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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 309: Ukraine’s near-future goals – liberation, restoration, returning citizens home

Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 309: Ukraine’s near-future goals – liberation, restoration, returning citizens home
Article by: Zarina Zabrisky

Ukraine’s near-future goals are its liberation and restoration, returning citizens home, and rapprochement with key partners, says Zelenskyy. Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations toward Kreminna. Electricity deficit in Ukrainian power grid grows after Russia’s latest shelling.

Daily overview — Summary report, December  29, 2022

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 18.00 pm, December 29, 2022 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. December 28, 2022. Source: ISW.

The three hundred and ninth day of the Russian large-scale invasion has begun.
Over the past 24 hours, the enemy has carried out 30 air strikes and 7 missile strikes, in particular, on the civilian infrastructure of the cities of Kostyantynivka, Donetsk Oblast, and Kharkiv. He also carried out more than 70 attacks from rocket salvo systems.
This night, the Russian occupiers once again struck the energy infrastructure of Kharkiv, using 13 Iranian Shahed-136 unmanned aerial vehicles for this purpose. Units of the Defense Forces of Ukraine shot down 11 of these drones.
The enemy continues offensive operations in the Bakhmut and Avdiiv directions. Trying to improve the tactical position in the Lyman direction.
Units of the Defense Forces repelled the attacks of the occupiers in the areas of the settlements of Stelmakhivka, Andriivka, Ploshanka and Chervonpopivka in the Luhansk oblast and Belogorivka, Soledar, Bakhmutske, Pidhorodne, Bakhmut, Klishchiivka, Kurdyumivka, Avdiivka, Krasnohorivka, Mariinka and Pobeda in Donetsk oblast.
The situation remains stable in the Volynsky, Polissya, Siversky and Slobozhansky directions, no signs of the formation of enemy offensive groups have been detected.
Kharkiv Battle Map. December 28, 2022. Source: ISW.
On the Siverskyi and Slobozhanskyi directions, the regions of the settlements of Gremyachka and Lypivka of the Chernihiv Oblast were subjected to artillery shelling; Znob-Trubchevsk, Chernatske, Iskryskivshchyna, Budky and Zapsilya of the Sumy Oblast, as well as Chervona Zorya, Veterinarne, Krasne, Ohirtseve, Gatyshche, Vovchansk, Vovchanski Khutory, Staritsa, Ternova, Novomlynsk and Dvorichna in Kharkiv Oblast.
Donetsk Battle Map. December 28, 2022. Source: ISW.
In the Kupiansk and Lymansk directions, the enemy shelled the areas of more than 20 settlements. Among them are Sinkivka, Vilshana, Kupiansk, Kislivka and Krokhmalne of the Kharkiv Oblast; Stelmakhivka, Ploshanka, Chervopopivka and Dibrova – Luhansk, as well as Yampolivka in Donetsk Oblast.
In the Bakhmut direction, the enemy shelled more than 25 settlements with tanks, mortars, barrel and rocket artillery. In particular, these are Spirne, Bilogorivka, Soledar, Hryhorivka, Bakhmutske, Chasiv Yar, Bakhmut, Kostyantynivka, Mayorsk and New York of Donetsk Oblast.
Berdychi, Avdiivka, Pervomaiske, Mariinka and Novomykhailivka in Donetsk Oblast came under enemy fire in the Avdiivsk direction.
In the Novopavlivskyi direction, shelling was recorded near Vremivka, Velika Novosilka, Vugledar and Prechistivka in Donetsk Oblast.
Areas of more than 25 settlements were shelled in the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson directions. Among them are Gulyaipole, Malynivka, Charivne and Dorozhnianka in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast and Respublikanets, Kozatske and Lviv in the Kherson Oblast. Once again, the civilian infrastructure of Oleshki and Kherson suffered from enemy shelling. There are casualties among civilians.
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. December 28, 2022. Source: ISW.
On December 27, in the areas of Tokmak, Tytove, Chernihivka, Pology and Berdiansk settlements of Zaporizhzhia Oblast, the occupiers lost 3 units of military equipment of various types, a command post, a communications center, and about 230 wounded servicemen. Information about the dead is being clarified.
During the past day, our aviation made 17 strikes on enemy concentration areas and 4 strikes on the positions of its anti-aircraft missile systems.
Units of missile forces and artillery of the Defense Forces of Ukraine hit 5 control points, 3 areas of concentration of manpower and the occupiers’ ammunition warehouse.

Military Updates

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.

“The US is sending satellite-guided weapons to Kyiv. How will they help?” – NYT. The Biden administration announced this week that the weapons called the Joint Direct Attack Munition or JDAM would be part of a new $1.85 billion military aid package, giving Ukraine a precision-guided bombing capability it has never had. The New York Times explains what capabilities the JDAM would provide to the Ukrainian army.

