Russo Ukrainian War. Day 310: Russia launches tenth massive missile attack against Ukraine

 

Daily review

Article by: Hans Petter Midttun

On December 29, Russia launched its tenth massive missile strike against Ukraine; 54 of 69 missiles were downed. On the night of December 29-30, Russia attacked Ukraine with Iranian-made kamikaze drones Shahed-131/136.

Daily overview — Summary report, December 30

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 18.00 pm, December 30, 2022 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. December 29, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Situation in Ukraine. December 29, 2022. Source: ISW.

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“[Russian forces are concentrating its efforts on conducting offensive actions in the Bakhmut and Zaporizhzhia directions and are trying to improve its tactical position in the Lyman and Avdiivka directions. On Kupyansk and Novopavlivka directions enemy conducts an active defence. In the Kherson direction, Russian forces are regrouping troops to other directions, is being reinforced by units of territorial troops, and is conducting positional defence.]

[In the morning, the Russian occupiers launched a massive missile attack on the territory of Ukraine. Russian forces launched air and sea-based cruise missiles, and S-300 anti-aircraft guided missiles at energy and civil infrastructure facilities in the eastern, central, western and southern regions of Ukraine. According to confirmed data, 69 cruise missiles were used. Defence forces of Ukraine destroyed 54 of them.]

Over the past day, Russian forces launched 85 missiles and 35 air strikes, as well as launched 63 MLRS attacks.

The danger of air and missile strikes on the country’s critical infrastructure remains. The Russian occupiers continue to terrorize the civilian population of Ukraine.

Over the past day, units of the Defense Forces have repelled attacks by occupiers in the areas of the settlements of Stelmakhivka and Bilogorivka in the Luhansk region and Soledar, Ivanivske, Klishchiivka, Kamianka, Avdiivka, Vesele, Vodyane, Krasnohorivka, and Maryinka in the Donetsk region.

The situation is stable in the Volyn, Polissya, Siverskyi and Slobozhanskyi directions. Russian forces maintain a military presence in the border areas, and no signs of his formation of offensive groups have been detected.

Kharkiv Battle Map. December 29, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Kharkiv Battle Map. December 29, 2022. Source: ISW.

  • In the Siversky and Slobozhanskyy, the areas of the settlements of Leonivka of the Chernihiv region were shelled with artillery; Pavlovka – Sumy; Hlyboke, Zelene, Ternova, Staritsa, Vovchansk, Bochkove and Chugunivka in the Kharkiv region. The invaders also used army aircraft for the attack near Velika Pysarivka, Sumy region.
  • In the Kupyansk and Lyman directions, areas of 17 settlements were affected by fire. Among them – Dvorichna, Vilshana, Kotlyarivka, Vyshneve and Kamianka of the Kharkiv region; Ploschanka, Chervonopivka, Nevske, Dibrova in the Luhansk region and Torske in the Donetsk region. Russian forces struck with army aviation forces near Dibrova.
  • In the Bakhmut direction, areas of 20 settlements were shelled. In particular, Spirne, Berestov, Bilogorivka, Soledar, Bakhmutske, Pidgorodne, Bakhmut, Zalizne, New York, Klishchiivka and Kurdyumivka of the Donetsk region. In addition, the occupiers deployed attack UAVs in the districts of Kurdyumivka, Mayorsk, and Zalizny.
Donetsk Battle Map. December 29, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Donetsk Battle Map. December 29, 2022. Source: ISW.

  • In the Avdiivka direction, Russian forces inflicted fire damage near Avdiyivka, Vesely, Krasnohorivka, Maryinka, and Novomykhailivka, Donetsk region. Airstrikes were recorded near Kamianka and Avdiyivka.
  • In the Novopavlivsk direction, the invaders were fighting with tanks and artillery near Vugledar, Prechistivka, Zolotaya Niva, Velika Novosilka, and Neskuchny, Donetsk region. An airstrike was carried out in the area of Mykilskoye.
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. December 29, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. December 29, 2022. Source: ISW.

  • In the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson directions, more than 25 settlements came under the influence of fire. Among them are Stepove, Olhivske, Dorozhnyanka, Mala Tokmachka, Mali Shcherbaki, Myrne in the Zaporizhzhia region and Beryslav, Kozatske, Ivanivka, Chornobayivka and Stanislav in the Kherson region. Enemy operational-tactical and army aviation operated in the areas of Gulyaipol and Stepovoy of the Zaporizhzhia region and Novosilka – Kherson region.

[Russian forces continue to use the network of civilian healthcare facilities in the temporarily occupied territory to treat wounded Russian servicemen and mercenaries of private military companies. Thus, in Bilovodsk, Starobilsk district, Luhansk oblast, more than 100 wounded representatives of the “Wagner” PMC continue to be treated. In addition, in the city of Tokmak, about 120 wounded occupiers are being treated on the territory of the so-called “military hospital”.]

[In the city of Donetsk, the invaders organized the removal of medical equipment and medical workers from the Kalinin Donetsk Oblast Clinical Hospital to Mariupol.]

[On December 28, more than 50 occupiers were eliminated as a result of fire damage by units of the Defense Forces of enemy positions in the Berdyansk district of the Zaporizhzhia oblast.]

During the previous day, the aviation of the Defense Forces made 12 strikes on the areas of concentration of personnel, weapons, and military equipment and struck the position of a Russian anti-aircraft missile complex.

And our missile and artillery units hit 5 control points, 5 manpower concentration areas and the occupiers’ ammunition depot.

Military Updates

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst. ~

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.

On the night of December 29-30, the enemy attacked Ukraine with Iranian-made kamikaze drones Shahed-131/136, the Ukrainian General Staff reports. “A total of 16 “shaheeds” were released, flying from the south-eastern and northern directions. The enemy tried to use the channel of the Dnieper to overcome the air defence system of Ukraine.

