt prominent milbloggers by offering them positions of power, which in turn allows them to amplify some elements of official rhetoric. One Russian milblogger who Putin appointed to the Russian Human Rights Council amplified an official statement from the council claiming that it had not received any information about the forcible mobilization of prisoners to participate in the war. A Russian milblogger who has received a place on Putin’s mobilization working group also expressed excitement over the prospect of delivering his concerns directly to Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu during the working group’s first meeting on December 28. By offering these positions within the government, the Kremlin enforces self-censorship and introduces its narratives to some figures within the milblogger space. Putin’s appointment of these milbloggers to official positions also suggests his approval of their extreme and sometimes genocidal statements.

The Kremlin could significantly benefit from the integration of some prominent milbloggers’ voices into its information space, but Putin remains unlikely to domesticate the entire community. The Kremlin had partially integrated at least seven of the most prominent milbloggers into its information sphere who are generally not affiliated with other factions such as the Wagner Group, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, or Russian veteran communities. Russian outlets have started to rank milbloggers and their growing popularity, noting that there are at least 50 extremely influential milbloggers from different factions among thousands of milblogger Telegram channels. A prominent Russian milblogger noted that the milblogger community had been rescuing the Kremlin’s poorly-implemented and outdated information campaign while simultaneously pointing out that it is “impossible to centralize” such a vast community. Another milblogger noted that the Kremlin’s information efforts are so laughable that it had made the milblogger community “the only decent source of information.” The milblogger also stated that some milbloggers still face censorship from the Kremlin, which can ignite tensions within the community.

Key Takeaways

  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that the Kremlin will continue to pursue a military solution to the war until the US accepts its demands and forces Ukraine to do the same.
  • Lavrov stated that Russia is unable to work on any agreements with the West due to its supposed provocative actions.
  • The Kremlin will likely continue information operations to seek to compel the West to offer preemptive concessions and pressure Ukraine to negotiate.
  • The Kremlin is increasingly integrating select milbloggers into its information campaigns, likely in an effort to regain a dominant narrative within the information space.
  • Ukrainian forces have likely made more gains in northeast Ukraine than ISW has previously assessed.
  • Russian forces may be nearing culmination in the Bakhmut area amid continuing Russian offensive operations there and in the Avdiivka-Donetsk City area.
  • Russian forces are maintaining their fortification efforts in southern Ukraine.
  • The Kremlin is continuing its efforts to publicly punish deserters and saboteurs.

Russian officials are intensifying efforts to deport children from occupied territories to Russia.

Ukraine and Russia Battle for a Gateway City in the East, The New York Times reports. “Combat raged around the city of Kreminna in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday, as Ukrainian forces edged closer to reclaiming that small but strategically important city, while the Russians battled to defend some of their hardest-fought gains of the war. Kreminna is a gateway to two much larger cities nearby, Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, important industrial centers in the Donbas region that fell to Russia after a grueling and costly summer campaign. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has called conquering and annexing the Donbas the heart of the war effort.

Since enduring a series of humiliating retreats, the Russian military has fortified its lines near Kreminna with a series of defensive barriers, part of its effort to solidify its positions up and down a jagged front that stretches for hundreds of miles. Retaking the city and other towns nearby would expand the Ukrainians’ foothold in the region, and give them control of major roads leading to Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk. […]

Serhiy Haidai, the Ukrainian regional governor of Luhansk province, said on Monday that, in response to military pressure, part of the Russian command in Kreminna had withdrawn to the town of Rubizhne, a few miles to the southeast, although it was not possible to verify the claim. The Russians understand that if they lose Kreminna, their entire line of defense will fall, he said […].

The Ukrainian counterattack in the east comes as the country’s battered economy shows new signs of the war’s toll, leaving it ever more dependent on Western aid. The Ukrainian government has struggled to raise money on bond markets, unable to roll over debt accumulated before Russia invaded in late February, and since then has paid investors about $2.2 billion more than it collected in bond sales, the Central Bank said.

Overall, Ukraine’s economy is projected to shrink about 40 percent this year, as Russia occupies about a fifth of its territory, hammers its cities with cruise missiles, and batters’ critical industries like steel manufacturing and agriculture.

All of that has left Ukrainian public finance, which has been wobbly at the best of times during three decades of independence, deeply reliant on assistance from the United States, the European Union, European countries that donate individually and other donors.

The International Monetary Fund, which bailed out Ukraine through a long run of post-independence financial crises, has not continued large-scale lending during the war. If the I.M.F. is worried about debt sustainability and ability to finance, imagine what private investors are thinking, said Tymofiy Mylovanov, a former economy minister who is a professor at the Kyiv School of Economics. […]

On Tuesday, Mr. Putin showed no sign that he expected the war, or acrimonious relations with the West, to soon abate. He met with the president of Belarus, raising concerns that he would use that nation — again — to launch an attack on Ukraine. And he signed a long-expected decree that banned sales of oil to nations that imposed a price cap on Russian oil: the European Union and its members, the United States, Britain, Japan, Canada and Australia.

In the absence of diplomacy, Ukraine and Russia’s militaries have been struggling against each other, and muddy winter weather, to seize more ground and entrench what they hold.

Ukraine’s campaign to recapture Kreminna began in the fall, as its forces finished sweeping through the country’s northeastern Kharkiv region and turned south to focus on Luhansk, which was almost entirely under Russian control.