Ukraine’s near-future goals are its liberation & restoration, returning citizens home, and rapprochement with key partners – Zelenskyy. Entering the next year, Ukrainians must retain a common understanding of their national goals, which are the liberation of Ukraine’s land from the enemy, the country’s restoration, and the return of the Ukrainian people home, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his video address late on 27 December, Ukrinform reports.

Russia appoints Ukrainian ex-Security Service chief as quisling for occupied south. Russia has chosen Aleksandr Yakimenko, the ex-chief of the Ukrainian Security Service from the times of pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych who is under Ukrainian sanctions, to head the security “agency” in south-Ukraine’s occupied Kherson Oblast, the Kherson local media Most reported and Ukrainska Pravda confirmed.

What if Russia wins in Ukraine and the only thing that can stop this: Opinion

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

  • In the early hours of 26 December 2022, Russia’s Engels Air Base was attacked for the second time in three weeks. Russian media reported that uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) were responsible for the strike on the facility, one of the main operating bases of Russia’s strategic bomber fleet.
  • Russia has long given a very high priority to maintaining advanced ground based air defences, but it is increasingly clear that it is struggling to counter air threats deep inside Russia.
  • One challenge for Russia is probably the exceptional demand on its fleet of modern, medium-range air defence systems, such as SA-22 Pantsir, which would typically be expected to take a major role in countering UAVs. As well as providing point defence for strategic sites such as Engels, these systems are currently required in large number to protect field headquarters near the front line in Ukraine.

Losses of the Russian army 

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


Russia shells maternity hospital in south-Ukrainian Kherson. Russians shelled the maternity ward of the Kherson hospital, where 2 children were born today, Presidential Office’s Deputy Head Tymoshenko reported. According to him, no one was injured in the attack. Before the attack, the doctors managed to successfully complete a cesarean section. There are five women after childbirth in the ward.

Ukraine’s population to “catastrophically” shrink to 35 million by 2030, demographers predict. 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.


Electricity deficit in Ukrainian power grid grows after Russia’s latest shelling. The Ukrainian power transmission system operator Ukrenergo says that as of 28 December, the electricity deficit in the system has increased “due to the stop of some units of power plants due to the shelling of gas infrastructure in the eastern region,” although thanks to the relatively warm weather power consumption limits weren’t applied for four days during the night hours.

Ukrainian ex-MP Kostiantyn Zhevaho detained in France at the request of Ukraine’s investigations bureau. At the request of the Ukrainian side, Ukrainian businessman and former MP Kostiantyn Zhevaho was detained on 28 December at Courchevel, the ski resort in the French Alps, the State Bureau of Investigations (DBR) reported, according to Interfax Ukraine.

Ukraine seizes $54 million worth of assets of Russian oligarch Usmanov. A Ukrainian court has seized $54 million worth of property belonging to pro-Kremlin oligarch Alisher Usmanov, Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) reported. The property will now be transferred to the Agency for Investigation and Management of Assets.

Abducted Ukrainian civic journalist sentenced to 7 years in a brazen show of lawlessness in Russian-occupied Crimea. A Russian-controlled ‘court’ in occupied Crimea has ignored the flagrant falsification of charges brought against Iryna Danilovych, and sentenced the 43-year-old civic journalist, nurse, and human rights defender to seven years imprisonment.  This was a brazen act of reprisal against Iryna for her courage and a chilling message to others of what they should expect if they too speak out.


Germany sends a quarter of its arms exports to Ukraine this year – DW. Germany sent over a quarter of the weapons and military equipment worth €2.24 billion to Ukraine in 2022, according to DW. The German government signed off €8.9 billion this year, which is the second-highest annual arms exports in the history of Germany, the German Economy Ministry reported following a request from Left Party (Die Linke) lawmaker Sevim Dagdelen.

“The US is sending satellite-guided weapons to Kyiv. How will they help?” – NYT. The Biden administration announced this week that the weapons called the Joint Direct Attack Munition or JDAM would be part of a new $1.85 billion military aid package, giving Ukraine a precision-guided bombing capability it has never had. The New York Times explains what capabilities the JDAM would provide to the Ukrainian army.

UK to provide Ukrainian Armed Forces with Sea King helicopters: Royal Navy has delivered Sea King training to 10 Ukrainian crews.

New Developments 

Lukashenka regime sentences Belarusian “railway partisans” to 20+ years in prison. In Belarus, the Homiel Regional Court sentenced three Belarusian “railway partisans” to a 21-23 year jail terms, the Viasna Human Rights Centre reported. The three men from Svietlahorsk tried to disrupt the movement of Russian military equipment by rail in Belarus in the early days of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

1,000 Crimean Tatars fled to Türkiye from Russian mobilization. Roughly 1,000 Crimean Tatars, the indigenous population of occupied Crimea, fled to Türkiye, escaping Russia’s mobilization drive for its war against Ukraine, according to Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Yasin Serim.