All 16 kamikaze drones were destroyed by the forces and means of the “East” and “Center” air commands, as well as air defence units of other components of the Defense Forces of Ukraine.”

Ukrainian air defence forces repel drone attack on Kyiv region’s infrastructure, Ukrinform reports, citing Kyiv Regional Military Administration Head, Oleksii Kuleba. “Last night Ukraine’s air defence forces repelled an enemy drone attack on infrastructure objects in the Kyiv region. Russia again targeted our infrastructure objects. The air defence forces repelled a drone attack, Kuleba wrote, adding that none of the enemy unmanned aerial vehicles reached the target.”

Ten UCAVs were downed over Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhia regions, Ukrinform reports, citing East Air Command. “Last night the East Air Command’s air and missile units, in cooperation with the air defence units of the Land Forces, destroyed nine Shahed UCAVs and one Marlin drone in the Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhzhia regions, the report states.”

Ukraine’s Air Forces specify what weapons and areas Russia used to attack on 29 December, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the press service of the Ukrainian Air Force Command. The Russian Federation used Kh-101/Kh-555, Kalibr, Kh-22, Kh-32 cruise missiles and Kh-31P anti-radar missiles during the morning strikes of Thursday, 29 December, which were preceded by a night-time drone attack.

The Air Force notes that 11 Shahed-131/136 loitering munitions were destroyed by air defence during the night on the eastern front.

Around 07:00, Russians attacked Ukraine with Kh-101/Kh-555 air-launched cruise missiles from Tu-95MS strategic bombers from the area of the city of Volgodonsk, Rostov Oblast, and the northern part of the Caspian Sea, as well as Kalibr cruise missiles from ships in the Black Sea.

In addition, up to six launches of Kh-22 and Kh-32 cruise missiles were made from long-range Tu-22M3 bombers, as well as two launches of Kh-31P anti-radar missiles. The occupiers also used S-300 anti-aircraft guided missiles against the infrastructure facilities of front-line cities.

Preliminary reports indicate that in total, on 29 December, the occupying forces used 69 missiles. The […]Armed Forces of Ukraine, have destroyed 54 Russian cruise missiles.”

Russia says it shot down a drone near Engels air base, Reuters reports. “A Russian regional governor said on Thursday that air defences had shot down a drone near the Engels air force base, home to long-range strategic bombers. Russia says Ukraine has already tried to attack the base twice this month, killing at least six Russian servicemen, although it said there was only slight damage to two aircraft.”

Belarusian authorities consider 2 versions of the S-300 missile falling on the territory of Belarus: Lukashenko already informed, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the Belarusian state-owned national news agency, BelTA. “The Belarusian authorities have confirmed that a missile from an S-300 anti-aircraft missile system fell on the territory of the country. Aleksandr Lukashenko, the self-proclaimed president of the country, has already been informed about the incident. […] The Belarusian authorities claim that the missile fell from the territory of Ukraine.

It is reported that two main versions of the event are being considered: the missile flew into the territory of Belarus, similar to the recent incident in Poland when the missile flew in the wrong direction, or the missile was shot down due to the operation of the air defence systems of Belarus.”

Situational update on the military situation as of 29 December, as reported by Deputy Chief of the Main Operational Department of the Ukrainian General Staff, Brigadier General Oleksiy Gromov. “In the east of our country, the situation remains difficult: Russian forces carried out offensive actions in the Kharkiv, Kupyan, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Novopavlovsk directions, carried out artillery fire on the positions of our troops along the entire line of contact, while Russian forces concentrated its main efforts on the Bakhmut direction. Around Bakhmut, defenders of Ukraine deter up to 20 attacks by Russian forces every day, who, under the cover of artillery fire, are aggressively advancing on the positions of our troops, — reported Oleksiy Gromov.

He noted that to concentrate artillery fire around Bakhmut, Russian forces deliberately reduced the number of shelling of our troops’ positions in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia directions in recent weeks, and ammunition was delivered to the Bakhmut and Lyman directions. More than 40% of Russian forces’ artillery fire along the contact line from Kupyansk to Maryanka falls precisely in the Bakhmut direction. […] Russian forces are trying to capture Bakhmut at any cost, despite numerous losses in personnel.

In general, the most difficult situation continues to remain in the eastern zone of our country, where Russian forces are trying to reach the administrative border of the Donetsk region. A total of 259 combat encounters with Russian forces took place since December 23 during the operation of the Defense Forces. The aggressor fired more than 4,000 shells at the positions of our troops, said Brigadier General Oleksiy Gromov.

During the week, artillery units and high-precision weapons of the missile forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine damaged 151 enemy objects, including 13 control points of various levels, 10 warehouses with ammunition, fuel and lubricants, etc.

Along with conducting positional defence in the indicated directions (Bakhmut, Lyman. — Ed.), our soldiers continue offensive actions in the area of Kreminna, Luhansk region. During the week, the defenders of Ukraine advanced up to two and a half kilometres in the direction of the specified settlement.

According to him, among the officers of the headquarters of the 2nd Army Corps of Russian forces stationed in Luhansk, information is circulating about the gradual preparation of defensive lines around the city of Luhansk. At the same time, it is noted that in the event of a breakthrough by the Defence Forces of Ukraine of the defensive lines of the Russian occupying forces on the Svatove-Kreminna line and, accordingly, the transfer of hostilities closer to the city of Luhansk, a significant part of the servicemen of the units of the 2nd Army Corps, especially among those mobilized for temporarily occupied territories, plans to surrender.

Along the state border of Ukraine with the Republic of Belarus, the situation remains controlled and stable. Russian forces continue to increase their level of training, conducting exercises on Belarusian training grounds, which currently have up to 11,000 personnel and more than 400 units of weapons and military equipment of the occupying country. Today, the group of Russian troops deployed in Belarus, the Bryansk and Kursk regions of the Russian Federation is half the size of the group that was used for the offensive on Kyiv in February this year — 22,000 against 45.5,000 occupiers, Brigadier General Oleksiy Gromov said.