Since then, the sides have fought a series of battles and artillery duels over highways and villages around Kreminna and Svatove. […]

Since he took overall command of Russia’s war effort in October, Gen. Sergei Surovikin has sought to rally Russian forces from their series of defeats this fall. He pulled Russian troops out of the city of Kherson in an organized retreat, and has made efforts to conserve Russia’s artillery supplies and reconstitute units, analysts say.

After losing the city of Kherson and suffering other setbacks in the region, Russia has been regrouping and reinforcing its troops in northern Luhansk for an offensive that would aim to extend its control in the region, according to the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based research group.

To that end, the institute said, Russia is prioritizing mobilizing troops to defend Kreminna and Svatove over operations in other parts of eastern Ukraine. The institute cited Ukrainian military reports of increased Russian movements of troops, military equipment and ammunition in the area.

It said, however, that Russian success in the short term appeared unlikely given the difficult terrain and the “very limited” offensive capabilities of Moscow’s forces after months of heavy losses. Though a draft in the fall provided Russia with hundreds of thousands of sorely needed troops, artillery-heavy warfare has depleted its best-trained units and strained its supplies.

Ukraine also faces serious supply problems, analysts say, especially as its Western supporters themselves start to run through their stockpiles. Ukrainian artillery use, conservatively, is probably around maybe 90,000 rounds per month, Michael Kofman, the director of Russian studies at C.N.A., a Virginia research institute, said last week on the “War on the Rocks” podcast. “That’s a lot more than anybody makes in the West right now. So all of this has been coming out of stocks, which is like going through your saving accounts.

SBU neutralizes over 4,500 Russian cyberattacks this year, Ukrinform reports, citing the SBU press service. “Since year-start, the Security Service of Ukraine has neutralized more than 4,500 cyberattacks targeting Ukraine. We have entered 2022 with eight years of experience in hybrid warfare behind our shoulders. After all, the war in cyber domain has been going on before. At the time of the invasion, we were already prepared for worst-case scenarios. And massive cyberattacks that we repelled in January and February became additional ‘training’ before the invasion, said Ilya Vityuk, head of the agency’s Cyber Security Department.

According to the official, with the onset of full-scale aggression, the attacks multiplied. While in 2020, almost 800 cyberattacks were recorded, in 2021 there were 1,400 of them, and this year, their number has more than tripled. Today, the aggressor power carries out an average of more than 10 cyberattacks per day. Ukrainian public, fortunately, isn’t even aware of most of them, Vityuk said.

The official also reported that energy, logistics, military facilities, as well as databases of state bodies and information resources are in the zone of Russian forces’s special attention.”

 

  1. Consequences and what to do? 

Ukraine’s population to “catastrophically” shrink to 35 million by 2030, demographers predict, Euromaidan Press reports. “Ella Libanova said {…] that this is the optimistic estimate: Russia’s full-blown war is leading to excessive mortality not only by killing people with weapons but through elevated stress, overburdening, insufficient medical care, lack of proper nutrition. The pessimistic estimate is 30 million.

Ukraine’s low birth rate contributes to the problem. In 2021, it was already at the extremely low rate of 1.1 children per woman, far below the replacement rate of 2.13-2.15. Libanova expects it to “catastrophically” fall in 2023, with 0.8 being the optimistic estimate.

Migration is yet another factor that can contribute to Ukraine’s depopulation. Whether refugees who have escaped abroad will return or not depends on the duration of hostilities and post-war conditions in Ukraine. […]

On 1 February, before the full-scale Russian invasion, 41.2 million people lived in Ukraine, excluding the territories that Russia was occupying — Crimea and eastern Ukraine, according to Ukraine’s Financial Ministry. As of 8 November, over 7.8 million Ukrainian refugees were forced to leave Ukraine; nearly 4.7 million of them received temporary protection, according to UN data.

The Russian invaders’ mass deportation of Ukrainians in occupied territories and attempts to resettle Russians to them may point to Moscow’s intention to change the demographic composition of these regions.”

Hans Petter Midttun: Today’s assessment will be published as a separate article. A teaser:

“Nearly nine years after the war started – and nine years of sanctions – the West has failed to impose its will on Russia. In my opinion, NATO and the EU have achieved the opposite. By restricting its response to non-military means only, the West has verified Russia’s perception of it as weak, lacking the will and ability to do what is needed to end the war. As a consequence, a low-intensity war has escalated into a full-scale war.

There are several reasons for its failure to force Russia to withdraw and act according to international law.

Firstly, Russia sees negotiations and sanctions as a sign of weakness. The fact that the West stands united behind the sanctions, does not signal strength. It only demonstrates collective weakness and lack of will to use military power to achieve their strategic aim and objectives.

Secondly, sanctions are temporary. In contrast to the massive destruction in Ukraine, sanctions do not destroy anything. They only temporarily cut the flow of money.

The potential gains of waging war by far outweigh the short-term, temporary costs of Western sanctions.

Which is the third reason for sanctions not working. While the pains from sanctions are temporary, Russia stands to gain enormously from a victory in Ukraine.

By defeating Ukraine, it would create the economic, technological, demographic and, therefore, military preconditions to become and remain a Great Power.

Russia will continue to wage war until confronted by military means on equal footing. It is willing to pay the cost in blood – both Russian and Ukrainian – to be able to reach Great Power status and the position to force Europe into submission by weaponizing food, oil, gas, and minerals, backed up by its threats of use of military power and nuclear arms.”

The article elaborates.

 

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