Foreign ministry slams Orban’s “pathological contempt” for Ukraine. Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry has slammed Hungarian Prime Minister Orban’s comments to media that the war in Ukraine will end when the United States stops giving it weapons and funds. It stated that such statements by Orban demonstrate “pathological contempt for Ukraine and the Ukrainian people, who are resisting Russian aggression, as well as his own political short-sightedness.”

Pentagon plans to assassinate Putin – Russia’s Foreign Minister Lavrov. The statements by “unnamed officials” from the US Pentagon about inflicting a “decapitation blow” on the Kremlin is a threat to physically eliminate the President of the Russian Federation, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed in his interview with the Russian state-run news agency TASS.


  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of  December 28, 2023:

The Russian offensive against Bakhmut is likely culminating as ISW forecasted on December 27.[1] US military doctrine defines culmination as the “point at which a force no longer has the capability to continue its form of operations, offense or defense,” and “when a force cannot continue the attack and must assume a defensive posture or execute an operational pause.”[2] If Russian forces in Bakhmut have indeed culminated, they may nevertheless continue to attack aggressively. Culminated Russian forces may continue to conduct ineffective squad-sized assaults against Bakhmut, though these assaults would be very unlikely to make operationally significant gains.

Several indicators support the assessment that Russian forces around Bakhmut have culminated.

Senior Ukrainian officials are visiting frontline positions in Bakhmut unimpeded. Ukraine’s Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) chief, Kyrylo Budanov, visited Bakhmut on December 27-28 and was geolocated to within at least 600 meters of the previously recorded Russian forward line of troops.[3] Budanov’s visit supports previous Ukrainian social media reports that Ukrainian forces conducted a tactical counterattack that repelled Russian forces from the outskirts of Bakhmut on December 21.[4] Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Bakhmut on December 20.[5]

Recent combat footage supports ISW’s previous assessment that Russian forces are operating in squad-sized assault groups due to combat losses.[6] Combat footage posted on December 26 shows Ukrainian fire defeating squad-sized groups of 5-10 unsupported Russian infantry attempting a disorderedly assault on Novoselivske in Luhansk Oblast.[7] This footage, while not from Bakhmut, is consistent with a senior Ukrainian official’s report that Russian forces in the Bakhmut area are no longer operating as company and battalion tactical groups but are instead operating in smaller groups of 10 to 15 servicemembers (squad-size organizations) as of December 27.[8]

Russian airborne forces (VDV) are reportedly augmenting Wagner Group operations around Bakhmut. A Russian source reported that Wagner and VDV elements conducted joint operations in Bakhmut on December 27.[9] The report, if true, marks an inflection given that the Wagner Group has been conducting information operations to assert that the Wagner Group forces exclusively are operating in Bakhmut.[10] The conventional Russian military supporting Wagner Group elements in Bakhmut—after Wagner took efforts to emphasize it exclusively is responsible for the Bakhmut sector—would be consistent with indicators for the Wagner Group forces’ culmination. ISW has previously assessed that Wagner Group forces are serving a chiefly attritional role around Bakhmut and have therefore likely become degraded to a near-debilitating extent and need reinforcement from more conventional Russian elements.[11] High rates of attrition amongst the forces responsible for the offensive on Bakhmut may expedite the culmination unless notable numbers of regular Russian military units are sent to sustain the offensive and delay or avert its culmination.

Russian forces appear to be preparing for a decisive effort in Luhansk Oblast, although it is unclear whether for defensive or offensive operations. Russian forces continue accumulating equipment and forces in Luhansk. VDV elements that were likely previously operating in Kherson Oblast appear to have redeployed to Luhansk Oblast following the Russian withdrawal from west bank Kherson Oblast in November.[12] Social media images from late December increasingly show Russian equipment in transit in Luhansk Oblast.[13] Russian forces are operating military district-level thermobaric artillery assets in the Luhansk area of operations, which may indicate a prioritization of operations in this area.[14] Ukrainian intelligence reported on December 26 that the Russian military appointed a new Western Military District (WMD) commander who is commanding Russian forces out of a command post in Boguchar, Voronezh Oblast.[15] WMD elements (such as the 144th Motorized Rifle Division) are the principal forces operating in the Luhansk sector and a command change could indicate efforts to support a new decisive effort in this area. Senior Ukrainian officials have stated that Russian forces in Belarus and Zaporizhzhia are not forming strike groups as of late December, but notably have not made similar statements about Russian forces in Luhansk Oblast.[16] Russian forces have been establishing extensive trenches and field fortifications in Luhansk Oblast for several months—activity that could support a planned Russian decisive effort in the vicinity of Luhansk Oblast.[17] The aforementioned indicators may suggest that Russian forces in Luhansk Oblast are preparing for an offensive operation, as ISW has previously forecasted, but may also indicate preparation for larger spoiling attacks or a defensive counterattack to take advantage of Ukrainian counteroffensive efforts in the area that the Russians expect to stop.[18]