According to him, even in the case of the involvement of all combat Belarusian military units from the ground forces and special operations forces, the joint grouping of the aggressor’s troops will number about 30,000 people: Which is still less than the one involved in a full-scale invasion. In addition, as of today, Russia has removed from Belarusian territory all stocks of ammunition for artillery systems and rocket launcher systems, which were created in the interests of the armed forces of the Russian Federation on the eve of the attack on Ukraine.

Last week, the crews of the Tu-95MS aircraft of the occupying country flew to the missile launch line in the Caspian region and the Volgograd region, — said Oleksiy Gromov. In addition, since December 16 of this year, Russian forces have resumed flights of MiG-31K aircraft, which are the carrier of the Kinzhal hypersonic missile, as well as the A-50U long-range radar detection aircraft in the airspace of the Republic of Belarus. […] All this was aimed at identifying the objects of our air defence and further damage to the critical infrastructure of Ukraine

Oleksiy Gromov also reported that in the period from December 23 to 28, Russian forces used 23 kamikaze drones, including 13 last week. At the same time, since December 23, 19 air targets have been destroyed by air defence forces and means.”

Russians in Crimea declare a high level of “terrorist threat” for almost a month, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Sergey Aksyonov, Head of the Russian government in occupied Crimea. “In order to ensure the security and anti-terrorist protection of the Republic of Crimea and its citizens, a high (‘yellow’) level of terrorist threat will be in effect on the territory of a number of municipal entities and at the facilities of the Republic from 20:00 on 6 January to 20:00 on 21 January 2023. […]

At the same time, Aksyonov insists that “the situation in the region is fully controlled by the Republican and communal authorities. According to Aksyonov, “the security of the Republic of Crimea, its residents and guests are fully ensured by security forces and law enforcement agencies”.

On 26 December, Kyrylo Budanov, Chief of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine, said that Ukraine would regain temporarily occupied Crimea in a combined way, both by force and diplomacy.”

Over 1,800 settlements have already been liberated from Russian invaders, Ukrainska Pravda reported on 28 December. “Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said that Ukraine has already managed to liberate more than 1,800 towns and villages from Russian invaders. He said this in his annual address to the Verkhovna Rada.”

Ukrainian air defence shoots down over 420 Russian missiles and 430 kamikaze drones since Sept, Ukrinform reported on 28 December, citing the spokesperson for the Ukrainian Air Force, Yurii Ihnat. “Everyone took the date of October 10, from the first massive missile attack, as the beginning of the countdown of attacks on the energy infrastructure. But in fact, they hit the Kharkiv thermal power station back on September 11. At that time, they began to attack our critical infrastructure. Since then, our air defence forces have shot down approximately more than 420 missiles and 430 kamikaze drones. Of course, a larger number attacked [Ukrainian infrastructure], Ihnat said.

He also noted that Russian forces had already used a significant number of missiles, and the Russians still have a large number of missile carriers, which were redeployed deep into their territory after explosions at the Engels air base. Actually, they have now relocated to other airfields that can receive Tu-96 and Tu-160 strategic aircraft, the spokesman said.”

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

  • Lieutenant General Yevgeniy Nikiforov is likely in the process of taking over command of Russia’s Western Group of Forces (WGF) in Ukraine. He would be at least the fourth commander of the formation since the invasion, and replaces Colonel General Sergei Kuzovlev, who was appointed just three months ago.
  • As the Chief of Staff of Russia’s Eastern Group of Forces (EGF) during the early weeks of the invasion, Nikiforov would have been heavily involved in planning the disastrous attempt by EGF and airborne forces to advance on Kyiv from the north-west, via the Chernobyl area.
  • WGF is almost certainly currently tasked with holding Russia’s right flank, the area of Luhansk Oblast around Kremina and Svatove. As either side could plausibly attempt an offensive in this sector, Nikiforov assumes an important operational role in the conflict. The continued churn of senior Russian officers probably reflects internal divisions regarding the Russian Ministry of Defence’s future conduct of the war.
  • 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 numbers to protect field headquarters near the front line in Ukraine.

Losses of the Russian army 

As of Friday 30 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 105250 (+690),
  • Tanks – 3026 (+8),
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 6059 (+12),
  • Artillery systems – 2010 (+6),
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 423 (+0),
  • Air defence means – 212 (+0),
  • Aircraft – 283 (+0),
  • Helicopters – 268 (+0),
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 4683 (+8),
  • Vessels/boats – 16 (+0),
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 1740 (+23),
  • Special equipment – 180 (+1),
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0),
  • Cruise missiles – 711 (+58)

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

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

Losses of Russian Army. Source General Staff of Ukraine.

Humanitarian 

Russia launched its tenth massive missile strike against Ukraine on 29 December. “After a night attack by kamikaze drones, Russian forces are attacking Ukraine from various directions with air- and sea-based cruise missiles from strategic aircraft and ships. In addition, there is a high activity by the occupiers’ tactical aircraft”, Ukrainska Pravda reported in the morning. The police received 20 reports from citizens about the missiles’ fly-overs, helping the air defence forces to effectively counter the air threat.

Russians hit Ukraine’s largest private energy company’s power plants for the 22nd time, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the press service of DTEK. “Russian forces have attacked one of the thermal power plants belonging to DTEK [the largest private energy business in Ukraine] during its 10th large-scale missile attack on infrastructure facilities on the morning of 29 December. […] After the 10th large-scale missile attack by Russians on critical infrastructure facilities, a difficult situation with electricity supply has been observed in two oblasts and western Ukraine.”

90% of residents evacuated from Bakhmut — mayor, Ukrinform reports, citing Bakhmut Mayor, Oleksii Reva. “Despite the difficult security situation, the evacuation of residents from Bakhmut continues. Almost 90% of the residents of the Bakhmut community, which is more than 70,000 people, have already moved to safer regions or temporarily left the territory of Ukraine. Some 8,700 residents of Bakhmut remain in the community and live under constant shelling, the mayor wrote.

He once again called on people to evacuate and recalled that, according to the Government Coordination Headquarters, a mandatory evacuation will be redirected from the Ternopil region to the Cherkasy region from January 2. There, people will be accommodated in municipal facilities and provided with humanitarian aid.”

Environmental

Russia bombing Ukraine into a cold and dark Christmas, PAX for Peace reported on 22 December. “As many people in the world are celebrating the Christmas season, the traditional festival of lights, Ukraine is faced with a brutal winter. The destructive Russian invasion and subsequent air campaign with drones and cruise missiles targeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure are plunging the country into darkness, with widespread humanitarian and environmental consequences.

A new PAX Environment and Conflict Alert  (ECA) on Ukraine has documented how the continuous bombing of critical infrastructure has damaged over 213 amount of powerplants and more than 63 substations, resulting in widespread health and environmental risks. Millions of Ukrainians are relying on electricity for heating, cooking and transportation, which is particularly needed in the harsh cold winter months.  

The deliberate strikes against these facilities and subsequent lack of access to energy are causing wide-ranging humanitarian impacts and massive displacement of civilians. The absence of heating, access to water and functioning sewage systems can cause serious public health risks.  Lack of electricity also impacts the healthcare, education and livelihoods of Ukrainian civilians.  Understandably, civilians will resort to alternative forms of fuel, including unstainable coping strategies by using more indoor heating from fuel or wood burners, that is exposing them to more indoor air pollution, while in the long-term contributing to deforestation of protected areas. 

Apart from the humanitarian impacts, there are also serious environmental risks from targeting energy infrastructure, ranging from a severe risk to a nuclear melt-down at the Zaphorizhnya nuclear power plant, as its power supplies were damaged,  to release of hazardous substances at bombed facilities, localized water, soil and air pollution and flooding of coal mines as water pumping is halted.   

In collaboration with the Centre of Information Resilience, PAX is using open-source investigation methods, combined with a range of satellites for earth observations to document the environmental dimensions of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”

Legal 

Over 1,100 bodies discovered in de-occupied territories of four regions so far, Ukrinform reports. “Since the beginning of de-occupation measures in Donetsk, Mykolaiv, Kherson and Kharkiv regions, the bodies of 1,116 civilians have been discovered, including 31 children. The bodies of three people were found yesterday in the Kherson region, the official said.

According to him, investigators have documented 5,398 war crimes in the de-occupied areas. In total, since the beginning of the full-scale war, the police have opened more than 53,700 criminal proceedings into criminal offences committed by Russian servicemen and their accomplices.”

Support

The Finnish Parliament calls on the government to be the first in Europe to begin deliveries of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, Guildhall reports. “The supply of even a small batch of German-made Leopard 2 tanks by Finland to Ukraine will initiate a discourse on the need to supply Western tanks to other European countries. Leopard 2 tanks have superiority over Soviet types of weapons, there are a large number of them in various European countries, and the supply of such tanks will be decisive for Ukraine’s victory in the war.

This appeal to the government of Finland was made by members of the Finnish Parliament Anders Adlerkreuz (SFP), representing the Defense Committee and Chairman of the Green Party in the Finnish Parliament Atte Harjanne. Guildhall received the text of the appeal from the Finnish parliamentarians and has published it in full.”

Biden administration working to halt Iran from delivering drones to Russia, The Hill reports. “The Biden administration is reportedly working to curb Iran’s ability to deliver drones to Russian troops for use in Ukraine by expanding efforts to choke Tehran’s production of the unmanned aerial vehicles. The New York Times reported on the expanded push Wednesday, citing unnamed intelligence, military and national security officials. The administration is focusing on depriving Iran of the parts it needs to produce the drones.

Adrienne Watson, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, told the newspaper that officials are looking at ways to target Iranian drone production through sanctions, export controls, and talking to private companies whose parts have been used in the production. We are assessing further steps we can take in terms of export controls to restrict Iran’s access to technologies used in drones, Watson said.

The US is also helping Ukrainian defenders target sites where drones are being launched and providing equipment to detect the drones early after launch, according to the Times.

Iranian drones are mostly assembled through parts produced in the US, Europe and Asia, according to a November report from a weapons research group, Conflict Armament Research.”

Slovenia sends the fourth shipment of energy equipment to Ukraine, Ukrinform reports. “Slovenia has sent to Ukraine the fourth shipment of energy equipment, which includes 88 transformers, three generators and other devices needed by power engineers.”

More than half of Americans support giving weapons to Ukraine, Ukrinform reported on 28 December. “Most Americans support the United States continuing to give weapons to Ukraine amid Russia’s all-out invasion of the country. That’s according to poll conducted in the US by the British international internet-based market research firm YouGov and The Economist magazine.

In particular, 53% of those polled are in favour of the US continuing to provide weapons to Ukraine, whereas 25% are against it, and 22% were not sure. Some 73% of respondents support the transfer of humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, 70% – medical military assistance, 61% – non-lethal military assistance, 54% – light weapon systems (anti-tank weapons) and 45% – advanced weapons systems (helicopters, armoured vehicles). Some 47% of respondents support the transfer of the Patriot missile defense system to Ukraine.”

About 80% of citizens support Ukraine’s EU accession – Survey, European Pravda reports. “The vast majority of Ukrainian citizens support joining the European Union. The survey was the Democratic Initiatives Foundation and the sociological department of the Razumkov Center in cooperation with European Pravda.conducted by

79.4% of respondents support Ukraine’s EU membership, 7.9% are against this decision and another 12.8% have not decided. This survey also confirms that Ukraine’s NATO accession is considered by the majority of Ukrainian citizens to be the best option for guaranteeing national security after Russian aggression.”