Russian forces appear less likely to conduct a new offensive in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast over the winter. Russian forces are likely establishing defenses against possible Ukrainian offensive operations in Zaporizhzhia Oblast.[19] Russian forces likely destroyed a bridge over a river in Polohy on December 28.[20] A senior Ukrainian military official stated on December 28 that there are no signs of Russian forces in Zaporizhzhia Oblast forming strike groups despite some rotations and deployments there.[21] Zaporizhzhia Oblast Occupation Deputy Vladimir Rogov claimed on December 27 that Ukrainian forces will conduct an offensive in Zaporizhzhia Oblast but that the offensive is not imminent because of muddy conditions.[22] Recent Russian mining and fortification efforts in Zaporizhzhia Oblast and the Dnipro River coastline indicate that Russian forces do not seek to conduct an offensive there.[23]

The Kremlin continues to systematically deny Ukrainian sovereignty and reiterate that Russia has no genuine intention to engage in negotiation with Ukraine. Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov responded to the Ukrainian proposal to prepare a peace initiative at the United Nations in February and emphasized that no peace plan can exist for Ukraine without accounting for the entry of Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Donetsk, and Luhansk oblasts into the Russian Federation.[24] Peskov clearly indicated that the Kremlin has no genuine intent to compromise its demands, thus directly undermining the Kremlin’s own narrative that Russia is willing to talk but Ukraine is not.[25] ISW has continuously reported that Russia is using the discussion of negotiations as an information operation to force Ukraine into making massive concessions on Russia’s terms.[26] Russian leaders’ insistence that Ukraine enter negotiations having accepted the illegal Russian annexation of more than 100,000 square kilometers of Ukrainian land emphasizes the lack of genuine interest in negotiations on the part of the Kremlin.

The Kremlin continues to present the US transfer of Patriot air defense systems and accompanying trainers to Ukraine as an escalation in US-Russia relations, despite the fact that the transfer is if anything less escalatory than previous Western military shipments to Ukraine because Patriot is a purely defensive system. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed in a televised interview on December 28 that US officials had guaranteed to not send Patriot air defense trainers to Ukraine in an effort to refrain from participating in the war.[27] The Kremlin has previously highlighted the US transfer of Patriot air-defense systems in accusations that the United States and the West are waging a proxy war in Ukraine with the intent of weakening or destroying the Russian Federation.[28] The Kremlin uses these accusations in support of information operations that aim to frame Ukraine as a Western puppet devoid of sovereignty and to weaken Western security assistance to Ukraine by stoking fears of Russian escalation.[29] The Kremlin could use any Western transfer of military equipment to Ukraine as support for these information operations. The Kremlin’s decision to react to the transfer of the Patriot air defense systems more strongly than to previous weapons transfers indicates that the Kremlin is more concerned with the effect Western help can have on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine than with supposed Russian fears of putative Ukrainian offensive actions against the Russian Federation itself using Western systems. That observation is worth considering in the context of Western discussions of providing Ukraine with Western tanks, long-range attack systems, and other capabilities.

ISW forecasts with high confidence that Putin will not seek to engage NATO militarily at this time in response to the provision of any of the Western military systems currently under discussion. Russia is barely holding off the Ukrainian military at a fearful cost to itself and Russian forces in Ukraine could not survive a serious conflict with NATO at this time. The risks of deliberate Russian escalation to a major conflict with NATO in the foreseeable future are thus extremely low.

Key Takeaways

  • The Russian offensive against Bakhmut is likely culminating.
  • Russian forces appear to be preparing for a decisive effort in Luhansk Oblast and appear less likely to conduct a new offensive in Zaporizhzhia Oblast in the winter of 2023.
  • The Kremlin continues to demonstrate that Russia has no genuine intention of engaging in negotiations with Ukraine by insisting that Ukraine accept Russia’s illegal annexations of Ukrainian land.
  • The Kremlin continues to present the US transfer of Patriot air defense systems as an escalation in US-Russia relations, but ISW forecasts with high confidence that Russia will not deliberately seek to escalate to a major conflict with NATO as a result.
  • Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations toward Kreminna, where Russian forces continued counterattacks to regain lost positions.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations around Bakhmut, Donetsk City, and in western Donetsk Oblast.
  • Russian forces continued defensive and rotational operations in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts.
  • The Kremlin has approved additional funds for the development of defensive fortifications and is attempting to staff fortification efforts in Russian border areas and occupied Ukraine.


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