[49% of Ukrainians consider joining NATO as the best option for guaranteeing Ukraine’s security. 9% of respondents believe that it will be more reliable to conclude an agreement on strategic defence with several countries with the exception of the USA. At the same time, 7% of respondents believe that an agreement on strategic defence should be concluded exclusively with the United States. 17% of Ukrainians are convinced that the best guarantor of security for Ukraine can only be Ukraine itself, through the development of its own armed forces. 9% continue to support non-aligned status for Ukraine with international security guarantees.]

New Developments 

  1. Ukraine’s Foreign Minister addresses world after Russian missile attack: Neutrality is now same as complicity, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing European Pravda. “Senseless barbarism. These are the only words that come to mind seeing Russia launch another missile barrage at peaceful Ukrainian cities ahead of New Year. There can be no ‘neutrality’ in the face of such massive war crimes. Pretending to be ‘neutral’ equals taking Russia’s side, [Dmytro Kuleba, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, said]”
  2. Russians will one day run out of missiles, while Ukrainians will never run out of courage, UkrinformThat’s according to a tweet by Ukraine’s Ambassador to the USA Oksana Markarova, who commented on today’s Russian missile attacks on Ukrainian cities. At some point, terrorist Russians will run out of missiles, but Ukrainians will never run out of courage, devotion to freedom and democracy and love for our Country, she wrote.”
  3. Belarus protests to Ukraine after downing stray air defence missile, ReutersBelarus protested to Ukraine’s ambassador on Thursday after saying it had downed a Ukrainian S-300 air defence missile in a field, during one of Russia’s heaviest aerial onslaughtsagainst Ukraine since the start of the war. The military commissar of the Brest region, Oleg Konovalov, played the incident down in a video posted on social media by the state-run BelTA news agency, saying locals had absolutely nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, these things happen.  […] Nevertheless, the Ukrainian ambassador was summoned to the foreign ministry in Minsk to receive a formal protest. “The Belarussian side views this incident as extremely serious, spokesperson Anatoly Glaz said.”
  4. Russia will not negotiate on conditions of Zelenskyy’s “peace formula”, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. “Putting forward all kinds of ideas and ‘peace formulas’, V. Zelenskyy nurtures the illusion of achieving, with the help of the West, the withdrawal of our troops from the Russian territory of Donbas, Crimea, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson Oblasts, the payment of reparations by Russia, the surrender to international tribunals, etc. Of course, we will not hold talks with anyone under such conditions.”
  5. Ukraine ‘helped the West find itself again’, Reuters[President] Zelensky, in an annual speech held behind closed doors because of Russia’s war, said Ukraine’s military resistance against the Kremlin had reinvigorated a belief in values across the world. Thanks to our unity we achieved that which almost no one in the world believed. Almost no one — except us, he told lawmakers, his cabinet, other senior officials and the top military brass. Our national colours are today an international symbol of courage and indomitability of the whole world, he said in the 45-minute speech.”

Assessment 

https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-december-29*

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of  December 28, 2022:

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

Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations near Kreminna on December 29. Deputy Chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the Ukrainian General Staff, Brigadier General Oleksiy Hromov, reported that Ukrainian forces have advanced 2.5km in the direction of Kreminna over the past week and are continuing offensive actions towards the settlement. Hromov stated that information is circulating among officers of the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) 2nd Army Corps that a significant part of the 2nd Army Corps will surrender if Ukrainian forces break through the Svatove-Kreminna line. Luhansk Oblast Head Serhiy Haidai stated that Ukrainian forces may capture Kreminna by the beginning of 2023. A Russian milblogger claimed that 1,500 Ukrainian servicemen are currently trying to break through Russian positions near Kreminna from the direction of Torske (14km west of Kreminna), Dibrova (5km southwest of Kreminna), and Kuzmyne (3km southwest of Kreminna).

Russian forces continued to conduct limited counterattacks to regain lost positions along the Svatove-Kreminna line on December 29. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian assaults northwest of Svatove near Stelmakhivka (16km northwest of Svatove) and Andriivka (16km west of Svatove) and northwest of Kreminna near Ploshchanka (17km northwest of Kreminna) and Chervonopopivka (6km north of Kreminna). A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian sabotage and reconnaissance groups are probing Ukrainian positions in the vicinity of Hryhorivka (11km south of Kreminna). Haidai reported that Russian forces are continuing to transfer more equipment and personnel to the Kreminna area, including a substantial number of Wagner Group personnel. ISW assesses that Russian forces are likely preparing for a decisive effort in Luhansk Oblast, although it is still unclear whether this decisive effort is offensive or defensive.

Russian forces conducted another massive series of missile strikes against Ukrainian critical infrastructure on December 29. Ukrainian officials reported that Russian forces launched 69 cruise missiles and 23 drones at Ukraine and that Ukrainian air defenses shot down 54 of the missiles and at least 11 of the drones.[1] Ukrainian sources reported that Russian forces struck targets, primarily infrastructure facilities, in Lviv, Kyiv, Odesa, Kharkiv, and Donetsk oblasts causing widespread disruptions to energy, heating, and water supplies. Russian sources claimed that Russian forces also struck targets in Sumy, Chernihiv, Zhytomyr, Vinnytsia, Khmelnytsky, Ternopil, Ivano-Frankivsk, Poltava, Dnipropetrovsk, and Zaporizhzhia oblasts. The Belarusian Ministry of Defense claimed that Belarusian air defenses shot down a Ukrainian S-300 air defense missile during the wave of Russian strikes and that wreckage fell onto Belarusian territory. It is currently unclear whether Ukrainian air defenses may have been responding to Russian missile launches from Belarusian territory, which Russian forces have used repeatedly in support of their campaign against Ukrainian critical infrastructure.

The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) responded to ongoing Western assessments that it has severely depleted its stock of high-precision weapons systems amidst the massive strike against Ukraine by stating that it would never run out of Kalibr missiles. ISW has previously assessed that Russian forces have significantly depleted their arsenal of high-precision weapons systems but will likely continue to threaten Ukrainian critical infrastructure at scale in the near term and cause substantial suffering to Ukrainian civilians. Ukraine’s Main Military Intelligence Directorate Chief Kyrylo Budanov stated on December 26 that Russian forces had enough missiles to conduct two or three more large-scale strikes. ISW assesses that the Russian campaign to break the Ukrainian will to fight through large-scale missile strikes against critical infrastructure will fail even if the Russians are able to conduct more barrages than Budanov estimated.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated on December 29 Russia’s unwillingness to commit to genuine negotiations and to recognize Ukraine as an independent actor in negotiations. Lavrov stated in an interview with a prominent Russian news source that Russia will not accept Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s proposed peace plan and that the Kremlin will not talk to any Ukrainian negotiators under conditions that include the withdrawal of Russian troops from occupied Ukraine, Russian payment of reparations, and Russian participation in international tribunals. Lavrov declared that he cannot determine whether an “adequate,” independent politician remains in Kyiv with whom Russia can negotiate. Lavrov claimed that Zelensky’s refusal to pursue negotiations with Russia in April demonstrated the complete “lack of independence of [Zelensky] in making important decisions” and the manipulation of the West to continue hostilities. Lavrov questioned whether an ”acceptable” politician would emerge under the “Kyiv regime,” apparently restating the Kremlin’s position that Zelensky is not a legitimate political leader or acceptable negotiating partner and recommitting Russia to its maximalist goal to drive regime change in Ukraine. […]

The Kremlin continues to manipulate Russian law to grant the state increasingly broad powers using vague language in order to eliminate dissent and threaten Ukrainian sympathizers. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a supplement to the Russian Criminal Code on December 29 that allows Russian authorities to sentence Russians to up to life imprisonment for “assistance to subversive activities” or for “undergoing training for the purpose of carrying out sabotage activities” and for “organizing a sabotage community” and between 5- and 10-years imprisonment for “participation in such a community.” Putin also signed a law enabling Russian authorities to sentence any private citizen who “desecrates” the ribbon of Saint George (a prominent Russian military symbol especially associated with the war in Ukraine) with up to 3 years imprisonment or a fine of up to three million rubles (40,541 USD). These laws follow a sequence of Russian policies targeting what remains of the Russian opposition and enhancing Kremlin control of Russia’s already-limited information space under the guise of preventing Russians from “discrediting” the military.

Repeated Ukrainian strikes on legitimate military targets far in the Russian rear demonstrate the ineffectiveness of Russian air defenses against drones. Ukrainian forces attacked Engels Airbase with an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) on December 29, within three days of reports that air defense shot down a Ukrainian UAV over Engels and killed three Russian servicemen. The United Kingdom Ministry of Defense (MoD) stated on December 29 that it is “increasingly clear” that Russia “is struggling to counter air threats deep inside [its territory].” The United Kingdom MoD assessed that Russian air defenses probably are struggling to meet the high demand for air defense for field headquarters near the front line in Ukraine while also protecting strategic sites, such as Engels Airbase. The repeated strikes on Engels Airbase will likely exacerbate milblogger critiques that Russia cannot defend its own territory from Ukrainian strikes. A prominent Russian milblogger questioned how Ukrainian UAVs and missiles cross such distances and enter Russian territory with “such impunity” and questioned the honesty of the Russian Ministry of Defense’s response. The milblogger joked that an undetected pilot landing in Red Square (referencing Matias Rust’s 1987 flight from Helsinki to Moscow) would certainly generate a response longer than a single sentence from the Russian government. ISW reported on similar dissatisfaction among Russian milbloggers on December 26.

Key Takeaways

  • Russian forces conducted another massive series of missile strikes against Ukrainian critical infrastructure.
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated Russia’s unwillingness to commit to genuine negotiations with Ukraine.
  • Ukraine’s Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Chief Kyrylo Budanov stated that fighting in Ukraine is in a deadlock.
  • The Kremlin continues to manipulate Russian law to grant the state increasingly broad powers under ambiguous conditions in order to eliminate dissent.
  • Repeated Ukrainian strikes on legitimate military targets in rear areas in the Russian Federation demonstrate the ineffectiveness of Russian air defenses against drones and exacerbate critiques that Russia cannot defend its own territory.
  • Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations near Kreminna while Russian forces conducted limited counterattacks along the Svatove-Kreminna line.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations in the Avdiivka area as well as around Bakhmut, where the potential culmination of the Russian offensive is likely being expedited.
  • Russian forces continued to conduct defensive operations in Kherson Oblast.
  • The Kremlin’s mobilization working group met for the first time on December 29. The forum for criticism of mobilization implementation will likely create friction with the Russian Ministry of Defense.

Russian occupation authorities continue to intensify law enforcement crackdowns in unsuccessful attempts to stamp out partisan pressure in occupied territories.

Head of Ukrainian Defence Intelligence: Stalemate on the front, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Kyrylo Budanov, the Head of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine, in the interview with BBC. “Combat actions in Ukraine have currently reached a dead end as neither Ukraine nor Russia can achieve significant success. The situation is just stuck. It doesn’t move. We can’t defeat them in all directions comprehensively. Neither can they. We’re very much looking forward to new weapons supplies, and the arrival of more advanced weapons.

Since retaking Kherson, Ukrainian forces have been engaged in brutal fighting with Russian troops around Bakhmut in Donetsk Oblast.  It seems like Russian troops are on the defensive in other places. In addition, winter has slowed down ground operations of the Armed Forces of Ukraine along the entire contact line which is 1,000 kilometres long. 

Budanov has said that Russia is completely deadlocked now, suffering very significant losses, and he believes that the Kremlin decided to announce another mobilisation. However, he has added that Ukrainian forces still do not have enough resources to advance on many fronts. 

Budanov has also denied the probability of an offensive from Belarus. As of now, I don’t see any signs of preparations for an invasion of Kyiv or northern areas from Belarus, the head of the Defence Intelligence has concluded. Recently, he added, a train loaded with Russian soldiers stopped in a location close to the Belarus-Ukraine border and returned several hours later, with everyone on board.”

Ukraine’s General Staff predicts more explosions on the territory of Russia in 2023, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Brigadier General Oleksii Hromov, Deputy Chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the Ukrainian General Staff. “It is noted that, answering questions about the trend of increasing explosions in various regions of the Russian Federation, the brigadier general shared such a “prediction”.

There will be even more ‘cotton’ [Russian propaganda, initially refusing to use the word ‘vzryv’ (explosion), used ‘khlopok’ (a bang) instead. However, ‘khlopok’ also means ‘cotton’, and this has since become a meme – ed.] next year.”

US Military Expert John Spencer: ‘Ukraine’s Position On The Battlefield Is Very Strong’, RFE/RL reports. In an interview with RFE/RL’s Georgian Service, Spencer says Russian President Vladimir Putin is unlikely to end the Russian invasion of Ukraine anytime soon but he predicts Ukraine will ultimately prevail. He says the recent decision by Washington to deliver a Patriot missile battery to Ukraine may not be a game-changing move, but it could trigger other Western allies to donate similar systems, bolstering Kyiv’s defenses. Spencer also says the West has been too tentative in delivering weapons to Ukraine due to what he considers unfounded fears of how the Kremlin will react. […]

I think it’s clear that Putin is not going to let his own intentions go; he doesn’t care how many Russian soldiers will die. But the Russian Army is in trouble, very big trouble. Putin wants to slow down the war. He needs time to give at least a little military training to the thousands of people who were forced into military service. At this point, I don’t see any direction in which the Russian Army can advance. Their only goal is to keep what they’ve captured and I think they won’t succeed, either.

I think by next summer Ukraine will have caused the Russian military to culminate, because Russia doesn’t have resupply, it doesn’t have alliances, it barely has manpower. And even in manpower, most of its core officers and trained people are dead or dying. So just putting a bunch of men with a weapon in their hands used to work in World War II, when you could do it by the millions — and that was the Soviet strategy — but that doesn’t work in today’s battle. […]

And again, this is why professionals talk logistics and amateurs talk tactics. Ukraine will not run out of bullets, it won’t run out of soldiers. Russia doesn’t have a million soldiers to put into the fight. In order to do that, you have to threaten Russia’s survival, you’ve got to make this a fight about Mother Russia, you have to make this about a fight for survival. And Russians have already shown that they don’t believe that this is a war for survival. That’s why more men left the country than joined the mobilization. […]

While the West has supplied Ukraine with some great weapons, there has not been enough to end this war quicker. Because as we slowly, incrementally arm Ukraine, yeah, that’s very helpful. But it also is, it’s very slow. They need so much more to accomplish their goals. And the more time that Russia has, the question of how long this goes on is, the more time you give Russia, the more time they can hold onto what they have now. The fewer weapons that you give Ukraine that can reach out farther, like ATACMS (army tactical missile system) or more HIMARS (high-mobility artillery rocket system), the longer this goes on.

So, this is an element of the West and not just the United States is that if they want this war to end faster, they have to give more, If they want this war to continue, then continue to do this incremental political negotiations over single pieces of equipment, and slowly you’ll get weapons that are needed in there and then…Ukraine will win. There’s no question. They’ve already won. They will achieve their goals, no question. But then how long that will take depends on those supplies. […]

RFE/RL: General Zaluzhniy has been specific about what he thinks he needs to allow his forces to defeat the Russian military: 300 tanks, 600-700 infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs), 500 howitzers. Is that reasonable, and, more importantly, realistic?

I don’t think that the list is too steep. The West combined could of course provide that in a week, if there was some real leadership where the goal is complete Ukrainian victory as fast as possible. So, I 100 percent agree that that’s a doable list, there is nothing on that list that is game-changing technology. Of the reasons that people use to not provide certain technologies, there’s always this one about the technology falling into the enemy’s hands, which is ridiculous because all these technologies were built to fight against Russia or China. And Ukraine is fighting one of the world’s evil regimes. It’s fighting for not just Ukraine, it is fighting for Europe.

So, the fact that Europe is not emptying its coffers for Ukraine to defeat the only aggressor up against Europe is ridiculous. The fact that Germany hasn’t provided the Leopard 2 tanks and a lot more is ridiculous. There is a massive political conversation happening behind closed doors that shouldn’t be happening; this risk calculation of: “Could Russia escalate the conflict? Could the conflict spill over?” This isn’t about a border dispute between Ukraine and Russia. This this is about sovereignty, self-determination.

The ability to strike Russia? That’s another one of the ridiculous political claims. I don’t think this is a prevailing thought. But these people have a seat at the table. When people try to calculate Russia’s next moves, if Russia does see that as a threat to their survival, like, look, we need to take leadership and Russia is doing things to Ukraine that it thinks it can do without causing the world to react more than it already is. So, we’re playing the same game of, well, these are the things that we can provide. And I don’t think this will allow Russia to do more. What else is Russia going to do? […]

RFE/RL: You said Zaluzhniy’s military equipment request is reasonable, but will the West fulfill it?

Unfortunately, I personally think not at that scale, and not in one batch. For some reason, the world has to see Ukraine suffer to give things. Like we saw in Bucha, like we saw in Irpin. The fact that, you know, Ukraine had to be turned black (with no electricity) before we started sending the air defenses that were already promised, is very important that we need leadership. And I don’t think that we had the momentum of that leadership based on domestic situations across the world to include the United States, that you would see that that delivery quickly. Like, you know, in six months, will many of those things be given? Probably. I would like to see global leadership saying, “I hear you, I’m sending it,” because that is as easy as that is. And this is the problem. This is why I get really frustrated. We all know Ukraine is going to win. But because of the fact that we won’t show that leadership, it is going to come at great costs, and take longer than it needs to.”

  1. Consequences and what to do? 

Hard-Line positions by Russia and Ukraine dim hope for peace talks, The New York Times reports. “Both Moscow and Kyiv say they are ready to talk, but their terms for sitting down at a negotiating table suggest otherwise. As the battle for Ukraine turns into a bloody, mile-by-mile fight in numbing cold, Ukrainian and Russian officials have insisted that they are willing to discuss making peace. But with a drumbeat of statements in recent days making clear that each side’s demands are flatly unacceptable to the other, there appears to be little hope for serious negotiations in the near future.

Ukraine this week proposed a “peace” summit by the end of February but said Russia could participate only if it first faces a war-crimes tribunal. That drew a frosty response from the Kremlin, with Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov saying that Kyiv must accept all of Russia’s demands, including that it give up four Ukrainian regions that Moscow claims to have annexed. Otherwise, he said, the Russian Army will deal with this issue.

Russia does not fully control any of those regions, and has even lost territory there in recent months as Ukrainian forces fight to reclaim all the land seized by Moscow. But on Wednesday, the Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, said it was impossible to accept a peace plan that did not recognize those four Ukrainian regions as part of Russia. Any plan that does not take into account these circumstances cannot claim to be a peace plan, Mr. Peskov said, according to the state-run Tass news agency.

The hard-line positions suggest that both sides believe they have more to gain on the battlefield, analysts say. […]

Ukraine holds the momentum, having retaken much of the land that Russia captured early in the war. But Moscow’s forces still occupy large chunks of the east and south, and Russia is readying more troops and launching aerial attacks on infrastructure, deepening Ukrainians’ misery even as Russian soldiers struggle on the ground. […]

The war has now passed its 300th day. There have been no peace talks between Ukraine and Russia since the early weeks of the conflict, which began when Russia launched a full-scale invasion on Feb. 24, and both sides have signaled a determination to keep fighting. Visiting Washington last week, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said that weapons and aid from the United States and allies would help Ukraine sustain its resistance well into 2023, emphasizing that “we have to defeat the Kremlin on the battlefield.”

And President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, in a brief televised interview over the weekend, said that he was prepared to negotiate over “acceptable outcomes,” but insisted that 99.9 percent of our citizens” are “ready to sacrifice everything for the interests of the Motherland.

Western officials have dismissed Mr. Putin’s periodic offers to negotiate as empty gestures. In calling for talks without hinting that he is prepared to abandon his onslaught — and repeating a propaganda line that Russia is fighting a defensive war for its own survival — Mr. Putin is trying to send the message that Russia will eventually win, and that the sooner Ukraine capitulates, the fewer people will die. […]

While Russia’s losses are believed to be enormous — more than 100,000 killed and injured, American officials have said — Mr. Putin has signaled recently that he is prepared to accept many more. He told senior military officials in a televised meeting last week that of the 300,000 reserves called up this fall, half were still at training bases and represented a “strategic reserve” for future fighting. […]  This month, Mr. Putin emphasized that there were “no limits” to Russia’s military spending.

But as the evidence of Russian military atrocities has multiplied — and with Ukraine’s continued battlefield success — Kyiv’s negotiating position has hardened. […] The emotional background in Ukraine has changed very, very much, Mykhailo Podoliak, a top adviser to Mr. Zelensky, told the BBC in August. We have seen too many war crimes.

Last month, addressing a summit of leaders of the Group of 20 nations, Mr. Zelensky presented a 10-point “formula for peacethat called for Russia’s full withdrawal from Ukrainian territory, including Crimea and Donbas. It also demanded an international tribunal to try Russian war crimes; Moscow’s release of all political prisoners and those forcibly deported during the war; compensation from Russia for war damages; and steps by the international community to ensure the safety of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants and to provide for its food and energy security.

Demanding maximum concessions is a time-honored negotiating tactic, but analysts say that Ukraine is eager to demonstrate — particularly to European allies that are enduring higher energy costs this winter because of a Russian oil embargo — that it sees a path out of the conflict. […]

Still, Ukraine’s peace proposals have received a generally cautious response. When Mr. Zelensky mentioned his plan at a joint news conference with President Biden last week, Mr. Biden did not comment on the proposal, saying only that the United States and Ukraine “share the exact same vision” for peace. […]

But analysts say that Russia must demonstrate that it will negotiate in good faith and act on the terms of any peace agreement in order to earn some level of trust by Ukraine, which it has invaded twice in less than a decade.”

Russian pipeline gas exports to Europe collapse to a post-Soviet low, Reuters reports. “Russian gas exports to Europe via pipelines plummeted to a post-Soviet low in 2022 as its largest customer cut imports due to the conflict in Ukraine and a major pipeline was damaged by mysterious blasts, Gazprom data and Reuters calculations showed.

The European Union, traditionally Russia’s largest consumer for oil and gas, has for years spoken about cutting its reliance on Russian energy, but Brussels got serious after the Kremlin sent troops into Ukraine in February.

State-controlled Gazprom, citing Chief Executive Officer Alexei Miller, a long-standing ally of President Vladimir Putin, said its exports outside of ex-Soviet Union will reach 100.9 billion cubic metres (bcm) this year. That is a fall of more than 45% from 185.1 bcm in 2021 and includes supplies to China via the Power of Siberia pipeline, through which Gazprom supplied 10.39 bcm last year.

Russian direct gas exports to Germany, Europe’s largest economy, were halted in September following blasts at the Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea.”

Hans Petter Midttun: Today’s assessment will be published separately.

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